App of the Week | Google Chrome Extensions

In the office this week I was looking around for a productive web tool to share for App of the Week, something elegant and smooth-running, when I came across this: it’s an extension for Google Chrome (which if you don’t have already, I’ll take this opportunity to recommend) called Abstract Browsing. It transforms all the content of a website you’re viewing into blocks of solid color. No text, no images, just blocks of color. (See our featured image.) On the surface, it seems pretty useless, though if you think about it, the abstraction of structure from content also demonstrates how simplicity in web design is paramount. The fewer layers of color you see, the more easily navigable that site probably is.

Also, it’s really cool to look at.

So, in the spirit of sharing web tools that might not necessarily help you organize or share your work, but might make doing those things a little bit more fun, we’ve created a short list from the overwhelming number of Chrome extensions you can add to make browsing a little less dull and a little more lively.

1. Rafael Rozendaal: This tech-y designer has been spending years creating wild web tools that serve very little purpose. He’s the designer of Abstract Browsing mentioned before, but also notably made an extension for Text-free browsing (in case the Times Op-Ed your friend forwarded to you would be perfect if it weren’t for all the words), a website called Trash Loop on which you can throw an animated paper ball away only to have it projected back out of the trash bin (with sound effects, no less!), and a website that uses the Facebook “comment” plug-in to leave endless comments on nothing.

2. Jailbreak the Patriarchy: Are you looking for some feminist web-browsing? Then look no further. This chrome extension actually analyzes your current webpage and replaces every masculine pronoun for a feminine one. In other words, it “toggles the patriarchy” of the web. So, if you happen to be reading King Lear on Project Gutenberg, no longer will the eponymous character be addressed as “his majesty”, but rather “her majesty”. Again: this doesn’t exactly tidy up your online work load, but it does make you think about the internet in a whole new way. What if the web was full of women?

3. Gravitational Field: this website uses javascript to visualize the movements of charged particles in a gravitational field. The point of this site, created by an English designer, is its relaxing motion and stunning quad-chromatic animation. If you need to Vegg (sp?) out after spending hours sifting through spreadsheets or studying online, take a break and just watch these artful experimentation.

4. Momentum: In an effort to round out this list with something a little more substantial, I’ve included this Chrome extension that turns every new tab into a beautiful, customizable landing page. Using excellent photography to background its features, Momentum includes a clock, collapsable to-do list, a goal-for-the-day, inspirational quote (which luckily has an on-off switch in case you don’t always want to read aphoristic tweets), quick links, and a weather icon. This extension makes web browsing clean and organized, one tab at a time.

5. Libdoge: Lastly, I’m including an outrageous all-browser extension for really only the boldest of the bold. Libdoge reads the text of a website you’re visiting and generates dismissive retorts in vibrant comic sans accompanied by the famous meme, “Doge“, who strolls across the edges of your screen. Do note that this extension only operates on major websites like Facebook, Twitter or Wikipedia, and is turned off by refreshing the page. It is at once and appalling and intriguing example of what the web is capable of.

So there it is: if you’ve had enough of productivity app advertisements boasting life-changing effects for your work on the web, take a gander at these free extensions that truly, albeit briefly, change your web browsing experience. We highly recommend you don’t take things too seriously, and allow yourself the freedom to explore the childish side of the web. After all, in the words of our Director Claire Potter, “Yes, we’re serious people, but we also like to have fun! And you can have fun with us too!”