Apps

The best Chrome extensions to boost your productivity in 2017

Images Pablo for creating social media-friendly images

Pablo – from the clever folks who make Buffer – is a powerful tool for creating images to share on social networks, and it comes in handy when you want to grab your followers’ attention in their feeds more effectively than a text-based post could.

The app is great for laying out text, logos and other graphics in correctly-sized images for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest posts. It’s easy to align various elements with relation to your canvas, and there’s even a massive library of more than 600,000 background images, as well as templates, to help you get started.

The extension lets you grab any image from the Web to begin working on a new creation and also makes it easy to access the tool from anywhere with a single click. It’s hard to believe that this is entirely free to use.

➤ Pablo

Nimbus for easy screenshots and screencasts

There are loads of extensions for taking screenshots, but Nimbus is perhaps the most complete one of them all. In addition to capturing the visible portion of a page, it also lets you select an area, grab the entire page and annotate it with arrows and text before saving the image.

You can also use it to record a screencast, capturing whatever’s in your active tab along with your voice. There’s even an option to record anything else on your desktop, and the feature works well with multiple monitors to boot. I often use it to highlight visual elements when discussing web design layouts with my colleagues, and to demonstrate apps to my friends and parents.

➤ Nimbus

Focus

It’s all too easy to get sidetracked and sucked into a rabbit hole on the web; it happens to me more often than I care to admit. Thankfully, there are some clever tools that can help you maintain your focus and stick to your tasks. Here are our favorites.

Focus for staying on track

The Pomodoro technique is a simple time management method that encourages you to get the most out of your time, and this extension makes it a cinch to implement it in your own workflow.

When you’re ready to hunker down, fire up a new tab and choose from a list of sites that you want (or skip this step entirely). Next, list some tasks that you need to complete and hit the ‘start’ button in that tab. Focus will then start a 25-minute timer, during which it’ll block your selected sites and remind you to get back to work.

It’s flexible enough to act as a no-frills timer, if that’s how you prefer to work – but it also lets you block time-wasting sites if you’re not as weak-willed as I am. The combination of an ephemeral task list, a simple timer and a beautiful interface make Focus an effective productivity tool you’ll want to use often.

➤ Focus

StayFocusd for avoiding distractions

There’s usually no good reason to visit Facebook and Twitter five times an hour, but I’m guilty of that more often than I’d like to admit. That’s why I’m glad I discovered Stayfocusd.

This powerful extension lets you set a time limit for sites that you visit while procrastinating. When your time’s up, it displays a reminder to get back to work and prevents you from visiting that page until the specified daily reset time.

Stayfocusd offers several settings to keep you from time-wasters, including lists of blocked and allowed sites, a tricky challenge to keep you from adjusting your reset time and even a Nuclear option that will block all sites for as many hours as you specify. Use it with caution!

➤ StayFocusd

Forest for gamifying your productivity

Forest presents a unique take on staying focused. It combines a Pomodoro timer with gamification and a site blocker.

Fire up the extension from the toolbar and you’ll have 25 minutes to work on your task; during this time, a virtual tree is planted, and its life depends on you staying away from blacklisted sites like Reddit and Facebook.

Stick to your work and your plant will bloom into a beautiful tree; break your focus and it’ll wilt and die. If you grab the mobile app (available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone) and pony up $1, you can sync your focus sessions to it and see your trees populate a virtual forest.

It’s a novel approach to helping you be more productive, and strangely enough, it works! You can even track all the trees you’ve grown in your forest, in the accompanying mobile app. If the standard Pomodoro timer doesn’t do it for you, this is certainly worth a try.

➤ Forest

Noisli for improving concentration with white noise

Depending on your work style, you might enjoy a little background noise to help you stay focused on the task at hand. Noisli offers a range of ambient sounds, like rain, forests, the drone of a fan and even a coffee shop to listen to while you work.

You’ll need to sign up for an account to use the extension, but it’s free and only takes a second. Once you’re registered, you can create and save combinations of sounds to suit your preferences. Plus, there’s a timer to help you stick to your schedule, or use the Pomodoro technique to complete tasks in short order.

Noisli isn’t the first app of its kind, but it is one of the most customizable ones out there, and its extension saves you the hassle of keeping an extra tab open for alternatives like Coffivity.

➤ Noisli

RescueTime for tracking your productivity

If you often feel like you’re not getting much work done and wonder where the times goes at the end of each day, the answer might be in your browsing history.

A visual representation of how much time you spend procrastinating can be a powerful motivator to get you to be more productive. It can also tell you when in the day you get more work done, so you can figure out how to optimize the time spent at your desk.

RescueTime does just that. It keeps an eye on your activity in Chrome and generates charts to show which sites you spend most of your time on. You can have it break down your activity by day or month, and see which days you were busiest.

Of course, you don’t need to be a statistician to understand its findings. RescueTime’s simple, color-coded charts are easy to read and help you get to grips with your browsing habits with just a glance.

The free version packs enough features to monitor your productivity; $72 per year nets you the premium plan, which includes additional functionality like a site blocker, alerts to let you know when you’ve worked for a certain number of hours and even more in-depth reports.

If you’re looking for something a bit more spartan for your monitoring needs, be sure to try out TimeStats.

➤ RescueTime

Voice Clock for fighting procrastination through the day

This is a deceptively simple lifehack rolled up into an extension. Voice Clock does exactly what its name implies: It announces the time every hour or half hour. Whether you’re working on one major task or a bunch of small ones, this audio alert serves to make you aware of how much you’ve got done through the day and subtly pushes you to be more productive.

It may not sound like much, but it’s actually quite effective, and becomes even more so as you get used to it. What’s nice about this extension is that you can customize it to say whatever you like at various times, like announce your lunch break with ‘It’s Nom o’clock’ or when you can clock out for the day.

➤ Voice Clock

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