Handy extensions and add-ons will help you perform multi-step tasks with ease
Whether it’s hitting F11 to switch to full screen or clicking Control + T to open a new tab, keyboard browser shortcuts certainly come in handy. Today, hundreds of browser extensions and add-ons offer a range of tools that allow you to complete a variety of tasks with ease and help save time. With the following tools, you and your students will soon be making fast work of the Web.
As I’ve previously mentioned in this column, whenever I’m introducing a group to a new tool, it helps to have annotated screenshots on hand in either digital or printed form. Awesome Screenshot is a terrific browser extension for capturing, annotating, and sharing screen grabs. Once installed, you can activate Awesome Screenshot from your browser to capture a page or a portion of it, draw boxes or lines, blur out information, and add text to your screenshot. When you’re satisfied with the image, you can save it locally or share it via the provided URL. Awesome Screenshot is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
We’ve all seen it in our schools: the big piles of wasted and forgotten printouts. More often than not, the scads of waste paper are the result of students printing entire Web pages, complete with sidebar ads, when they only wanted to print the text of an article. Joliprint can remedy this problem—and more. The free service converts online articles into a printer- and reader-friendly format. Joliprint has a handy add-on for your browser, and it’s available for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. Once installed, click the Joliprint bookmarklet whenever you’re reading an article that you want to print and you’ll get a clean PDF of the piece, minus the sidebar ads. You can also use Joliprint to send those PDFs to your favorite app for reading Web content, such as Read It Later, Instapaper, DropBox, and Evernote.
If you’re fortunate enough to work in a school that allows access to YouTube, there are a couple of browser tools that eliminate the ads and related videos that you may not want to appear when you project a clip in the classroom or library. A browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, A Cleaner Internet (clea.nr) allows you to display YouTube videos without any of the “related videos,” comments, or display advertising. Want to search YouTube without the extraneous matter? A Cleaner Internet helps you do that, too.
For students who need help accessing the text of a Web page, there are some helpful text-to-speech tools available for use in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Announcify is a free text-to-speech application that’s available as a Chrome browser extension. Once installed in your browser, any time you’re viewing a Web page, simply click on the Announcify icon in your browser and have that page read to you. Firefox and Internet Explorer users can try vozMe (vozme.com) to add a text-to-speech option. With vozMe installed, you simply highlight the text on a page, then click the vozMe icon in your browser’s toolbar to hear that text read aloud. VozMe offers a choice of a male or female voice.
Do you remember a time when to find content related to what you were reading, you thumbed through the book’s bibliography? Ambiently takes that concept and applies it to Web research. Ambiently is a browser add-on that allows you to quickly find websites related to the one you’re currently viewing. For example, if I’m viewing a website about fostering rescue dogs, I can click the Ambient Page icon in my browser’s toolbar and I’ll be shown a list of websites on that same topic. This could be very useful in helping students discover content to use in their research assignments. The add-on comes available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.
Why not give these browser add-ons a try? You’ll likely find them quite handy for both personal use and working with students. And if you have a favorite browser add-on that we should know about, please leave a comment.