Google Chrome has grown quickly in 2011, both the browser in popularity and its expansive app store, which features both apps and extensions to bring further functionality and usability to the light and fast browser. Having used Google Chrome since its infant stages, I’ve watched it grow and become increasingly streamlined and sleek. Its introduction in the very late part of 2010 gave way to the browser to grow in 2011 with the added functionality for developers to create mind-blowing extensions. With millions of Google Chrome users out there, the store has had time to settle in and give us an accurate standpoint on the top apps offered in the store. Below, I’ve listed some of my top essential Google Chrome apps that you might find of great use and should consider giving a try.
TweetDeck: Before Twitter acquired TweetDeck, it used to be a single application that ran on Adobe’s AIR platform. It was a great hit in the Twitter community because of added functionality that gave users an experience above and beyond the Twitter site or even the official Twitter app. When Twitter bought out TweetDeck, it created a powerful, multi-platform package that encompasses all of the major operating systems from Linux to Windows and even Mac. It also has a mobile version and a Google Chrome version. Without requiring extra programs to be installed, Twitter created a native Google Chrome app to integrate with TweetDeck that includes the same features as the regular, full download app. This provides for a better experience all around because you don’t have to install TweetDeck on all of your computers. Just by installing Google Chrome, all of your apps are synced and downloaded to the new browser, and it brings all of your settings over.
Evernote Web: Evernote is huge when it comes to online note taking. I use it frequently when in class to write notes about a lecture. The best part about it is that I can not only take notes, but attach files, such as presentations or special reading that I’d have to refer back to when reviewing my notes. I’ve used its desktop app for a while now and was pleasantly surprised when it started offering a Chrome app. It brings everything from the desktop app into your browser window. I can attach documents and manage my different notebooks and different notes. When in school, I bring one computer with me to a lecture while I keep my main computer in my dorm room. It’s easy for me to switch between computers because everything is stored in the cloud and it’s managed by the browser. All of my settings and places where I left off are picked up in the proper place, which is great for someone like me who is very impatient about searching through notes. Evernote is great for the organizer or note taker for sharing documents and switching between computers frequently.
WunderList: WunderList is by far one of my favorite Web apps for Google Chrome. It’s geared towards those people who like to make lists and check off as they go. For a college student like me who has to juggle schoolwork, homework, and my Internet habit, I have to constantly make lists to stay on task and remember everything that I have to do. This is also another one of those multi-platform apps that has desktop and mobile versions that sync across all the platforms to keep up. I love it because I can add homework or ideas to my list while out and about on my phone and when I get back to my room I can quickly open up Google Chrome and review my list of tasks to complete. I’ve had fun messing around with all the different options of the Web app and have been impressed with its ease of use and great style. For those who need that list of things to do, this is a must have.
Cloud Reader (Kindle): Whether you’re on a break or just need some time to relax, I’ve found, like many others that reading helps the mind think and process information. Not everyone has a physical Kindle e-reader, and the library’s not always going to have the book you need. Amazon has an extensive library of Kindle e-books ranging from free to just a couple of bucks. If you have a Kindle but it isn’t close by, or you just want to catch up on a couple pages of your Steve Jobs novel, Amazon offers its Kindle reader app in the Google Web Store for you to read at your convenience. It features everything that the desktop and Kindle can do for you. It can sync your last read page between your Kindle or any other device that you use to read your Amazon books, it’s fully customizable for your reading settings, and it’s great for those short reads during lunch.
NYTimes (New York Times): This app I’ve found to be better than the website itself. You can access any part of the New York Times website from this app and it provides, in my experience, a better overall ease-of-use over the website. It cuts out a lot of the clutter that you get on the main website and you can still access all of sections of the full website from within the app. It provides many features that can tend to your reading needs, it has easy keyboard strokes to navigate through the app, and your reading views can be customized. For those who need a little extra assistance reading on the Web for reasons such as poor eyesight, just as with the Kindle app, you can adjust text size and customization for easier reading.
Netflix: Not a day goes by that I ever regret being a Netflix subscriber. The movie streaming service has saved me a load of money year after year for all the movies and TV shows that I watch. If you have a Netflix subscription, this app is a must have for quickly accessing your library and your instant video queue with your browser in just a few simple clicks. The Netflix app offers the ability to sync what you’re in the process of watching so that you can pick up from where you left off on another device. For example, if you were watching The Office but left off halfway though, you can quickly pick up from your computer in a snap.
Layers: The simplest way to describe this is that it’s like Flipboard for your browser. Layers grabs your social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter with all of your favorite RSS feeds from your sites that you like to visit the most and gives you a single combined layout of all the top and hottest news in a clean layout that is optimized for viewing and reading without any extra bloat. It eliminates all the clicking and brings everything to you that you can even interact with. If your friend posts a picture on Facebook, you can see it and comment from Layers without leaving your screen; after you’re done you can easily flip to the next item.
HootSuite: One of TweetDeck’s biggest competitors, HootSuite not only brings in the ability to view both your Twitter and Facebook networks, but allows you to post to many others. It has a column layout that flows with your latest posted updates from friends and lets you add many columns based on what you want to see. It flows just as well as TweetDeck does, but its advantages in being able to add RSS feeds and additional posting locations to your list may make it even more useful. I’ve read mixed reviews about both services, so you may find that you prefer one over the other.
ScratchPad: This Google-created app is amazing at what it does; it’s simple, but very powerful. ScratchPad is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a virtual notepad to scratch down notes or ideas from your browser without having to leave your current page. It syncs with Google Docs to keep your information in the cloud. It’s very simple and provides only the most basic of commands to bolden and italicize text as well as just a few other transformations. It’s exactly like having a piece of paper and a pen by your computer always, and it comes in handy more often than you might think.
AngryBirds: No app store is complete without a version of AngryBirds. Google’s store has just that: a fully functional AngryBirds game. It has its own twist with it and secret hidden gems only found in the Google Chrome edition, but it’s very fun for passing the time while waiting or to procrastinate. You can’t escape those birds; they’ll follow you everywhere you go.
That was my list of the top apps that you should investigate and consider downloading while visiting the Google Chrome Web Store. If I missed anything or you have your own suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.