The best Google Chrome extensions of 2017

From productivity-boosting timers to ad blockers and Android messengers on your desktop, these 25 Chrome extensions make the most popular web browser even more powerful and useful.

dell chromebook 13 chrome logo
Melissa Riofrio

Google’s Chrome browser rocks. It’s reliable, efficient and nicely cross-platform. Chrome is by far the most-used browser in the U.S., too, with nearly 60% market share as of July 2017, compared to 22% for the second-place Edge/Internet Explorer combo from Microsoft, according to Net Applications.

And Chrome has a huge ecosystem of extensions that make the browser even more powerful. The following is a sampling of 25 of the top-rated, free Chrome extensions (receiving 4 or 5 stars from users) across a variety of categories. (Note: Not all of the 25 extensions have their own mini-review below.)

Heads up: Some of these extensions work with freemium cloud-based services, where basic functionality is free, but more advanced features require a paid plan.

Productivity and email

Boomerang for Gmail

Current rating: 4 stars

The Boomerang for Gmail extension makes it easy to schedule email delivery. It lets you, for example, respond to an email on Friday afternoon, while it’s fresh in your mind, but schedule delivery for Monday morning, to make sure the recipient sees it. You can also “snooze” an email, to be reminded to read it later. Boomerang will alert you if you don’t receive a response to an email. And a new feature called Inbox Pause lets you control when messages arrive in your inbox. Advanced Inbox Pause features, such as the ability to create exceptions (such as your boss or top clients), requires a paid Boomerang plan, which starts at $5/month.

Accompany for Gmail

Current rating: 4.5 stars

The email that just landed in your inbox — who the heck is it from? Get the scoop on your senders with Accompany for Gmail. The extension grabs background information across the web, giving you at-a-glance views of anyone who sends you an email or, lacking much data on the individual, the company that the person works for. In a sidebar to the right of your inbox, you’ll see, in most cases, the sender’s current job title, phone number (if available), social media profile links, relevant news related to the sender, previous positions, any upcoming or previous calendar appointments you have with the sender, and more. You can also add a private note to each person’s profile. It’s essentially a streamlined CRM system built into Gmail.

mysms

Current rating: 4 stars

Why tap out a text message on your Android smartphone when you can do it on your desktop keyboard? That’s the idea behind mysms, which enables you to send and receive SMS and MMS messages between an Android phone and a Mac or PC. You’ll need to install the Android app as well as the Chrome extension. Worth mentioning: To send or receive messages from Chrome, your smartphone needs to be turned on and have an active data or Wi-Fi connection. The Premium version, $10/year, lets you archive messages in Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive; manage calls; schedule messages for later delivery; and more.

Strict Workflow

Current rating: 4 stars

strict workflow James A. Martin/IDG

The Pomodoro Technique is a fancy name for turning on a 25-minute tomato timer, intensely concentrating on only one task during that time, taking a five-minute break when it’s over, and repeating the process. (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.) Strict Workflow is based on this technique. To start a timer, click the tomato icon in the Chrome menu. Until the 25 minutes are up, you’ll be blocked from known time-sucks such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit and Hulu. You can add sites to the list and change the default time from 25 minutes and the break time from five minutes. How strict is Strict Workflow? While the timer’s running, you can’t stop it without disabling the extension or restarting the browser.

Toggl

Current rating: 4.5 stars

Toggl is a lightweight, easy-to-use time-tracking application with desktop and mobile apps, as well as this convenient Chrome extension. With Toggl, you can easily stop and start timing activities, set a default project, and get reminded to track your time when keyboard activity is detected but no timer is running. A free Toggl account will give most people all the tools they need. Premium features cost $9 to $49 per user/per month.

Wunderlist New Tab

Current rating: 4.5 stars

This Wunderlist Chrome extension replaces your new Chrome page with your default Wunderlist to-do list. The capabilities are limited — you can add new items to a list and mark existing to-dos as done, and that’s pretty much it. Still, if you’re a Wunderlist loyalist, it’s a fast way to add something to a list before you forget it. Other to-do apps and services have popular Chrome extensions, too, such as Any.do (4 stars) and Todoist (4.5 stars), which also offers an extension for Gmail (4 stars).

Privacy and security

Adguard AdBlocker

Current rating: 5 stars

Google will be adding a built-in ad blocker to Chrome as early as this October. In the meantime, there’s Adguard AdBlocker. This top-rated extension does a nice job of removing ads, even in YouTube and other videos, without hindering browser performance. The extension offers plenty of customizable settings, plus phishing and malware protection. And the developer claims that Adguard works even on sites that use anti-ad-blocking scripts. Another popular, highly rated choice is Ghostery (5 stars).

Stealth Mode

Current rating: 5 stars

From the developer of Adguard AdBlocker, Stealth Mode gets equally high marks from reviewers. The extension blocks third-party cookies and prevents online trackers from collecting information about you. Stealth Mode relies upon a database of over 5,000 trackers that’s regularly updated. The extension’s Chrome menu icon shows how many trackers were blocked on any given web page, plus a total of how many were blocked during a browser session.

SurfEasy VPN

Current rating: 5 stars

When surfing the internet away from a secure corporate network, you need easy access to a VPN. This Chrome extension makes it super easy to turn SurfEasy’s popular VPN service on and off, switch your region, and see how much SurfEasy data protection you’ve used. You’ll need a SurfEasy account to use the extension. Free accounts give you up to 500 MB of data. Unlimited data surfing plans start at $4/month.

Click & Clean

Current rating: 5 stars

click and clean James A. Martin/IDG

Click & Clean is a suite of free tools to help protect your online privacy and keep your browser running smoothly. The extension lets you easily delete browsing history, empty the cache, delete cookies and more, using a time period of your choice, from the beginning of the current session to the “beginning of time.” The tools are quickly accessible by clicking the extension’s Chrome menu icon and then choosing a tool icon, such as Options, from the Windows 10-like tile interface.

Analytics

Page Analytics

Current rating: 4 stars

If your site uses Google Analytics (GA), Page Analytics (also from Google) is a must-have. The extension overlays GA data onto your web pages, so you can easily see which parts of a web page are getting the most (and least) traffic. You can quickly view key data points, such as page views, unique page views, average time on page, and bounce rate for each page. You can also see how many visitors are looking at a page in real time. It’s all helpful data, especially for digital marketers looking to improve user experience and conversions.

Speedtest by Ookla

Current rating: 4.5 stars

speedtest James A. Martin/IDG

Speedtest is a simple, straightforward, go-to tool for quickly checking your internet connection’s current ping, download and upload speeds. The Chrome extension also tells you how fast a web page loads — handy for a fast assessment of your site’s speed.

Note taking and web clipping

Evernote Web Clipper

Current rating: 5 stars

Evernote has had serious competition from Microsoft’s OneNote and Google Keep in the web clipping/note taking department. But Evernote remains a favorite, and one big reason is how well its Web Clipper Chrome extension works. More often than not, Evernote Web Clipper retains much of a web page’s formatting when saving it to an Evernote notebook. You can highlight important text on a web page and save it to Evernote or grab a screenshot. A dropdown menu makes it easy to share your clipped note in email or on social media, too. Right-clicking a link anywhere on the web will also save the content to your Evernote account.

Save to Pocket

Current rating: 4 stars

If you discover online articles you’d like (or need) to read but don’t have time for at that moment, you need the Pocket app. And when you start using Pocket, you’ll want the terrific Save to Pocket Chrome extension. From then on, whenever you stumble upon an article to squirrel away for reading later, just click the extension’s icon to save the article to your Pocket account. You don’t even have to navigate to an article to save it. Just right-click the article’s link and choose “Save to Pocket.” Though Pocket is a freemium service, none of the features mentioned require a $45/year Premium account.

Web browsing and reading

Mercury Reader

Current rating: 4 stars

mercury reader James A. Martin/IDG

Web pages often look overly busy these days. Thankfully, there’s Mercury Reader, a fine tool for stripping a web article down to basic text and images, so you can focus. When you land on a crowded page, just click Mercury Reader’s icon in your Chrome menu. Boom! The ads, social media share buttons and other digital bric-a-brac are banished. Tapping the extension’s settings button lets you adjust text size, typography (choosing between serif and sans serif fonts) and theme. The latter lets you choose between a light or dark background, with contrasting text; dark is good for nighttime reading to minimize screen brightness. There’s a Send to Kindle button, too. To paraphrase one recent reviewer: We’d pay money to use this (but, thankfully, we don’t have to).

Session Buddy

Current rating: 5 stars

Heavy research projects can result in dozens of open tabs in multiple browser windows, which can become unwieldy. Session Buddy makes intensive browser use more manageable, enabling you to view in a list all currently open tabs in one browser window. From there, you can close tabs and save all tabs in a session to revisit later. The extension automatically saves your current session, too, and you can automatically save up to 10 previous sessions.

OneTab

Current rating: 5 stars

onetab James A. Martin/IDG

While Session Buddy is helpful in organizing and managing browser tabs across all your open Chrome windows, OneTab takes a different — but equally useful — approach. By clicking the extension’s icon in the Chrome menu, all open tabs in that particular Chrome window are immediately collapsed, which can dramatically reduce the amount of RAM your browser session is consuming. You can restore or delete all the collapsed tabs, share them all as a web page, even name the group for later use. And to reopen a tab, just click it.

Miscellaneous

Grammarly for Chrome

Current rating: 4.5 stars

Grammarly’s Chrome extension checks spelling and grammar on many websites where you enter text, including LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Gmail (but not, unfortunately, Google Drive and Google Docs). To use the extension, you’ll need to set up a Grammarly account, but it’s free and painless. If you sometimes get tripped up by “their,” “they’re” and “there,” this is the tool for you. The freemium service should suffice. But if you need more than 400 grammar/spelling checks per month, you’ll need the paid plan ($11.66/month when paid annually). Grammarly Premium also detects plagiarism and offers suggestions based on writing style (such as academic vs. technical).

The Camelizer

Current rating: 4.5 stars

the camelizer James A. Martin/IDG

Odd name aside, The Camelizer provides historical pricing data on many (but not all) items for sale on Amazon. By clicking its Chrome menu icon while on an Amazon product page, you’ll see a time graph of the item’s lowest and highest prices on the Seattle etailer’s site, compared to third-party sites selling the product new or used. Even better: Create a price alert, so you’ll know if the product hits your preferred price point. Other essential Chrome extensions for Amazon shoppers include InvisibleHand (4 stars), which compares the prices on Amazon and other e-commerce sites, and Honey (5 stars), which automatically applies relevant promo codes for savings.

Memento Time Travel

Current rating: 4 stars

Memento Time Travel turns the clock back on web pages you visit. Want to see what a competitor’s home page looked like three years ago? This Chrome extension will take you there within seconds via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. You can set the exact date you want to visit, too.

This story, "The best Google Chrome extensions of 2017" was originally published by Computerworld.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon