This article intends to provide comprehensive, but focusing on useful details of browser extensions. From the simple definition, installation process to its technical details, this information if known, can use any browser with its full functionality through extensions. First, let’s know about the browser.
There are different browsers out there in the market. Every browser has its own pros and cons. Some works in one OS while other works in another OS. let’s begin with the meaning of the browser.
What do you mean by browser?
Browser is in fact the short term for the web browser. In a simple definition, we can say, the browser is a software (or application) that helps us to access or retrieve the web (World Wide Web also known as WWW) data. With the help of a browser, we can do many things like reading text, sending emails, listening to music, watching videos, communicate with friends, interact with people all over the world, and many more. The browser brings the indefinite possibility that we can do with the internet.
The browser receives the contents from the web servers when we request web pages of any website. Then it shows the contents on our device screen for us to engage with the data.
There are many browsers over there in the market. Different OS have their default browsers such as Chrome OS has Chrome browser, some Linux distros have Mozilla Firefox, Windows 10 has Microsoft Edge and MacOS has a Safari browser. Every browser main work is the same but they come with different functionality and compatibility.
What is a browser extension?
The extension is a piece of code that has some special features but integrates within a browser to add those features to the browser or website.
In simple meaning, A browser extension is add on service for the browser. With the help of browser extension, we can add more functionality to the browser and webpage. We don’t only want to view the web page but also want to manipulate the way it looks. We want a web page to be stored in our file system. Maybe we want to listen to music with more customization and want to watch the videos without any disturbances. All these desires need extra functions that cannot be provided by the browser alone. So the browser allows an add on services like extension, themes, plugin to add or remove extra functions on it.
However plugins are slowly discouraged by many browsers and more focuses are being going to the extension only.
What is the use of browser extension?
The use of browser extension has a wide range of scope.
The browser extensions can change the way we interact with the web pages. It can add features that browsers cannot do and also can remove unnecessary functions like ads services, web page sidebar. It can manipulate the way a web page looks. There are so many things that browser extension can do.
Different extensions have different uses and purposes.
Some extension provides more functionality to a specific web page. eg. ‘Netflix Categories‘ extension gives additional categories on its website netflix.com. Whereas ‘Grammarly‘ extension checks grammar on any website while writing.
And some extension adds features to the browser itself. e.g., GoFullPage captures the whole webpage in our required format.
We can provide whatever the features, extra services we want but only with the right choice of extension.
So we should know our actual need before searching for extension to install.
How to add browser extensions?
Different browsers have their own store for their add-on services. The browser developer themselves make some extensions whereas third-party developer creates more extensions. Some extensions are available to all the browsers as developers focus more on a cross-platform extension.
Firefox browser has its own firefox browser add-ons store. Go to that store and select the extension you want and install it. With the ecosystem of more than 20,000+ extensions and hundreds of thousands of self-distributed extensions, Firefox is still preferred by many users.
Chrome browser is mostly used browser whole over the world. As of today, the browser market share for Chrome alone has 68.81% according to NET MARKET SHARE. Chrome has its own store for the extension. With more than 188k extensions on chrome store, you can select or search any extension you like and install it.
Microsoft Edge has its own store to search for the extension.
Opera browser has its store on the name Opera add-ons.
How to add extension in chrome?
Adding extension in chrome is very easy.
First, go to the chrome web store for extension.
Type extension name in search bar and hit ENTER.
I have typed ‘webtime tracker‘ extension name.
You will get a list of extension with related name. Choose the right one and select ‘Add to Chrome‘
Then the pop-up menu comes.
Click Add extension
If you don’t see your extension icon, then pin the extension as shown in the image.
That’s it. Now the extension is installed and working properly.
How to disable or remove browser extensions?
Not all the installed extensions are meant to keep forever. We might get another extension with more features, or we might not need to use that extension anymore. In such cases, we want that extension to be removed or disabled from the browser.
How to remove extension?
Removing extension from a Chrome can be done within few clicks.
You have to select the extension which you want to remove and right-click on the extension icon to get options.
Then select Remove from Chrome…
How to disable extension?
If we don’t want to remove extension then we can disable the extension temporarily.
When we need that extension back, we can easily enable once again.
Right-click the three-dot icon.
Then select Settings from the options.
Chrome will take you to setting page. You can see the extensions option on the left cornor.
It will take you to the extension page. Or you can directly go to an extension using typing
chrome://extensions in address bar.
You can disable/enable any extension from there.
Do extensions slow down the computer?
Even though the Extensions integrated within a browser, they are software written with code. Each extension installed in the browser takes up a certain memory. This can be viewed through the task manager. First, the browser takes up the memory of the CPU even without an extension installed.
When we overload extensions in a browser, more memory and process are going to be used by the browser. Then our computer gets hanged and slows down.
It’s better to use extension for our certain work but overloading extensions is highly discouraged. If we are not using a specific extension for a long time, we can disable it until we need it back. And if we are not going to use that extension in the future, it is better to completely remove from the system.
Removing and disabling extension is already covered in above topic.
Is browser extension harmful?
Some hackers might make an extension to steal your browsing data and other data. When we install such malicious extensions, we might get a problem.
Though the store checks all the extensions before being available to users, it is better if we are aware in the first hand.
How to be safe?
Always choose the right extensions before installing one. While choosing extensions, we can view its ratings, users number. Such a numeric value can be helpful to decide whether or not to install it.
Don’t keep the extension that you don’t use frequently. Extensions are always working at the back-end and takes up memory even if you are not using it. Its better to either completely remove or disable it.
Can you get viruses from browser extensions?
Yes. As I said before, extensions remain active even if not used. It keeps track of user activity and even other things with the enabled permission. You can check out the permission by right-clicking on the extension icon and selecting manage extension. And see what permissions are acquired by your extension.
Can we install extensions on a mobile browser?
The answer is yes. We can install an extension in our mobile browsers too. There are some browsers based on chromium browsers available in the play store. Such browsers can install an extension like in computer but the working might not be as expected.
How to install extension in mobile browser?
Go to chrome web store and select the extension you want. I am going to install Speed Test extension.
Web store will ask permission to install. Press Ok
Once installed, Go to the three-dot menu and search for your extension name and click that.
Now see the magic, your extension begin its work.
I have used kiwi browser and it worked fine. There is another browser called yandax browser that also supports extension as they said.
What are the best browser extensions?
We discussed above all about the extensions. Now the last thing to know is to install the best of the best extension.
We always should install extension based on our needs. Too much extensions can be a problem to browser as I said before. So how to choose the best one?
Well, the first thing you can do is see the reviews, ratings, user numbers. Also, you can search for the best extensions in google. Or you can read another article about the best extension. Read Best chrome extensions that should be installed immediately. Be productive.