Thing 25: Power up your browser!

INTRODUCTION

As we do more collaborating, connecting and creating with online, web-based services, our web browsers have become the tool we use more than anything else.  Whether you use Firefox, Chrome, Safari or IE, there’s always more to learn more about how your favorite browser works and how you can customize it with add-ons/extensions.

This lesson is your chance to a take a closer look at your browser’s settings and learn more about adding tools that can trick out your browser through add-ons, extensions and bookmarklets that can make your online life simpler.

What are they?

  • Extensions – These are small programs that add functionality to the browser. For example: Awesome Screenshot captures & shares screenshots and Buffer shares articles out to social media.  The buttons for these services usually appear on one of the toolbars of your browser.
  • Bookmarklets – Before there were browser stores full of spiffy add-ons, there were humble little bookmarklets that worked great, and still do! Bookmarklets are buttons you can add to your browser’s bookmarks toolbar. When you click on them, they perform handy functions like adding a page to Pinterest or turning a busy page into text only that is easy to read with Readability. The great thing about bookmarklets? They don’t slow down your browser the way extensions can. The only problem with bookmarklets is that there is no central place to find them. You’ll have to look at the help files for your favorite tools to find them.
  • Chrome Apps – In Google Chrome, apps are shortcuts to favorites services like Drive, Pocket, etc. The App Launcher shows up as a colorful grid on Chrome’s bookmarks toolbar. Click it and get a popup with shortcuts to your favorite apps. More on the App Launcher
  • Google Drive Add-ons – These add functionality to Google Drive whether you’re using Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer.  You’ll see the Add-ons option on the menu at the top of any Google Doc.
  • Themes simply customize the look and feel of your browser. Think colors and custom graphics for the toolbar section of your browser.

You’ll often hear add-on and extension used interchangeably. But add-on is really more of a catch-all term that includes extensions and themes.

Adding extensions to your browser

This first video shows you how to install add-ons in Firefox.

And this one from FreeTechForTeachers is for Chrome.

RESOURECES FOR SPECIFIC BROWSERS

Chrome

Firefox

Internet Explorer

Safari & iPhone/iPad

General Tips

  • Read the reviews of the extension you want to add. Watch for security issues.
  • If you install an extension and find you don’t need it, unistall it.
  • Consider using a bookmarklet for simple tasks, it won’t slow your browser down.
  • If you really do need tons of extensions, consider using an extension manager (like Extensity) to turn them on and off easily.

SOME HANDY EXTENSIONS

Check your browser’s add-on store or the tool’s website to see if these are available for your browser.

  • Readbility: Takes a busy web page and turns it into readable text with no advertising.
  • Evernote Web Clipper: Add web content to your Evernote account in a flash. Handy for saving text, photos, whole web pages.
  • Evernote Clearly: Takes a busy web page and gets rid of advertising and junk. Includes a highlighter tool and then saves your highlighted document to Evernote.
  • Buffer App: When you find gems you want to share, don’t copy and paste the URL to Twitter or Facebook, just buffer it. So simple to send links to FB, Twitter, Google+ and more. And lets you schedule them for posting later.
  • Awesome ScreenShot: Quickly grab a screenshot, blur out any personal info, crop, draw arrows, etc. Save online to share, send to diigo, download for local storage. Great for grabbing images for slide decks, tutorials, or sending an annotated screen to someone who needs some help with an online tool.

Too many tabs open, too many things to read, feeling overwhelmed?

  • Session Manager: Saves all your current tabs, just in case you have a browser meltdown and you lose all your open tabs.
  • OneTab – Crunch all your open tabs down into one list. Lists can be saved and shared. Handy way to make a quick list of resources for your students. Open all the relevant tabs, hit OneTab button, then use the “save as web page” option. So easy!
  • Pocket – Ran across a great article, but no time to read it now? Send articles to your Pocket account to read later, instead or leaving dozens of browser tabs open.

Google Drive Apps

More! With many schools using Chromebooks and moving to Google Apps for Education, Chrome has become a very popular browser. As a result, many lists of add-ons are Chrome-centric. Firefox users, don’t despair, many add-ons are available for multiple browsers, just check your browser’s add-on store.

LEARNING ACTIVITIES

There are two learning activities this week.

1: Explore the settings in your browser and find out at least 3 things you didn’t know about your browser settings. Click on all those settings tabs and see what’s behind them. Are there security settings you need to address? Do you know how to clear your browser history? How do you customize your toolbars? What about secure browsing? Lots of questions

2: Explore the extensions available for your browser and test out at least 3 new extensions.Make sure you know how to find new extensions, install them, manage them, delete them.

Write your blog post and share the things you’ve learned about your browser and what extensions you tested out. Are there ones you would recommend to colleagues and students? How might they make your browsing life easier?

LOG YOUR LESSON: Don’t forget to log your blog post when you’re done!  When you finish this lesson by fill out the log form. You’ll need the URL of your first blog post to complete the form.

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