The web is rife with annoyances. Pop-over ads when you visit a page that you have to dismiss, sites that auto-play audio even in background tabs, pages that reload and take all the text you entered with it, they all suck. Here are some browser add-ons that make the web a better place for everyone.
10. Behind the Overlay (Chrome/Firefox)
You know those web sites where you visit, start reading an article, and then suddenly you get a pop over asking you to signup for a newsletter or something, and the only way to dismiss is to click “no thanks, [insert demeaning thing here]?” Yeah, I hate those too, and Behind the Overlay for Chrome and for Firefox banishes them for good.
We covered it a while ago, and it still works like a charm, whether that pop-over display is one of those annoying “yes, that’s great/no, I hate nice things” ads, or any other pop-over, like the kind begging you to sign up or sign in.
9. Page One (Chrome/Safari) and Re-Pagination (Firefox)
Thankfully, multi-page slideshows are far less common these days around the web than they used to be, but many sites still rely on them to stretch one article into a dozen or more actual clicks and page views. It’s annoying and slow reading, but you don’t have to suffer through it. Chrome and Safari users can install Page One, which pulls all of those slideshow pieces together and displays them on the same page, and Firefox users can use Re-Pagination, which does the same thing with a right-click.
If you don’t want to install anything at all though, you can always use the “printer friendly” version of a page or your browser’s “reading mode” to get everything without having to click a dozen times, or send it to Pocket or another read-it-later service, which usually strips out the cruft anyway.
8. Lazarus (Chrome/Firefox)
Lazarus has been around for a long, long time, but the sheer amount of information it’s saved for me warrants a place on this list, and if you’ve been using it for nearly as long, you know it’s probably saved you a ton of headache too, maybe because of forms you filled out, tried to submit, and that a page timed out on, or emptied all of your text boxes because you didn’t format a required field a certain way.
Those kinds of annoyances are Lazarus’ prime target, and ending them forever is a quick install from the Chrome Web Store or, if you’re a Firefox user, from Mozilla Add-Ons. It’s saved my butt more than once, and since I’ve seen some complaints that the add-on doesn’t work well in Chrome anymore, consider TIRE (Text Input Recover Extension) if you need an alternative.
7. Magic Actions (Chrome/Firefox/Opera)
YouTube is full of entertaining videos, but it’s certainly one of the most annoying web sites. From abysmal commenters to annoying (but easily disabled) overlays and random resolutions, it can be a pain to get everything the way you want it-and then one change may undo your preferences on another system. Magic Actions fixes all of that.
In addition to making sure any videos that can play in HD (or better yet, 4K) do so, Magic Actions also suppresses ads (which you may or may not want to do), kills YouTube comment sections, lets you control the volume with your mousewheel, and adds a cinema mode that cuts the cruft and lets you focus on the video you’re watching. All in all, it gives you a YouTube experience that’s more like a media player than a video portal. Plus, it’s one of our favorite Chrome extensions in general, even though it’s also available for Firefox and Opera.
6. WikiWand (Chrome/Firefox/Safari)
Wikipedia is probably one of the web’s most useful sites in general, but it also comes with its share of annoyances. The pages load quickly, but they can be often difficult to navigate, have tons of sections, and could use a fresher, cleaner look. Wikipedia has played with redesigns in the past, but WikiWand, an add-on for Chrome, for Firefox, and for Safari (and also available for mobile devices,) completely transforms each Wikipedia page into a more pleasant reading experience.
The add-on moves the table of contents to a sidebar where you can get to it quickly while you read, makes the font easier to read, adds hover-to-preview on links and images, and more. If you like the look but want something a little less drastic, try out previously mentioned WikiTweaks, which gives you a little more control.
5. Silent Site Sound Blocker (Chrome)
We just mentioned this Chrome add-on, but Silent Site Sound Blocker handles one of my biggest pet peeves about many web sites-as soon as you load them, they try to puff up video views and reach by auto-playing a random video somewhere in a tiny corner of their site. It’s irritating, especially when you have multiple tabs open and no idea where on the page the video is actually playing.
Silent Site Sound Blocker automatically mutes tabs that aren’t your focus tab, and even then, uses a whitelisting system to make sure the only tabs that play audio at all are the ones you approve. You even have the ability to approve a site to play audio once, but then ask again, or block it once and then ask again next time you visit. Of course, you can blacklist sites as well, so they never play audio ever. If you want an alternative, check out previously mentioned Smart Tab Mute, available for Chrome and Firefox.
4. Imagus (Chrome/Firefox)
Tiny thumbnails that don’t open to large images-or worse, only open to large images in the same page or open links instead of larger views-are annoying, and previously mentioned Imagus (available for Chrome and Firefox) fixes them. Instead, just hover your mouse over an image you want to see in a larger view, and it’ll pop up, nice and big so you can inspect it.
We used to recommend Hover Zoom for things like this, but ever since a ton of useful Chrome extensions went to the dark side, we can’t anymore, and Imagus is a suitable replacement.
3. Pocket (Chrome/Firefox/Safari/Opera/Edge)
Pocket is useful for a lot of things, and while it’s strictly a “read it later” service that lets you save articles for offline reading whenever you have time to get around to them. It’s great, and there are tons of pro tips to get the most from it, but it’s also a great way to eliminate almost all of the annoyances of the traditional web experience. Plus, it’s available for virtually any web browser.
For example, you probably already know that by saving an article to pocket, you can pull paginated, slideshow articles into one long, easily readable page. You also strip out ads and other bloat that’ll slow down your device, or make it difficult to read around them. With the right Pocket tools, you can even get estimates for how long it’ll take to read an article, a tl;dr summary of your articles with bullet points so you can skim first and dive deeper later, and more. All that without having to suffer through auto-play videos, comments, ads, or other annoyances.
2. Social Fixer (Chrome/Firefox/Opera/Safari)
If you install one browser extension that’ll make your Facebook experience leaps and bounds better, it should be Social Fixer. We’ve highlighted it several times, shown you how to use it to clean political posts from Facebook, re-order your news feed with it, always see recent posts and easily find posts you’ve interacted with, hide sponsored posts and pages, filter your news feed so you don’t miss important news, and more. If there’s something about Facebook that annoys you, odds are Social Fixer can handle it.
1. uBlock Origin (Chrome/Firefox)
The fact that this site keeps the engine running thanks to ads doesn’t mean that we don’t know that ads are some of the most annoying parts of the web. Maybe they take over entire pages, or they bump your browser around when you’re trying to read or click. Maybe they auto-play or block the page you’re reading until you can dismiss them. Maybe they just slow down your browser. We feel that pain, and uBlock Origin is our favorite ad blocker for Chrome and Firefox and Opera-not just because it gets the job done easily enough, but because it’s incredibly powerful and customizable.
uBlock Origin lets you control what elements load, which don’t, what ads you see, and what you suppress. You can customize it to your heart’s content, and it’s faster and more lightweight than Adblock Plus or Ghostery, each of which have their own problems with selling ads or partnering with ad companies. If you’d like an alternative, consider Disconnect, a browser extension that doesn’t block ads, but does preserve your privacy by blocking tracking-and the only ads it actively blocks are malvertising, which you want to block anyway.
Title illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári.