Both at home and at work, my browser of choice is Google Chrome. I use it for a lot of reasons and one of those reasons has to do with the options I have for customizing it to fit my needs.

At work, I run the portable version of Google Chrome and it’s set up differently than what I have at home and on my laptop. While some things are similar, there’s plenty of stuff I use at work that I don’t need at home, including bookmarks and searching capabilities. Thus I don’t have my work version of Chrome syncing to anything. Over the years, I’ve found that Chrome’s ability to customize is really helpful if you happen to be a front desk/front line librarian. Here’s a look at how I roll my browser.

(Keep in mind, these things can change at a moment’s notice. When I find something that works better than what I’m doing, I quickly adapt it and put it into place.)

Chrome Apps

First thing’s first. I don’t install nearly as many Chrome Apps in my work browser that I do at home. After all, I’m at work and don’t need most of that stuff. I do, however, run three that get some pretty decent use.

TweetDeck – Since I’m an avid user of Twitter and various other social networks, TweetDeck provides a superb in browser Twitter client. I can run it in a tab just like a web site and it’s there whenever I feel the need to tweet something or to check Twitter and see what’s going on in the online world. I’ve configured TweetDeck to allow posting to my Twitter account, Facebook, and Google Buzz.

Evernote– There are two ways I keep notes and access them. If it’s just a note to myself, something to look at later or to remember, I just send myself an email. However if I have a project that requires some multiple notes, especially from the web, I use Evernote. With a few clicks, I can manage notes about anything from websites to stuff that’s going on at the library to whatever project I might be working on at a given time.

Large Document– Sometimes I need to send myself a bunch of stuff. It could be Publisher files, or Word docs, or images, or whatever. It could be a mixture of things. I can never remember what the attachment size limit is for places like Google Mail or my work’s email system. So if I think it might be too large, I just send them to Large Document and download them wherever else I might need them. This is a quick and easy way to get things from a work computer to my laptop. (No offense to my library’s IT folks, because they’re awesome, but sometimes, I just have better software!)

Under the Hood: Customizing Search

Right click on the URL bar in Chrome and select Edit Search Engines. This is my secret to finding information for our customers and finding it fast.  You can create, customize, and otherwise trick out your search engines and then search for things right from the URL bar.

Say I want to set up a custom search for authors on Fantastic Fiction. I’ll go there and search for Patterson. I know that’s going to get me a list instead of taking me straight to a page like a search for James Patterson might. Sure enough, I get a list but I also get the URL I’ll need to use to make my custom search. It looks like this:

Okay, see where it says patterson at the end? That’s important. Because, using the custom search engine set up, I can tweak that to search for any author on Fantastic Fiction. All I need to do is pop into the Search Engines screen and do three things-

1. Where it says add a new search engine, I’ll type the site I’m searching and maybe what I’m searching for. In this case I’ll type Fantastic Fiction Author.

2. Give it a keyword. This is something easy to remember and will become the search trigger from the URL bar. I’ll call it FFA.

3. Finally, put in the URL from that Fantastic Fiction search, but with a small substitution. Take out the word patterson and type %s. That %s will act as our stand in for any future search. So you’d wind up typing in:

Got it? Good. now go to the URL bar and type FFA then hit space. You’ll see the left part of the URL bar turn blue and throw up the words Search Fantastic Fiction Author:. Now just type the name of the author and hit Enter. You’ll be taken to the results page on Fantastic Fiction for that author, or taken directly to that author’s page if it matches exactly.

Some of my most used keyworded searches are:

  • g = Google
  • gi = Google Images
  • z = Amazon
  • w = Wikipedia
  • ffa = Fantastic Fiction Author
  • fft = Fantastic Fiction Title
  • abe = AbeBooks
  • gm = Google Maps
  • mcld = My library’s OPAC
Finally, I have a few extensions installed in Chrome to make things easier when it comes to moving bits of information around from the web to other places. In this case I use:
Clip to Evernote– This provides a right-click access to Evernote allowing me to highlight anything on a website and send it to my Evernote notebooks. URL Shortener– Lots of websites, my library’s OPAC included, typically generate URLs as long as your average suspension bridge. They’re pretty cumbersome to deal with when you’re sending them to customers or even other library staff. With this extension, I can click the button and get a short URL that’s much easier to deal with.
PageMail– Like I said earlier, there are two ways I’ll save information while I’m on the front desk, I’ll either pop it into Evernote or I’ll email myself. That’s where PageMail comes in. Install it, give it your web based email address, and as long as  you’re signed in, it’ll take the information for the page you’re looking at and send it to a quick form where, with one click, you’ll email the page to yourself. It’s great when I run across something that I want to look at later when I’m not in a high activity place like the front desk.
Post to Tumblr– A while back, I set up a quickie Tumblr site for our branch to promote new stuff in the collection, staff picks, and things like that. With Summer Reading upon us, it’s not been updated as frequently as I’d like, but at least I can easily do it with this extension. Right click on something, and select Post to Tumblr and it’ll do just that. All you do beforehand is set it up with your Tumblr information. Since This is great for posting items from our catalogue since the OPAC has cover images and summaries.
And Finally
For the most part, the thing that makes Chrome so useful for me is the sheer speed. I’m a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts and I use those to sail over the Web quickly and without having to bother to stop and grab the mouse. Chrome has a tonne of keyboard shortcuts. Some of them might not be useful for you, some might not. Thing is, if you’re using Chrome, or interested in switching to it, it’s totally in your best interests to learn a few of them!