The Top 13 Essential Browser Extensions for Techies
This post will be a departure from my usual specialised deep-dive tutorials, and instead I will be listing some of my favourite browser extensions that I use on a near daily basis. All of these extensions are available for Google Chrome, and most are available on other popular browsers.
While there are many fantastic plugins out there (and I have many others installed myself), this list covers some of my top extensions for any development or security focused individuals.
Here we go:
If you are not using 2FA; you should be. It is no longer safe in 2019 to rely on your password as your single factor of authentication, even if you are ensuring your password is as secure as possible. Services and databases are getting hacked all the time, and once your password is in the public domain you can consider your account compromised.
2FA ensures that even with your password, a third party cannot access your account. However, anybody that has ever lost or reset their mobile device without remembering to backup their Google Authenticator codes will know how much of a pain it can be to clean up the resulting mess.
Authy is a multi-platform 2FA solution with encrypted cloud backups that can not only make the process of managing 2FA seamless, but ensure that you can get access to your codes from any of your trusted devices. The Chrome extension is incredibly useful, and will open a small pop-up window on click with your codes.
A great extension from the best 2FA solution out there - recommend!
Servistate is essentially Postman for your browser. Test your HTTP and API requests in the comfort of your browser, analyse responses and save your progress to projects, all in a handy dashboard. The best tools are those you have with you, and wherever Postman seems like overkill, I often find myself now heading straight for my Servistate dashboard instead of opening a fresh terminal to use cURL.
Tab management is a pain. You are 200 tabs deep, and you have been pulled aside for a completely unrelated issue. If you close your tabs you will soon lose track of where you were, but your measly 8GB of RAM on your work desktop is groaning. What do you do?
With Toby, managing your browser tabs and bookmarks is a breeze. Quickly close all your current tabs and save to a Collection with the touch of a button, ready to reopen exactly where you were later on. Share your saved Collections with coworkers under an Organisation, and ditch those ancient lists of Bookmarks and Knowledge Bases that may or may not have been updated this century.
Toby makes for an all-in-one fantastic browser homepage, and I would recommend to anybody that has ever created a folder-directory in their Bookmarks bar.
Some time ago when I migrated back into the Chrome ecosystem, I found myself missing the handy "Take a Screenshot" feature that I had taken for granted in Firefox world:
After testing multiple screenshot extensions to fill this void, I found myself clicking far more just to get to this simple function. Until I found Lightshot.
Lightshot does away with the drop-down menu of other extensions, and instead the little icon offers a single feature: "Take a Screenshot":
I screenshot a lot, and this handy extension has reduced my workflow from 2 mouse clicks (right-click, screenshot) to a single mouse click (screenshot). For that alone, this extension makes my list.
9) The Great Suspender
I am a Linux user, and a Chrome user. As much as I love these two platforms, neither of them have particularly impressive memory-management and are less than frugal with my often-limited reserves. Chrome can become notoriously heavy when juggling a large number of tabs, and without this brilliant extension I am sure I would find myself eating into my last GB of RAM far more often than I do nowadays.
The Great Suspender is an install-and-forget extension that will automatically suspend your open tabs after a customizable period of inactivity, freeing up the memory in the process. If you revist that tab again, simply "refresh or click to reload", as the tab clearly explains. It even has dark mode!
Simple, powerful, clever. 10/10.
8) Dark Reader
Are you the kind of person that instinctively begins searching for the "enable dark mode" option when installing a new app? Have you switched to dark mode on all of your regular online services already, and berate the rest for not giving you the theming option? Do you just hate white?
If so, Dark Reader is for you. Enable the extension and bask in the newfound darkness that it brings to your browsing experience. Easily toggle the extension on a per-site basis, and
7) User-Agent Switcher and Manager
I'm an iPhone! Wait, no I'm PS4! Hold on a moment...I'm actually a Windows Phone!
If you weren't aware, all HTTP requests contain a User-Agent header field that advertises to the peer a bit of information about the piece software making the request, the User-Agent. This header usually contains detail around the application type, operating system, software vendor and associated software versions of the requesting software.
This is all good metadata for online services, as it allows them to optimize their platform for the most popular browsers and devices, to troubleshoot issues with particular subsets of User-Agent, and just generally to build a profile of their user-base. Unfortunately, we now live in the Age of Data and companies will always find a way to exploit you based on the information you give them. Without engaging in conjecture, I have heard from inside sources that many large online services may mark-up their prices if you are using an iPhone. True or not, your User-Agent gives away freely a lot of PI information that you may wish to restrict.
User-Agent Switcher and Manager is an extension that can override your browser's default User-Agent, and give you complete control over what device or software you wish to appear as. This can be handy for maintaining anonymity, bypassing restrictions, troubleshooting your websites and is just generally a useful tool to have at your disposal.
OpenPGP encryption is difficult. Of course the benefits are still great, though it is getting old in cryptography years, but without simplicity it becomes all to easy to justify ditching the encryption. Enter Mailvelope.
I'll let the Company themselves give the tutorial on how to use the extension, but they really do make key-management and the end-to-end PGP encryption process a breeze. The extension can automatically detect keys displayed in your browser and add them to your keychain, and encrypting emails in the extension's interface is a breeze. Make encrypting email fun again with Mailvelope!
Shodan, the Google for Hackers, needs very little introduction. The infamous service-banner-crawling search engine also offers an extension that allows you to perform simple reconnaissance of a domain right there in the browser!
The most useful information is the information you know about, and I think this great little plugin is a must for any avid Shodan users.
4) uBlock Origin & Privacy Badger
So I am going to lump these two important extensions in together here, and will say that both are extremely important. Both uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger are open-source, cross-platform browser extensions for content-filtering, ad-blocking and tracker-evasion. Installing both of these will not only greatly improve your browsing experience, but will limit the data footprint you expose on a daily basis and optimize your data usage.
While the two extensions are each very powerful alone, they both work in different ways and will compliment one-another in parallel operation. As per the Privacy Badger FAQ:
uBlock Origin is an excellent privacy tool. uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger should work well together. Similar to adblockers, uBlock Origin protects using blacklists. Privacy Badger protects by automatically learning about trackers as you browse, which means Privacy Badger might catch things that uBlock Origin doesn't know about.
Your favorite blog has just started showing popup ads that you want to get rid of? Your local newspaper is guilt-tripping you for using an AdBlocker? You want to steal a photo or two from Pinterest but you are being redirected to the signup page? Looks like you need a good userscript manager!
I have over 700 accounts for online services, nearly all of which have a gibberish 75-character password with special characters. In 2019 this can't even class as being particularly secure, yet even this level of security would be impossible without a good password manager.
Enter Bitwarden, the open source password management solution that released in 2016 to steal the spotlight from the subscription-based security giants like LastPass and 1password. Not only does Bitwarden offer all of the features you would expect, as well as being arguably one of the most secure and trusted services, the multi-platform clients are as polished as they come.
I have found Bitwarden to be the overall best password-management solution out of the many I have tried, and the extension is an obvious must for any other Bitwarden users.
My most-used and personal favorite plugin, and a must for any vim enthusiast! Surfingkeys is the best implementation of vim key-bindings for the browser that I have found, and I have been using this extension for years now. Chrome's default keyboard shortcuts are good for basic browsing, and basic browsing alone. Anything more involved, such as copying a chunk of text from a web-page or following a hyperlink mid-page, and you will soon be reaching for your mouse. With Surfingkeys (and a bit of time), you may never need to use your mouse in your browser ever again.
With an intuitive and extensive array of bindings, truly useful added features like "Search Selected with...", a pop-up markdown previewer and textarea editor, a bookmark manager and many more, this extension goes far beyond the scope of what other vim-binding extensions like vimium and tridactyl offer. Just check out the help page:
If you love vim and feel more at home in your text-editor than your browser, I truly recommend this extension.
And there we have it, Skylar's top 13 Chrome extensions! Let me know in the comments if there are any extensions you would have expected to see on this list, or if you have any recommendations for me in return.
Thanks for reading!