WHAT’S THE MOST-USED APPLICATION on your computer? No peeking.
For a lot of lawyers, the top two answers would likely be their email program or their word processing program. It makes sense; email and word processing do make up a substantial portion of law practice for many attorneys.
There’s a third application that lawyers use for increasingly large blocks of time, and those blocks of time are only likely to get larger as cloud computing becomes the default option for how software gets done. And despite playing a big role in your workflow, this application flies almost beneath the radar: your Web browser.
Modern Web browsers, of which Google Chrome is my favorite, are highly flexible and customizable programs. They feature a variety of free, small programs—called extensions, add-ons or apps, depending on the browser—that allow users to pick and choose the functionality they want in their browser.
If you are using your browser without any customizations at all—or using the browser that came packaged with your computer when you bought it—you will be blown away by how much utility you can add to your browsing experience with just a few well-chosen extensions.
Here are my 11 favorite customizations for Google Chrome. You can get these extensions through the Chrome store, and most, if not all, are available for Mozilla Firefox, if that is the browser you prefer.
- AdBlock. It’s been so long since I’ve seen ads on the Web, I’ve more or less forgotten how annoying they are. In Gmail, on the New York Times site, on Facebook, in Google search results, AdBlock quietly erases all of these ads without me ever having to hit a button.
- Evernote Clearly and Evernote Web Clipper. I’m an Evernote junkie. I stash all kinds of stuff in my Evernote notebooks, much of it captured from when I’m in my browser. The Evernote Web Clipper extension helps me cut just the pieces I want out of Web pages and get them filed away in the right notebook and with the right title. Evernote Clearly not only helps me clip articles, it also reformats them elegantly and removes all the extraneous material so they can be read as clearly as a page in a book.
- Add to Wunderlist. Wunderlist is my to-do list manager of choice. It is elegant and works on every platform I work on—Mac, PC, iOS and Android. The Add to Wunderlist extension creates a single click button on several key websites to make it simple to add new items to my to-do list, e.g., books to read from Amazon, movies to watch from IMDB.com and so on.
- LastPass. LastPass is a password manager. Think of it as a safe deposit box for all your passwords. It not only stores them safely, it also autocreates new, long, random passwords, fills forms and launches websites by filling in your username and password all with the click of a button.
- Pocket. Sometimes on the Web you come across something you really want to read but you just don’t have the time right then. Pocket is my favorite of the read-it-later apps. The Pocket extension makes it simple to save an article to read later by just clicking a button. Then you can read it in your browser or on your mobile device or tablet when it’s convenient.
- Buffer. I tend to read through my favorite blogs in bursts, and those blogs produce a lot of articles that I send out on Twitter. It can be annoying to your followers though, if you tweet 25 times in 25 minutes. Buffer allows you to easily space out your tweets even if you queue them up all at once. The Buffer extension makes it simple and quick.
- Feedbin.me. After the demise of Google Reader, Feedbin became my new feed reader. The Feedbin.me extension allows me to add new feeds to Feedbin when I happen to surf across a new law practice management blog that I really like.
- Tweet this page. Just like it sounds, Tweet this page is a simple and easy way to tweet out the Web page or article you are currently reading.
- Hover Zoom. This is one of those extensions that does only one thing but does it exceedingly well. Hover Zoom allows you to hover your mouse or trackpad over any image you encounter on the Web and it autozooms the image to a larger size. It’s incredibly useful for when you encounter small photos you don’t want to click through.
- Gmail Attachments to Drive. This extension puts a new Send Attachment to Drive button in your Gmail. Anytime you receive an email with an attachment, you can click the button and the attachment will automatically be saved in your Google Drive account.
- Hipmunk. Hipmunk is hands down the easiest way to find the best flights and book them. The Chrome app works beautifully and saves me time from ever having to go to the website.
Those are my 11 favorite Chrome customizations. The Chrome store has thousands upon thousands of extensions and apps. Good luck finding your favorites.