Note: This post was revised on February 9, 2016 to adjust the present browser-specific information.
Plugins, skins and toolbars make browsers unique user experiences. During a typical workday, I use 3-5 different browsers and more if we’re testing a new site or doing a site audit. Each has a large selection of browser tools I can use. But even visiting familiar sites in “standard” browsers can bring chuckles.
Visit Google’s main search site, for example, while using Microsoft Edge (formerly Internet Explorer), and you’ll be prompted to “upgrade” to Google Chrome. That message won’t appear if you’re using Firefox, but the software guys get their revenge on the search folks when you try to download from Microsoft using a browser they didn’t create. Never mind if you have a legit copy of a Microsoft product you’re attempting to support. You’ll simply be messaged to use a supported browser.
But there are five browser tools I use every day in my browser of choice, which happens to be Firefox, closely followed by Google’s Chrome. Try them out yourself and see if they make your workday easier.
My Top 5 Browser Tools
1. MeasureIt (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) – I don’t think there has ever been a time when I’ve sent a plugin to CDS (Creative Director Sara for those of you who haven’t been playing the home version of our game) and seen it installed it within minutes. MeasureIt is simply that good. Sitting almost hidden in the left corner, MeasureIt does one thing and does it remarkably well: it measure an area of real estate on your screen.
2. A live character counter – I use the awesome, fast and easy program at JavaKit. Yes, I could boot Word or install another plugin, but why bother? Copy, paste, click and move on. Sheer elegance.
3. A date calculator – Someone tell you the project is due in 100 days? Well, 100 days is a couple of clicks away. The very long-lived timeanddate.com has a large selection of date calculators. Figure out date intervals, go back in hours or weeks or forward in years and months. The site is wonderful. There are some fun calculators too. I turn 400,000 hours old this summer. We’re having a party. And in lieu of the traditional one dollar for every year in a birthday card, you may bring pennies. If writing a check for the 400,000 pennies is easier, that’s fine too. Or Amazon gift certificates. I take those.
4. Color Data – More simple elegance online. Go from hex colors to RGB. Lighten or darken the values and hand them off to your developer. Sometimes it really is that easy.
5. The blogs you read in online magazine format. This is my newest tool, and I don’t know if I can rave enough. Feedly is in beta, but essentially acts as a front-end overlay for Google Reader. You’re reading this as a blog entry. Maybe you’re on Facebook, maybe you’re on the Silver Beacon Marketing site, maybe you’re on some other platform. Feedly in your regular browser will change your mind. This could easily be the blog interface that makes aggregation more familar and thus more accessible popular. I just like it because it segments and sorts and content flows into the columnar format I’m familiar with. Go play with this one if you read more than one blog.