10 + 2 Favourite Firefox addons: How does Chrome compare?

By | December 2, 2011


With reference to yesterday’s news that Chrome has caught up with Firefox and that they now hold roughly the same market share (both behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer), I thought I would present the situation for exactly the same functionality, in Chrome, as the one described in my post on 10 + 2 favourite Firefox addons. You may find all the extensions mentioned here, at the Chrome Web Store.

  1. HTTPS Everywhere - encrypt the web! This plugin is the result of an initiative by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and it will always attempt to use a secure, encrypted connection to any web page you try to visit, so that third parties cannot eavesdrop (or make it harder for them to do so, anyway). This functionality does not yet exist in Chrome, as such. However, there’s the “HTTPS Enforcer” extension, which comes pretty close. Note from the developer:“Chrome doesn’t yet have the necessary API to make this plugin completely secure as Firefox plugin (https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere). So, plugin doesn’t provide the full security benefits of Firefox HTTPS Everywhere, but I think it would a) provide a clear improvement in security to those who understand the risks, b) make it easy to provide the full security benefits as soon as the necessary APIs have landed. It may also increase the pressure to finish those APIs. By the way, needed APIs currently are experimental, so we can use it in stable version soon. Stay tuned.”
  2. Add to Search Bar. Chrome kicks butt in this department, as it automatically saves and imports the functionality of every search engine you use while you’re surfing. No need to install anything!


  3. InstantFox. The functionality of this addon is also already embedded in Chrome. Go to Options, pick the Basic Settings tab and click on “Manage Search Engines”. The middle column is for setting the search engine’s shortcut.
  4. Fast Dial. There’s a much more polished alternative in Chrome to replace FastDial: Speed Dial 2. Much more sophisticated and elegant that Fast Dial, it can also incorporate Chrome Applications and normal bookmarks. The only thing that keeps me from calling it perfect is that it offers online syncing only in the pro version (USD1.99). In my opinion, it’s worth the small fee, but if you don’t want to pay it, you can, instead, use the export/import function and export its settings in a file and import the file into another Chrome installation. It’s not perfect, but it works. It lacks incorporation with the bookmarks for syncing and having as many dials as desired per folder, which Fast Dial does.
  5. Instaright. You may use a variety of plugins, I personally prefer InstaChrome.
  6. FireGestures. You can use SmoothGestures, which is really good too (they had some privacy violation issues, but it’s fixed now). If you’re on linux, you’re gonna need the companion GesturesPlugin, for SmoothGestrures to fully work.
  7. Adblock Plus. Thankfully, this also exists as a Chrome extension. Did I mention that you may selectively unblock specific websites?? (like this one, for example!! :P)
  8. AddBookmarkHere2. The functionality is embedded within Chrome: from the bookmarks toolbar, navigate to the desired folder,  then first right-click and then click “add page”.
  9. DownThemAll. Note from the developers: “While support for some types of extensions was added to Chrome just recently, the extension system in Chrome simply doesn’t cut it. It is only very limited in what you can do. Right now there is no way to port dTa over without losing the majority of functionality”. So, the best alternative I’ve come across is PyAxelWS Download Accelerator, but it’s only linux-based. For windows, try “Downloaders” or “Download Assistant”.
  10. DownloadHelper. I haven’t found anything exactly like that… There is “YouTube Downloader”, which lets you download videos form YouTube (it embeds itself in the video menus), but nothing as universal and versatile as DownloadHelper. Actually, DownThemAll and DownloadHelper are two of the most important reasons that I have not switched entirely to Chrome (the third reason is that I trust the Mozilla Foundation more with my passwords, than Google).
  11. For ultra-private, anonymous surfing, you should not use the “Incognito” or “Private Browsing” modes of either Firefox or Chrome. Instead, you should use Tor Project’s “Tor Browser Bundle“! It incorporates a browser, as well as all of the Tor engine’s nuts and bolts, preconfigured, set-up and ready to go. It does not mess with any other installed programs (not even Firefox, on which it’s based). It can run off of any folder you move it into (I have it in ~/bin/tor-browser), or a usb stick, or practically anything, and it gives you instant web anonymity. But, what exactly does it do that is so great? You surf the web (a) without leaving any traces on your computer (like “private mode” in modern browsers), but, on top of that, it also allows you to surf (b) without your ISP (Internet Service Provider) knowing what you’re browsing, (c) without any third parties being able to eavesdrop, and (d) without the host server, of the web page you’re visiting, knowing who you are, or where you come from. It’s not just neat, it’s a life saver for political activists!
  12. Firefox Sync. This functionality is also embedded in Chrome, no difference there.
  13. I have to mention another plugin that I love in Chrome: Awesome Screenshot! You can “capture the whole page or any portion, annotate it with rectangles, circles, arrows, lines and text, blur sensitive info…” etc.

Overall, by personal experience, Chrome is faster, more stable and more polished than Firefox. On the other side, Firefox is not the product of a mega-corporation and the only people to whom the developers have to answer, are their own user base; that’s important. Also, Firefox is the absolute “addons heaven”, as it often offers functionality much superior to that of Chrome (typical examples would be, DownloadHelper, DownThemAll and HTTPS Everywhere), at least until Chrome’s scripting engine catches up…

As a side note, I have to say that, until recently, the main reason I did not use Chrome was that every so often it would report that it could not read my profile (on linux) and then I would have to go through a process to make it work again (until the next time it would crash, which would be “soonish”). I had tried deleting or renaming the “Default” folder, I had tried resetting folder and file permissions, I had tried resetting ownership, deleting and resetting Google sync cache, the works; it just would not do the trick, so the browser was practically of no use to me. Apparently, from what I could see in Google and linux support forums, this was a persistent occurrence that existed (still exists) for at least two years!

Then I figured it out. One thing that was special in my case, was that I used Chrome on both linux and windows. Some extensions do not work on both systems, so then I opted out of syncing extensions. I also noticed that even with extensions installed separately, the profile would still crash, unless no apps were synced. So, I opted out of this one, too. Now it seems to be stable. I only sync bookmarks, history and passwords – no apps, no preferences, no extensions; these I do locally.

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