NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Get ready for the battle to smarten your browser.
Last week, Internet-search giant
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
iTunes App Store,
Windows Marketplace and app marts from the likes of
, 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 is devilish, but it
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
to over-budget sites.
Let's say you don't want to pay your people to waste their day on
. 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
. 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.
: 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.
: Long Island, N.Y.-based Aviary's new browser add-ons for Chrome and Mozilla are must-haves for any small firm with graphics to manage.
The browser add-on lets you capture any Web image in a browser, mark it up and edit it. Need to touch up an image in a presentation? Forget Photoshop or any other image-editing tool. Just pull up the material online, make your changes with Aviary. And off you go. Now, functions are limited, and your terrible art skills will come screaming through. So Aviary is no replacement for Photoshop or a good designer, but for managing the daily headaches induced by business cards, stationery and presentations, Aviary soars.
If this is the future of browser tools, bring it on.
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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.