I’ve been on a bit of a Chrome browser / Chromebook / Google Apps for Education kick lately. There’s always been a strong connection between me and Google but we’ve been hanging out a lot more the last month or so.

Firefox has been ticking me off since last spring and so I migrated over to Chrome during the summer. I got my first Chromebook in July. Had the chance to do some training on using Google Drive mobile apps. And we’re hosting an awesome GAFE/Chromebook mini-conference in October. So it’s past the tipping my toe in the water stage. I’m at least waist deep and then some.

As a result of all the Google love, I’ve been spending hours in the Google Web Store.  Trust me . . . it’s a quick way to lose all sense of time. But I have found some useful stuff in there. Today? Two of my latest finds that I think you might like too.

But a quick clarification. Teachers often ask about the difference between a Google App, a Chrome Web App, and a Chrome Extension so a quick side conversation. If you already know all this stuff, slide on down.

A Google App is a tool that is web-based but is device neutral.  Tools such as Google Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Maps, Gmail, Sites, and others become available to you when you create a Google account. You can access them through your account on any device or operating system. So you can login to your Google account on a Apple laptop, a Windows desktop, phone, tablet, or Chromebook and be able to access these tools. Google Apps are free and are available as soon as you create your account.

(Schools and districts have the option to create a special Google Apps for Education (GAFE) account with Google. This allows  the district to create accounts for teachers and students specific to that district, providing an easy way to monitor and control access to the Google tools.)

Chrome Web Apps are basically websites. They run within the Chrome web browser or the Chrome operating system on a Chromebook or other Google mobile device. In the old days, to do anything on a computer, a piece of software had to be installed on your hard drive. A Web App is software that lives on a server somewhere else that you access through the Interwebs. These are most useful on mobile devices or Chromebooks. An example of a very cool Web App is Pocket. Apps can be free or cost money.

A Chrome Extension is a bit different. It is a small piece of software that you download from the Web Store and add to your Chrome browser. These pieces of software extend the capabilities of the browser across multiple web sites. Most add a button to your browser’s taskbar to provide a shortcut for doing . . . something. This might be a tool that helps you annotate text or provides text to speech capabilities or helps you edit screenshots. Most Extensions are free but some cost money.

When you’re at the Chrome Web Store, you can see the separation between Web Apps and Extensions. You can browse through each section:

web store 3

or do a search by keyword or specific extension name.

Clear as mud? Okay.

Two extensions that I’m starting to fall in love are Black Menu for Google and QuickDrop. Both are extensions that allow me to quickly access all of my Google Tools / Drive files and DropBox files without leaving my browser or opening new tabs. I’m using Google and Dropbox more and more – these tools are making my life a little easier.

Black Menu for Google adds a button to your browser that reveals a handy drop-down menu for all of Google’s best stuff: Search, Google+, Drive, Translate, Maps, Gmail, Calendar, and all the other stuff. When you hover your cursor over the menu, you get a window for interacting with that particular tool. So when you hover over Search, you get a Google Search box. Gmail? You see your inbox, access messages, and write new ones. Drive? Same thing. You’re inside your folders and docs, ready to go.

Pretty sweet.

black menu1

QuickDrop works in a similar way by providing almost instant access to my Dropbox goodies. I can upload stuff directly from websites such as photos and docs into my Dropbox. Simply right click on an image or file link and select the “Download to Dropbox” from the menu options.  It’s just as easy to drag things from your hard drive right onto the Chrome browser window, drop it in the upload box, and off it goes. You also have the ability to quickly download anything from your DropBox right to your desktop.


Still trying Black Menu out with Google Classroom and a variety of platforms but for teachers who work in schools moving heavily into GAFE, this looks like a real time saver. And depending on the type of device your students are using, it would be great for them as well. QuickDrop is just too slick – I haven’t been using it long but it works as advertised, giving me a tool that seems perfect for working with large numbers of Dropbox folders. If your school and department is using Dropbox as a sharing option, take a look.