Teaching/Research Tools: Google Chrome and Reader

Those who know me know that I’m a bit of a techie and a bit more of an Apple evangelist. Part of being an Apple evangelist (or “fanboy,” in the kids’ vernacular) is using Apple software when it’s available. Sure, I’ve always used Word instead of Pages (Pages just isn’t “there” for me quite yet); but for just about everything else, I use the Apple option: Keynote instead of PowerPoint, Numbers instead of Excel (most of the time), and Safari instead of anything else. Well, I’ve seen the light. 

Yesterday, I switched over to Google Chrome. I’ve had Chrome installed for a long time, and I’ve used it occasionally … usually as an alternative to Safari when I’d encounter a “quirk” in a randome webpage. Unlike what I’ve done with Safari and it’s extensions, I’d never taken the time to customize Chrome until last night. I’d become indifferent and simply continued using the browser I’d been using for a long time, but for no particularly good reason. The three things I’ve used the most in Safari are (a) the built-in RSS reader, (b) extensions (like a YouTube video downloader), and (c) strong Mac integration (like Preview as the default in-browser PDF viewer).

Switching over to Chrome, I’m finding that extensions and RSS (via Google Reader) are better, the addition of some “Apps” are a value-added bonus, and PDF viewing is adequate. While I like Safari’s handling of PDFs better (and if you’re a scholar and teacher like me, you use a lot of PDFs, too), Chrome’s is acceptable and will probably get better with time. Add to Chrome’s advantages the ease with which you can change themes (customizing the look of your browser) and it’s relatively faster speed on most pages (something that goes back and forth as Google and Apple release new versions of their apps), and its superior handling of tabs, and Chrome comes out the clear leader for me.

So what extensions make Chrome particularly functional for me? Here’s what I’ve got installed:

  • AdBlock (to, um, block ads)
  • bit.ly | a simple URL shortener (to, um, shorten URLs for posting to Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, and email)
  • Clip to Evernote (I love Evernote and this is a function extension that also allows you to enter text notes from the browser, without opening the full app)
  • eBook Search (sometimes you can’t get to the library and you need to find an e-copy of a book)
  • Email this page (by Google) (a button to email a link to the page you’re viewing)
  • FastestTube (adds a button under YouTube videos to download them in a variety of formats — perfect for saving videos to use in your Keynote or PowerPoint presentations for class/research talks)
  • InvisibleHand (cool little extension that automatically compares prices with other websites [i.e., will tell you if an Amazon book is cheaper somewhere else])
  • Pandora (great extension for listening to and navigating Pandora Radio)
  • Read Later Fast (a great extension that comes with a Chrome app, to basically bookmark websites to read later without having to clutter up your actual bookmarks)
  • Tabs to the front! (a key extension for me, which bring to the front/focus any new tab that you open via a link [as opposed to Chrome’s default of opening new tabs in the background])
  • ToodleChrome (gives easy access to Toodledo, which is the BEST to-do system)
  • Twitter Extender (adds some extra functionality to Twitter, including the old re-tweet style)
  • Weather Underground (I’m obsessed about the weather and love Weather Underground’s service)

In addition to those extensions, I’ve finally setup my Google Reader account. Google reader is a powerful, user-friendly news aggregator. Sites (like this one) that have an RSS feed (see the orange icon on the right edge of the screen?) can be collected and sorted in Reader. You need a free Google account, including Gmail, to use it; but everyone should have a Google account in this day and age, anyway. News aggregators like Reader are a great way to follow your favorite news sites. Reader basically lets you create a personalized online newspaper following all of the sources that are most relevant to you and your interests. Reader will even offer recommendations for other news items and sources that it thinks you’d like.

Alright, that about does it. Ultimately, one shouldn’t get to persnickety about others’ browser choices because it’s up to each individual to decide what works best for her/him. For me, while Safari definitely has done the trick for a number of years (and may indeed again when OS X Lion comes out), Chrome works better right now for my research, teaching, and leisure workflow. Check it out and give it a whirl if you’re feeling adventurous. 🙂 Please feel free to add you comments and questions below. And please also feel free to share a link to this post with others.

3 Replies to “Teaching/Research Tools: Google Chrome and Reader”

  1. Shoot … I forgot an extension: Pandora Radio. The extension for Chrome is AWESOME because it doesn’t necessitate having a tab or window open in order to listent to, search, or rate music. I’m editing the post above to add that extension because, well, music is key to a productive time online.

  2. The blog looks great, Darrel! I myself have moved to Firefox from Safari on the Mac, though I’m in no position to articulate as well as you do here exactly why. I guess part of my holding Chrome at arm’s length is my queasiness at what is now called The Googlization of Everything…. In other news, I ponder relaunching my blog on WordPress–in your opinion, would such a move (from Blogger) be worth the learning curve / rewiring? (And BTW, you’re not going to SCMS, are you?) Best to Suz!

    1. I hear you on The Googlization of Everything. I am, perhaps, too apathetic. Firefox did it for me a while back, but it just feels too “clunky” to me now. In terms of WordPress, I think it would be worth it. There’s something nice about being able to customize nearly as many things as you want, but not having to customize much at all because the defaults are pretty solid. When/if you get closer to doing that, let me know and I can tell you what plugins, etc., I use.

      As for SCMS, sadly I will not be in attendance. I have a conference in SoCal next month, which is my spring conference for the year.

      Best to Loretta!

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