What is an add-on and what does it do?

Every browser can have its features expanded with add-ons. This allows the browser to be tailored precisely to your own needs by retroactively adding in features that the browser doesn’t normally have.

What are add-ons used for?

The following types of add-ons are the most popular at the moment:

  • Language support, such as Google Translate, Grammarly, etc.
  • Ad blockers such as AdBlock Plus or uBlock origin
  • Online conference features such as Cisco Webex, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.
  • Social media tools, such as for Instagram, Pinterest, or others
  • Video downloaders
  • Website screenshot tools such as Fireshot, Evernote Web Clipper, etc.
  • Password managers such as LastPass

Browser add-ons are usually called ‘extensions’, but this depends on the browser. They come from independent developers and are offered in browser-specific online shops.

Definition

Add-ons are small programs that expand or extend the features of a browser.

Where can you find browser add-ons?

Chrome

In Chrome, add-ons are called ‘Extensions’. You can get Chrome to show you your installed extensions by typing the following in the address bar:

chrome://extensions

You can install new extensions via the Chrome web store.

Firefox

You can find add-ons for Firefox in the Mozilla store.

You can look at your installed add-ons by typing the following into the address bar:

about:addons

Opera

Opera also calls its add-ons ‘extensions’, and you can find them in the add-ons store

Microsoft Edge

You can also find the add-ons for Microsoft Edge in the add-on store.

Safari (Mac)

To find suitable extensions for Safari, you should go to Safari > Safari Extensions in the browser menu.

What’s the difference between an add-on and a plug-in?

Strictly speaking, add-ons are a subtype of plug-ins, which are small programs that give extra features to the main program.

For browsers, however, a key difference exists between add-ons and plug-ins: plug-ins are compiled programs (executables) that are linked to the browser using an interface. Well-known examples of this are Adobe Flash Player or the Java plug-in. Many browsers provide support for plug-ins and will only allow add-ons or extensions to run if they work with standardised interfaces (APIs) and were programmed using strict, pre-defined standards and safety rules.


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