Clearly: Chrome browser extension cuts distractions from web pages

Clearly Less Distracting

Evernote has created a tool for people who are easily distracted. Clearly is a Google Chrome extension that strips out navigation, links and advertisement from any Web page and presents you with a cleaner, less distracting online reading experience.

Clearly Less Distracting
Clearly is a Chrome browser extension that strips navigation, links and ads from a page

The Clearly reading experience is customizable: you can choose between three styles of background and typography – which are clean but perfectly boring, but that is the point. Sometimes, a plain vanilla reading experience without the option of clicking on links helps readers concentrate on the reading.

To be honest, I don’t care so much about that. The links and navigation do little to interrupt my reading. But online advertising is becoming more obtrusive. The worst are the ads are the type  that pop up in the amount of time it takes me to read a paragraph or two. That’s more of an interruption than distraction but still stymied by Clearly.

I appreciate that Clearly attempts to stitch together multi-page articles into one page. While that worked for me when reading the New York Times, it failed in Sports Illustrated. Clearly seems to be easier to trigger and faster than clicking on the “Single Page” link on the page. And not every multi-page post has that “Single Page” option.

Of course Clearly has a button to clip the page to your Evernote notebooks. Which is nice if you have something against bookmarklets. But the winning feature for me is that it creates a print-friendly version of the meanest of web pages.

Note that Clearly only works in Chrome although the developers are promising that support for other browsers is coming.

This is a limited extension that strips distractions from a web page and leaves just a clean presentation of text. Even if that is not important to you, Clearly is worth having so you can have fast access to single-page and printer-friendly versions.

Download Clearly [Google Chrome Web Store]

5 Must-Have Chromebook Apps for Work


ChromeSo you’ve got a shiny new Chromebook. You’ve installed all of the stock Google apps — like Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Reader. But you need more apps to do your work.

The big problem is choosing apps from all of the options that are available. Let’s wander over to the Chrome Web Store and look at five apps that can help you do your work.


Whether you’re a programmer, a web author, or a writer, a good text editor can be indispensible. ShiftEdit is that and a bit more.

ShiftEdit is what software developers call an integrated development environment (IDE for short). ShiftEdit is very flexible. You can code and write in any number of languages — like HTML, Javascript, Python, Ruby, and XML — and it highlights the tags for you.

Best of all, you can use ShiftEdit to connect to your own web server, your Dropbox account, or a Subversion version control repository. This gives you a bit more control over where your files are stored.



One of the best tools for unlocking your creativity, for brainstorming, or for unblocking a mental log jam is a mindmap. There are a number of good mindmapping applications for the desktop, and several for the web too.

A simple but very useful one is Mind42. It’s like a desktop mindmapping application transported to the web, but with a simpler and cleaner interface.

As with any other mindmapping tool, you can build your mindmap out of a central idea by adding branches (called nodes). Very basic, but very useful. If you want to get fancy, you can add links, attachments, or icons to a node; change the color and font; or convert a text node to an image. On top of that, you can share your mindmap with others.

There doesn’t seem to be any limit to the size of a mindmaps that you can create with Mind42. As always, though, smaller is better.



Unless you’re a graphic designer, chances are something like Photoshop (or even one of the powerful web-based image editors) is overkill for your needs. If you have to do some simple, or not-so-simple, things to images then give Picnik a look.

The first thing that you notice is that Picnik’s interface is a bit different from what you’re used to. There are no pull-down menus or floating button bars. You get a series of tabs that group various image editing functions together. Those functions range from the basic to quite impressive.

Like what? How about cropping and resizing, rotating, changing the exposure, and sharpening and removing red eye? You can also apply a number of visual effects to an image, touch up an image, and even slap some stickers on it.


280 Slides

There comes a time when all of us have to stand in front of others and give a presentation. A presentation usually means slides, and slides in the working world means PowerPoint. But you’re not going to find PowerPoint on your Chromebook!

While the Presentations component of Google Docs is quite good, not everyone likes it. There are alternatives on the web, and one of the better ones is 280 Slides.

280 Slides is like Apple Keynote or PowerPoint for the web. In fact, you can download your slides as PowerPoint files when you’re done. Or, you can run your slides off the web.

The app comes with a number of basic templates and layouts — nothing that will win design contests, but enough to create a good-looking presentation. You can add images, movies, basic shapes, and notes to your slides. Really, the only other useful feature that’s missing is custom transitions between slides.

280 Slides

imo instant messenger

Communication. It’s a major part or work. These days, it’s not just email either. There are more immediate forms of communication available, like telephone, text chat, and VOIP calls.

Chances are you use at least one or two messaging services and apps. But you can’t install the desktop clients for them on a Chromebook. So what do you do? Turn to imo instant messenger.

imo is a gateway for using a number of messaging services including:

  • MSN
  • Skype
  • Google Talk
  • Yahoo! Instant Messenger
  • AIM
  • Jabber

All you need to do is log in with, say, your Skype credentials and you can make a voice call or do a text chat. imo is literally a one-stop shop for all of your messaging needs. Unless, of course, the service that you use isn’t supported…

imo instant messenger

Have a Chromebook? What apps do you find essential for doing your work? Share your picks by leaving a comment.

TweetDeck for Chrome is a Flexible, Lightweight Version of its Desktop Counterpart

TweetDeck Desktop is arguably one of the best desktop Twitter clients for power users. It offers endless columns of information, multiple account support, and many features that Twitter itself had to copy. This app can basically do it all, and might even be getting purchased for $50 million by Twitter.

My only major complaint is that TweetDeck Desktop runs on Adobe Air, and while I have no qualms with the technology itself, it often suffers from major performance problems, especially when starting the app for the first time. With a modest seven columns (okay, maybe that’s not modest?), I usually need to “warm up” TweetDeck like I used to warm up my ’97 Ford Escort in a brutal North Dakota January.

With the launch of Google Chrome’s web store, an app store for its popular web browser, TweetDeck jumped off the Adobe Air bandwagon and onto the new Chrome platform. The result: a screaming fast, delightfully useful version of TweetDeck that runs directly from your browser.

To get started, head over to the Chrome web store (while using Chrome, obviously), and install TweetDeck for Chrome.

Once you have TweetDeck installed in Chrome, you can access it from any new tab page (press CTRL + T) or, alternatively, install the TweetDeck Launcher extension to open TweetDeck directly from your browser’s toolbar.

My favorite part about getting started with TweetDeck for Chrome was that I didn’t have to reconfigure my columns or information. If you already have TweetDeck for Desktop installed on your computer, it can automatically import your settings. Otherwise, you can log in with your TweetDeck account which should also restore most of your settings (although I think it only restores custom columns).

TweetDeck for Chrome in the New Tab page
Skip the tedious configuration process by importing from TweetDeck Desktop

Note: You’ll have to approve the import process through TweetDeck desktop before the data can be imported to TweetDeck for Chrome.

The first thing you’ll notice: TweetDeck for Chrome is crazy fast. Opening columns for two Twitter accounts, Facebook, and a couple of search columns takes mere seconds. Even better, those columns are immediately usable (I’d usually have to wait several minutes before TweetDeck Desktop would let me actually interact with it.

If you’re combining multiple accounts and social networks in TweetDeck, you’ll probably be greeted by a few “merged” columns that showcase messages from all of your accounts together. I’m not wild about this (I like my Facebooks kept separate from my Twitters), so I opted to delete those columns and instead make account-specific columns. Hey, some people like their pickles cucumbered.

To add new columns or accounts to TweetDeck for Chrome, just click the TweetDeck > button in the top left. This will present you with all of the fantastic options you’d expect from all TweetDeck clients.

To delete a column, click the wrench icon that appears when you hover over the column and then click the red Delete button at the bottom of the column. Clicking the wrench icon also gives you the option to edit notifications for that column. You can also move any column when in wrench-mode (but it appears this is the only time you can drag-and-drop columns, otherwise they remain locked).

Overall, TweetDeck for Chrome is probably my new favorite desktop Twitter client. It might take a little bit of time to get used to opening a separate Chrome window to run it on a second monitor, but it’s worth it for the performance and the fantastic feature set.