NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Get ready for the battle to smarten your browser.
Last week, Internet-search giant Google (GOOG - Get Report) announced a Web-based market for the bits of software that add features to its Chrome browser. The service, expected out later this year, is similar to Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iTunes App Store, Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) Windows Marketplace and app marts from the likes of Salesforce.com, in that it will create a brisk, open-air place for developers to sell the software that small businesses can use to make their browsers more productive.
Soon, these new browser apps will allow Chrome, Safari, Explorer and Firefox to be beefed up to share content, organize work and access almost ludicrously advanced productivity tools.
To get a sense of what small businesses can expect in the hot new world of browser tools, I have been testing dozens of them in my shop over the past months.Here are my picks and pans. StayFocused: StayFocused is devilish, but it is effective: This simple little software app measures the time spent on a given Web site and counts that time down against a pre-allotted budget. And then it administers access to over-budget sites. Let's say you don't want to pay your people to waste their day on Facebook. StayFocused lets you pre-set a time limit for the site and then keeps a running, cumulative track of how much actual F-booking you and your peeps do. When the allotted minutes are up, they're up. Facebook gets blocked and, voila, some actual work gets done. For sure, StayFocused will require some technical and social engineering to use in a group. But the fact is, it can be a tremendous tool in extracting performance in this, the golden age of attention deficit disorder. Xmarks Bookmarks Sync: More and more, we small-biz types are becoming digital gypsies. We squat on local computers, pull up our Web-based office tools and get on with getting work on. But there's a problem. Keeping one's Google Apps log-in square with your Freshbooks and Basecamp homepages while on the go is not easy. San Fransisco-based Xmarks has found an answer: Xmarks lets any browser import and share your personal bookmarks from a central Web site. Simply install the extension, sync up your known sites with the PC you are on, and off you go on your business day. Xmarks is far from perfect. Syncing between users -- say, for a team to collaborate on research -- was clumsy for my assistant Damon and me. And you be careful with your passwords and not save them locally. But still, if you want a fast, secure way to access your Web business identity from anywhere, Xmarks is worth a try.