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Browser Extensions Can Save You Money, Time

But it’s important to read the fine print and download from your browser’s web store

spinner image a browser extension icon in a blue circle on a white field

We all use a browser to surf online.

Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox are the four most popular options in the United States. But did you know you can customize your browser to make better use of your time? Browser extensions, sometimes called plug-ins or add-ons, are software that adds features to enhance and streamline your browsing in a variety of ways.

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Extensions can function as ad blockers to limit or eliminate distracting web ads. Some even block video and image ads from online articles and YouTube.

They can track your browsing habits and history and automatically apply coupon codes to your online purchases. Some extensions also work as digital notepads for easy copying and pasting, encrypt secure passwords, provide reviews of items before you make a purchase and help you with your grammar.

Hundreds of thousands are available, created by the browser companies or other developers. Most are free through vetted sites, but some cost money to download.

Google has a Chrome Web Store, Safari extensions are part of the Apple App Store, Edge has an Add-Ons site and Firefox has a Browser Add-On Gallery. You also can find these extension stores through your browser itself.

While some developers create similar extensions for each variety of browser, you might not find ones you like for every browser you use. An add-on also adds to the size of your browser file, taking up more space on your computer. And extensions, while convenient, can slow your browser’s ability to load a web page and expose you to privacy risks and security concerns.

Chrome and Firefox browsers are available for both Apple Macintosh computers and Windows PCs. Edge is available only for PCs or Macs running Boot Camp or Parallels. Safari is an Apple-only browser.

Do your research to secure your privacy

Adding any extension to your browser has some risk, so be sure to research your choice. Questions to answer:

• Is this extension from a reputable company or developer?

• How many people have downloaded it, and how do they rate it?

• Does the extension have a privacy policy that outlines how it will protect your information?

Also keep track of what you’ve installed, and regularly review and remove unused extensions — just like you should do for your laptop, smartphone or tablet apps. The best way to ensure you’re not downloading malware is to go only to your browser’s authorized store and install antivirus software.

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Some popular browser extensions to examine

Spend some time reading reviews of any extensions you want to install. You can also do a web search for best or top browser extensions to read lists that technology journalists have assembled. A few good categories to consider:

Ad blockers. Browser extensions that block ads include AdBlock for Chrome Edge and Safari, Adblock Plus for Edge, AdGuard for multiple browsers, and uBlock Origin for Chrome and Edge.

Money savers. Browser extensions such as PayPal Honey, RetailMeNot Deal Finder and Slickdeals can automatically find and apply coupon codes at checkout for you. These extensions work with multiple browsers.

Organizers for note-taking, clipping. These extensions add features not already a part of the browser itself, including ways to annotate, highlight, organize and save online content. Some examples include Awesome Screenshot for Chrome; Notion Web Clipper for Chrome, Firefox and Safari; and Pocket for Chrome.

Password managers. These help you manage all your unique passwords by encrypting and generating random passwords to secure each of your accounts. Check out 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper, LastPass or RoboForm. These also work with multiple browsers.

All the previous extensions are free, at least for a trial period.

How to install browser extensions

One option for Chrome, Edge or Firefox is to visit the official store on the web and look at the list of available extensions.

1. Read each description carefully, noting the number of downloads, ratings and user comments. Pay special attention to the most recent, because updates to a browser might make an extension work incorrectly.

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2. Click on the button of the extension you want, likely titled Add to [name of browser].

3. Scrutinize any alerts that pop up with some extensions if certain permissions or data are required. These can give you a second chance to consider how much of your browsing habits might be tracked.

Apple Safari requires you to download extensions in the browser, and other web browsers give you the same option. In Safari:

1. Click the Safari pull-down menu at the top of your Mac screen to the right of the Apple symbol.

2. Select Safari Extensions… , second from the top. This puts you in the Safari extensions area of the Apple App Store.

3. Browse available extensions and accompanying descriptions, including lists such as Top Free Apps and Top Paid Apps.

4. Click Get on the browser extension you seek.

To get to the extension stores for other browsers while you’re using them:

• For Chrome, go to Window | Extensions. The Chrome extensions you have now will display. Click on the hamburger menu icon  | Open Chrome Web Store. A new tab will open.

• For Edge, click on the puzzle piece icon to the right of your browser’s address bar, then Open Microsoft Edge Add-ons.

• For Firefox, look under Tools | Add-ons and Themes. You’ll get some suggestions and a button to search for more.

You can then follow the instructions above to download extensions.

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