beau hilton

layout: post title: “Chrome Extensions I've Known and Loved” toc: true image: categories: - general tech tags: - browsers

- convenience

A friend recently asked which Chrome extensions I use. I've gone through many, and will yet go through many more. Here are some I find useful, and some I've found useful in the past.

Extensions I Have Installed Right Now


Navigating a modern web browser is usually done with a mouse or a finger/stylus. I like to use the keyboard as much as possible.

Most of my browsing is for a particular piece of information I need for a patient, research project, etc., and I'm going to jump from a text editor to a website and back again very quickly. If I can do all of that without leaving the keyboard, I feel much cooler (there may or may not be productivity bonuses).

Vimium uses standard keyboard commands from the text editor Vim for navigating Chrome. It works on most pages. Vim commands take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of them you'll miss them whenever you are deprived.

Some examples: - hjkl for left, up, down, right (respectively). Seems weird at first, but try it and you'll love it in about 8 minutes. (You can also try some of it on your Gmail now - it has jk built in for up and down). - / for search (one less key press than ctrl-F! - f searches for all links on a page, and gives them a one or two letter shortcut. You type that shortcut, and it activates the link (hold shift while you type the shortcut to open it in a new tab). - x closes a tab. - gt Goes to the next Tab. gT Goes to the previous tab (think of this as g-shift-t and it's intuitive).

ColorPick Eyedropper

The ability to grab an exact color from a webpage (or PDF) is very useful. Maybe you are preparing a presentation and would like to/are forced to use a particular color palette from your institution, or the institution you will be presenting at. Maybe you are making figures for an article submission and want to match styling. Maybe you would like to color code a document based on an image from an article. Whatever it is, it's nice to exactly match a color.

ColorPick Eyedropper is an extension that gives you a crosshair you can place on anything open in Chrome (not just webpages) that will give you the code for that color in whichever format you need (hex code, RGB, etc.).


Loom is free video recording software that can run in Chrome or on a desktop app. It's great for simple screencasts, which is all most of us need to get some idea across. One of my favorite features is that, if I can run Chrome, I can run Loom - I've recorded little screencasts on locked-down corporate computers.

When I'm thinking about democratized tech, I'm thinking about resource-poor constraints (e.g. availability of machines, period) as well as resource-rich constraints (e.g. locked-down machines at your institution, that do not let you install or configure much at all). Loom is an example of technology that can help in both situations, as long as you have a machine modern enough to run Chrome, and your admin have at least allowed Chrome on the machine.

Poll Everywhere for Google Slides

PollEv is awesome for audience participation in Google Slide presentations. You have to have the extension installed for it to work. I'm currently giving a lot of presentations, so I have it enabled (and will for the foreseeable future).

Zotero Connector (and Mendeley Importer)

Mendeley used to be my go-to reference manager. I moved to Zotero for a variety of reasons (mostly: it's free, open-source, and therefore quite extensible. Mendeley, for example, could not approve a Sci-Hub integration. If you don't know what Sci-Hub is, Google “zotero sci-hub” and let me know if you are inspired or enraged, or both.).

The Zotero extension both allows you to save references to your Zotero library, and to use Zotero plugins for reference management in Google Docs.

Chrome Remote Desktop

Remote desktops are cool. Chrome's built-in solution is very serviceable.

Extensions I've Known and Loved

KeyRocket for Gmail

KeyRocket is a suite of tools that help you learn keyboard shortcuts to navigate a variety of software. This is a Gmail extension that does just that. Whenever you do a thing manually (i.e. by clicking around), KeyRocket will put up a brief, inobtrusive popup (that you don't have to click on to exit) showing you how you could have done that with a keyboard shortcut.

When you stop getting so many popups, you have become proficient with the shortcuts. At some point, you deactivate the extension and bid it a fond adieu.

Librarian for arXiv is a great resource for finding and disseminating research, particularly in computational sciences and related areas. Librarian is an extension that makes getting the citations and references very easy.

Unsplash Instant

This replaces your new tab screen with a randomly chosen image from Unsplash. is a wonderful resource for freely usable, gorgeous images. I give a lot of presentations, so I use Unsplash for finding pretty backgrounds and illustrative images. It is nice to have a pretty new tab screen, and it's a nice way to find images to archive for future use (you can just click the heart icon, or manually download).

P.S. Most of the splash images on my website are from Unsplash (e.g. the one at the left of this post if you're on a large screen, or at the top if you're on a small screen).

I might just reactivate this extension. I'm not sure why I deactivated it.

Markdown Viewer

I think it is clear that I love Markdown. Markdown Viewer is an extension that allows you to preview what Markdown will look like when it's rendered, either from a local file or from a website.

Now that I'm writing more Markdown, I might also turn this one back on.

P.S. I turned it back on. It's awesome.


These are just the ones I had disabled, but not uninstalled. I know I've used others, and I'm sure many of them were cool. My laziness at the moment is such that I'm not going to go digging around.

What about you?

Do you have extensions you know and love, or have known and loved? Let me know, and I'll check them out.