Chrome Tips: Apps and Extensions 1

The Difference Between Apps And Extensions

APPS are things that you start when you want them to, and they typically run in their own tab or window. Extensions, on the other hand, modify Chrome’s behaviour more generally. This post is about apps. I’ll come to extensions in the next post.

To get to your apps, click the Apps button—it’s usually at the left hand end of the bookmarks bar.


Oh, wait. You don’t see that on your Chrome? Right click in the bookmarks bar and click the Show apps shortcut setting to turn it on.

Oh, hang on. You don’t even have the bookmarks bar? Click the hamburger button Hamburger then mouse over Bookmarks, and you’ll see the option to switch on the bookmarks bar. Or just hit Ctrl-Shift-B to toggle it.

And there’s another way to get to apps, which is the Apps Launcher. This is installed for you (either when you install Chrome, or it might happen when you install something from the store; I don’t remember for sure). You can get to it on Windows by clicking the Start button, going to the installed applications, and looking under the Gs. You should be able to drag it to your task bar or pin it to the start menu. When you open it, you’ll see a grid with the icons of all your apps, and you can open them right there.

Where were we? Right, getting to your apps. Click the Apps button and you’ll see a page with your apps. One that should be prominent is the one for the Chrome Web Store. That’s useful to have, because the store is where you can get more apps and extensions. In fact, do that now. Go on, click it.

There are all kinds of apps for all kinds of things. There are games, of course. Lots and lots of games. But wait, there’s more. Productivity apps (including the ones Google provides, of course) like spreadsheets, and calendars, and text editors, and lots more besides. You have a Netflix account? There’s an app for that. Want to read books? There’s a Kindle app that lets you read books from your Amazon library, and of course there’s Google Play Books. Explore the store and you’ll see what I mean. Many of the apps are free, but there are a few that cost a little bit (if you find an app you’d like but it’s not free, the best thing to do is get a Google Play Store card. To add the funds to your Google Wallet account, follow the instructions printed on the card).

Adding an extension from the web store is easy. Pick one you want, and click it. A popup will pop up, and there you have the option to Add to Chrome. Click that, confirm that you want to add it, and it’ll download and install itself. That’s it. You don’t have to restart Chrome; the new app should be on your apps page and you can use it right away.

Sometimes apps open in a new window, sometimes they open in a new tab. You can control which. Go to the Apps page, right click on the App, and you can check or uncheck Open as window.

Removing an app you no longer want is easy, too. Right click on the app and select Remove from Chrome.

You can also set web pages as apps (in fact, some of the apps aren’t really anything more than a link to a web site). To do that, get the page open in a tab, then click the Hamburger button, mouse over More tools and then select Add to taskbar (I know – not really obvious). Choose whether to open as a tab or window (you can change that at any time, as I described earlier), and save. Now it’ll show on your apps page.

[Update: some time after writing that, a Chrome update changed that. At version 47 this feature appeared to have disappeared. At 48 it came back but works a little differently: now you click the Hamburger button, mouse over More tools and then select Add to desktop. That opens a dialog where you can set to open as a window. When you click Add, the web page link is added to your apps and as a desktop shortcut. You can then delete the desktop shortcut if you like, leaving just the app launcher link.]

Last thing: Remember the earlier post, about signing into Chrome? When you sign in on another machine, your apps will usually get installed on that machine right away so you have them available. Cool, huh?

Until next time . . .

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