Spend enough time in the IT department of any college, and you’ll likely hear several conversations about Internet browsers: whether to use Chrome or Safari, why Firefox is under-appreciated and whether Internet Explorer is really finally dead.  Arguments about the pros and cons of browsers are entertaining. However, at the end of the day, all you really need to do is work on assignments, peruse Facebook and study, so what difference does it make which one you use?

I’d like to posit that the important question isn’t which browser you use, but how you use it. The following are some tips tailored to Google Chrome, but similar techniques can be implemented on most modern browsers.

Extensions

Extensions are like apps for your browser; there are thousands of them available for virtually every use of the internet. By installing and using a few, you can make Chrome more functional and faster at whatever you do most often online.

Some extensions, like Pinterest, Amazon Wish List and Evernote, connect your browsing to the services and products you use outside of the web. Others, like Adblock and Google Translate, modify the web content you’re viewing to make it more accessible.

Two types of extension that I would recommend to the productive college student are:

  • Tab Extensions (like Tab Bundler): Used to create groups of tabs associated with certain projects such as research for a paper, comparisons of smartphones or a presentation and your sources. It also keeps you organized and speeds up Chrome.

  • Distraction Controls (like Web Timer): Used both to limit the amount of time you spend on distracting websites and to get a general overview of where you spend most of your time online.

Users

Chrome features an option that allows multiple users within a single browser. While that seems like a setting most fit for families or people sharing a home computer, it’s also beneficial for you and your multiple (online) personalities.

If you work, study or attend class online, it can be helpful to create a Chrome user profile that is solely for business. You can access all of your relevant bookmarks (and none of the distracting ones), install an extension that blocks your favorite time-wasting sites and set your homepage(s) up to be the ideal workspace.

Conversely, you might decide to use the default profile for work, study and general browsing, but create a special user profile for gaming (or social media, online shopping, entertainment, etc.). However you set it up, designating different, single-function user profiles allows you to better organize how you spend time on the Internet.

Apps, Bookmarks, and Bookmarklets

These are grouped together, because most people already use or at least know of their functions. Chrome apps can be accessed by clicking the link at the far left of the bookmark bar; it’s a great place to put links to your calendar, kitchen timer, cloud reader or other online utilities.

Bookmarks and bookmarklets are specific to the websites you visit, rather than Chrome itself. Linking to things you want to remember or sites you use often is a simple way to save yourself time and effort.