Browser extensions can help with all sorts of daily tasks, speeding up mundane work like link checking or finding research articles. James Day at Library Technology Launchpad describes 6 Chrome Browser Extensions Every Librarian Needs, such as DOI Resolver or Google Scholar Button for research, Grammarly to proofread online writing, or Wayback Machine for viewing archived webpages. I regularly use browser extensions myself (usually in Google Chrome) for link checking, and I’ve learned about a few interesting extensions for checking accessibility and for locating and organizing research articles. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Link checking: I do periodic manual link checks for some online resources, and usually I’ll start the check by running the Check My Links extension to highlight which links on the page are live, redirecting, or dead. I always try to manually click through all links (since sometimes a valid redirect may still lead to a page where the desired content is no longer available), but opening every link one at a time is an enormous pain. Thankfully, there are browser extensions like Linky or Linkclump, where you can highlight or select a section of a webpage and automatically open all links within that selected area in separate tabs. This can save a lot of time.
- Accessibility testing: When sharing online material from a government resource, the content needs to meet Section 508 requirements for accessibility. The content needs to be equally accessible to anyone with disabilities (visual, auditory, cognitive, etc.), which means that content creators need to keep a number of guidelines in mind to make sure their content is fully compliant. The browser extension WAVE can be used to evaluate accessibility of web content, and it will highlight any errors or alerts for accessibility issues on a webpage. It will even identify issues with color contrast which may be hard for users with visual limitations to see. See the Medium article Free web accessibility tools round-up by Carlin Scuderi for a great list of accessibility check tools (including a few more Google Chrome extensions).
- Research tools:
- Unpaywall: One browser extension I keep hearing about on library listservs, Twitter, and blogs is Unpaywall, which automatically searches for open access versions of paywalled journal articles. When viewing an article on a publisher website, the extension automatically searches across “thousands of open-access repositories worldwide” to find full text (and legally uploaded) versions of the article (check their FAQ section to learn more). Unpaywall sounds like a very helpful tool for a librarian or researcher who needs an article from a journal that their institution doesn’t subscribe to, but who doesn’t have the time to wait to receive the article through inter-library loan.
- Refigure: I recently learned about this tool from INFOdocket. This extension seems more geared towards scientific researchers than librarians, but it was just too interesting not to mention. Refigure “aggregates and organizes different scientific figures amongst users”, which sounds like an innovative way for researchers to collaborate, organize, and share a more visual type of research data that may be overlooked in traditional databases.
There are so many browser extensions available (just in the Chrome web store alone!), it can be difficult to separate the useful from the useless. That’s why I’m grateful for librarians on Twitter, library news resources, and listservs (like MEDLIB-L) for the many helpful recommendations on new extensions to try.