Build a better browser

CHOICE Computer's pick of the best add-ons for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome
 
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01.Introduction

Adding on to a browser

A browser is our window to the world (wide web), and is one of the applications we use the most. And while we might take it for granted, there are many ways we can improve upon it and expand its capabilities with optional, add-on features. It doesn’t matter which browser you use, as all the major players offer a huge range of add-ons from the fun and frivolous to the genuinely useful.

In this report, we’ve focused on the three leading Windows browsers:

That’s their order of popularity across the world and they share around 90% of the Windows PC market, leaving the rest to Safari (which dominates on the Mac), Opera and a few others.

Internet Explorer comes with Windows so it has a head start, but even so it has declined from around 90% usage in 2005 to half that and according to StatCounter (a web-site hit counting service) was actually overtaken in Europe by Firefox in December of last year. Firefox, with around 40% of the worldwide market, grew steadily until a couple of years ago but has since levelled off, with Chrome (backed by the power of Google) chiefly responsible for the erosion of IE numbers.

Whichever browser you choose (see our comparison report BrowserShowdown! in CC issue 79), there’s a massive range of add-ons to choose from – Firefox claims 5000, Chrome 8500. Whether it’s to help with blogging or social networking, managing tabs and bookmarks, stopping annoying ads or just giving your browser a unique look, there’s probably an add-on that does just what you need.

But which ones are worth your time? While everyone’s preference is different, the CC team has picked out what we feel are some of the stand-out plugins for each browser.

It’s worth noting some of these add-ons and plugins have direct equivalents in each of the other browsers, sometimes as the same plugin cross-platform (for example Stumble Upon, covered right). If you like the sound of an add-on for one browser, check out its site – it may be available for your favourite browser too.

The only thing to be aware of when adding plugins is that, often, the more add-ons you have the slower your browser may be. It really depends on the types of plugins however, but just be aware if you’re installing these on a low-powered computer such as a netbook.
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