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Save time with these three Chrome extensions

Navigate around and between Web pages without clicking, browse faster by loading your next pages automatically, and get a big preview of thumbnail images when you mouse over them.

What makes someone choose one browser over another? Often people use whichever browser is closest at hand: Internet Explorer in Windows and Safari on Macs.

Lots of folks choose Firefox because of the browser's many useful add-ons. But the best reason to go with one browser over another is speed. In my experience, no browser is faster than Google Chrome.

There's no easier way to start an argument among geeks than to claim one browser is the speed champ. If you look hard enough you can find a reliable study naming each of the most popular browsers the fastest.

Of the many browser test results I reviewed, the "real-world" benchmarks reported last August by Compuware's Gomez division seem most trustworthy to me. TechCrunch's Sarah Perez examines Gomez's browser testing process and results.

When it comes to browsing, the only thing better than fast is faster. Here's a quick look at three Chrome extensions that let you spend less time waiting for pages to load.

Give your mouse clicker a break
Add the Click-free Browsing extension to Chrome and put your clicking finger on ice. The program places six arrow icons along the right edge of the browser window. Hover your mouse over them to page up, page down, go to the top or bottom of the page, go back, or go forward.

Click-free Browsing clickless-navigation icons
Navigate around the page or between recent pages without clicking via icons added to Chrome by the Click-free Browsing extension. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

When you hover over a link, an arrow icon appears nearby. Move the pointer to the arrow to open the link without pressing the mouse button. You might think the arrow icon would cause you to follow links inadvertently, but the icon is far enough from the mouse pointer that accidental hovers are unlikely. Sliding the pointer quickly over the icon won't open the link, either; it doesn't open until the pointer pauses over the icon.

It took only a few minutes to get used to the Click-free Browsing arrow icons in the Chrome window. I would prefer that the page-up and page-down arrows scroll rather than hop a page at a time because sometimes the information I wanted to see was right at the top or bottom edge of the page.

You can reposition the program's arrow icons, change the speed of various actions, and make other changes to the add-on via its Options window, which is shown below. (To access the options, click Wrench > Tools > Extensions and look for the Click-free Browsing entry.) Pressing Ctrl while hovering lets you open the link in a new tab, go two pages back or forward, and take the action without delay.

Click-free Browsing options
Change the location of the arrow icons, the delay before taking the action, and other settings via the Click-free Browsing options. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

The Click-free arrows don't appear in Google search results or in Gmail, Facebook, or Twitter. The program's icons are visible on Google News,, Yahoo, MSN, and nearly every other popular site I visited.

I took to Click-free Browsing's clickless navigation like a pigeon takes to breadcrumbs. The benefits of browsing without clicks are even more pronounced if you're like me and use a pen tablet rather than a mouse.

Scroll rather than click to view the next page
The developers of the popular FastestFox add-on that promises to speed up Firefox recently released the equivalent for Chrome, called FastestChrome.

FastestChrome adds a permanent scroll to your Google search results and other pages with a "Next page" link: the next page loads automatically as you move down the page. Many programs preload linked pages, but FastestChrome also displays search results from shopping sites, Wikipedia, Surf Canyon, and DuckDuckGo.

You can disable use of these services and make other changes via the FastestChrome options shown below.

FastestChrome options
By default several shopping and search services are enabled in the FastestChrome extension, altering the content and presentation of your search results. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

I'm inclined to disable the non-Google search services and use only the endless scroll. However, I'm curious about these third-party search helpers despite the potential privacy risk. For testing purposes I'll keep the extension's default settings unchanged and watch for new wrinkles in my search behavior.

With FastestChrome's endless scroll in search results and other linked pages, sifting through dozens of result entries is seamless. Reading multipage text articles likewise feels less interrupted with the entire article appearing on the same page.

It feels like there are fewer ads because fewer pages seem to load. I didn't take the time to count the number of ads that opened with and without FastestChrome. I was satisfied with the reduction in the number of clicks I have to make to read an entire article or peruse more than a single screen full of search results.

Supersize thumbnail images in search results, other pages
When you hover the pointer over a thumbnail in Google search results and other sites, the image automatically enlarges and other information about it may appear in a pop-up window. That's nice, but the thumbnail enlargement is often not much larger than the thumbnail itself.

Go big with Hover Zoom, which shows a larger version of image thumbnails. On some image sites, such as my personal-favorite Web Museum, the enlargements nearly fill the browser window. The developer claims Hover Zoom works on any page with direct links between the thumbnails and the image files.

The image pop-ups worked on most of the thumbnail-intensive sites I visited, including Google image search, Amazon, Facebook, and the Web Museum. On Getty Images, the Cambridge University image archive, and a couple other university image archives, no larger version of the thumbnails appeared.

The Hover Zoom options let you disable image enlargements for specific sites or for all sites. You can also set a key that must be pressed to enable zooming, open the enlargement in a new window or tab, hide image captions, and change the delay before hovering will trigger the resizing.

Hover Zoom extension settings
Change the behavior of the Hover Zoom extension via the settings, one of which lets you limit the sites on which thumbnails are enlarged. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Not having to open a new page to get a better look at an image thumbnail will likely shave a few seconds off my workday. Whether or not Hover Zoom ever saves me a significant amount of time, my tired eyes are thankful for the large thumbnail previews the extension provides.