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10 Must-Have Google Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome is a capable Web browser -- but these free downloadable add-ons make Chrome even better.

With every passing month, Google Chrome is becoming increasingly popular. Fans laud its lean, stripped-down interface, and its fast browsing. They also appreciate the free extensions that give Chrome the ability to do all kinds of nifty things.

With so many Chrome extensions available, which ones should you get? To help you decide, we've picked out ten of our favorites. They'll let you do everything from speeding up your Web browsing to checking Gmail and Google Calendar to grabbing videos and graphics from across the Web.

(For links to all of these downloads in one convenient list, see our "10 Must-Have Chrome Extensions" collection.)

Get the Most out of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Search
Given that Google created Chrome, it should be no surprise that some of the best extensions you can find for the Web browser help you get the most out of Google's core services, including calendaring, e-mail, and search.

Anyone who uses Google Calendar will want to install the excellent Google Calendar extension. Click its icon, and you'll be able to see your calendar, complete with all events, right in its own pop-up window. You can also add events. A nice plus is that it displays all of your Google calendars, or just those you want to see.

Another excellent extension, Google Mail Checker Plus, notifies you when you have new mail in Gmail--and it does plenty more, as well. Its icon shows you the messages waiting in your inbox; click the icon, and for each message you can see the sender, the subject line, the first line of text, and the day it was sent. Click any message to read the whole thing, or to reply. It's a great way to use Gmail without having to actually visit the site.

Although it focuses on contacts and attachments rather than messages, MailBrowser is another terrific way to get the most out of Gmail when you're using Chrome. You click its icon to drop down a list of all of your Gmail contacts. Afterward, you can click any contact to get more details, including links to the business where the contact works. You'll also be able to see all the e-mail you've exchanged with each contact, as well as to manage all the file attachments sent between you and the contact.

Better Browsing
Plenty of extensions out there can help Chrome work better when you're browsing the Web. GleeBox, for one, is a clever extension that lets you use your keyboard rather than a mouse, for more-efficient browsing. Using it, you'll be able to scroll and select text fields from the keyboard, for example.

Another top-notch choice is Google Quick Scroll. First, search using Google, and then click a search result to go to a Web page. When you do so, Google Quick Scroll pops up as a small window at the bottom of the screen, showing you the text on the page where your search term appears. Click the window, and you'll jump straight to that spot.

Chrome users at times get frustrated when browsing the Web, because some sites were built to display in Internet Explorer, and as a result they display improperly in Chrome. There's a simple solution: Grab IE Tab for Chrome. When you visit a Website that needs Internet Explorer to display correctly, click the IE Tab link, and the site will open in a new tab that uses Internet Explorer to display it.

The useful Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer solves a frequent and annoying problem: waiting for Adobe Reader to launch when you come across a PDF on the Web, or for PowerPoint to launch when you encounter a PowerPoint file. The extension opens PDF and PowerPoint files in their own tab, with an excellent file viewer. You can also save files to Google Docs or to your local hard disk.

Weather, Videos, Pictures, and More
You'll also want to collect several miscellaneous Chrome extensions that accomplish a wide variety of tasks. Forecastfox Weather, for example, puts weather information within easy reach. Its icon shows you the current temperature and whether conditions are sunny, cloudy, raining, or snowing. Hover your mouse over the icon, and you get a brief description of the weather, such as 'Light rain, 36 degrees Fahrenheit'. Click it, and it produces a full week's weather forecast from Accuweather in a pop-up window, including a weather map. Click any day to go to the Accuweather site for more details.

Doing some quick research? Fastest Chrome does a nice job of grabbing Wikipedia content and displaying it in its own window. Highlight a term, and you can then see a Wikipedia summary, or else transfer to the Wikipedia Website. Fastest Chrome also enhances Google search.

Since Fastest Chrome can be somewhat erratic, an even better bet is Apture Highlights. Just highlight a term and click an icon that appears above the term--a pop-up appears with a definition of the term, photos, and links to videos, pictures, and search results. Click a picture or video, and it appears in a full window over your screen. When you're done, click the X to make the window disappear.

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