It’s almost impossible to do business today without the Internet. Unfortunately, it’s also almost impossible to do business without being distracted by the Internet.
Corporations get around this by blocking network access to sites that might not be business-related, though what exactly those are is open to debate. (Many companies allow access to YouTube, for example, which has many useful videos for business, but also plenty of cat videos.)
For companies that lack corporate IT infrastructure resources, browser extensions (also called add-ons) are a good way to improve employee productivity and prevent unwanted browsing.
As the name implies, browser extensions extend the operability of your web browser with customized features and modifications. While add-ins are available for all popular browsers, Mozilla Firefox has the most extensive library and for this reason alone is the browser of choice for many users. Google also has a growing number of extensions. Safari has far fewer and Internet Explorer even fewer. Extensions are downloaded from links provided by the browser, such as Chrome Web Store or Mozilla’s Add-ons site.
As the How-to Geek points out, browser extensions serve three main purposes.
- Integrate with other services
- Add additional features
- Modify the appearance of the browser and block unwanted content (ads or explicit content, for example)
Most browser extension are free, although donations are requested or fees required for versions with added features. Below are some popular browser extensions that help you improve productivity and focus on the business at hand.
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LeechBlock is specifically designed to block unwanted websites and keep you (or your employees) from wasting time. You can specify up to six sets of sites to block based on the time of day and/or limit viewing to a fixed amount of time. In addition, you can set passwords to limit the ability to modify or remove an extension. You can also log how much time is spent on designated sites to collect and evaluate usage patterns. LeechBlock is widely praised for ease-of-use and range of functionality. Similar Chrome extensions include Nanny and Stay Focused.
Supposedly the most popular extension for Chrome and Safari, and based on the version originally developed for Firefox, AdBlock does just what it says. It blocks all kinds of ads, including video and flash ads, hidden tracking and malware software, even social media buttons. It’s also customizable to let you see ads that you might want to allow.
Disconnect and Ghostery
These cross-platform (including mobile) extensions let you track the trackers by allowing you to see cookies and other software placed on your computer when you visit a site. Some tracking can be useful (maybe you like what Amazon recommends for you to buy and also that it always remembers to log you in without asking), but it can also be viewed as an invasion of privacy. In addition, these extensions provide encryption to make your Internet activities more secure and safe from hackers and identity theft.
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How many times have you wanted to read something on the web, but didn’t have the time and figured you’d go back to read it later? Except when later comes, you forgot what site had the content.
The Pocket extension lets you save the content to look at when it’s convenient. You can view content from any tablet, phone or computer, not just the device you first accessed it, whether or not you have an Internet connection. It is also integrated with more than 500 apps, including Twitter and various newsreaders. Although originally developed for Chrome, Pocket is available for all other desktop and mobile web browsers.