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The five best browser plug-ins

Improve your browser's functionality

Whether you plump for Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or any other browser, we guarantee you'll have a couple of gripes when it comes to the software you use to surf the web.

1. Google Chrome Backup 1.8.0.141

Google Chrome has a sync feature that Sync feature that ensures your bookmarks, settings and extensions etc, are available across multiple computers. However, you need a Google Account to use the feature. Rather than going through the hassle of setting one up, if you don't already have one, try Google Chrome Backup.

Simply launch the free tool and follow the instructions to back up your user profile. You can even password-protect your backup and set a higher compression ratio if hard-drive space is tight.

2. Fast Dial 3.4 for Firefox

The speed dial that greets Opera and Google Chrome users is undoubtedly a timesaver for those who tend to frequent the same websites. Its continuing omission from Firefox may be a deal breaker for some thinking about migrating back now version 4 has been released, but the good news is that there are third-party Add-ons that provide this missing functionality.

One of the best is Fast Dial, recently updated to support Firefox 4 (albeit with a slight visual glitch that turns a cell opaque from transparent when refreshed). Once installed, you're given nine spaces to fill. To add a website to the speed dial page, just right-click it and choose Add to Fast Dial. Fast Dial will appear by default whenever you open a blank page (again, this behaviour can be customised) or by clicking the new Fast Dial button that appears next to the navigation buttons in the main toolbar.

3. Firefox Preloader 1.0.366

Firefox easily outperforms IE when processing JavaScript, rendering complex pages, managing multiple browser tabs and a whole lot more - but there's one notable exception: startup time. Most people will find Firefox takes far longer to launch than IE. On our test PC the first Firefox window took 7 seconds to appear, while IE only kept us waiting for just under a second.

The Firefox Preloader helps to address this problem by loading some Firefox components into memory before they're required. This means it'll consume a little RAM, just 6 or 7MB, but Firefox will then launch much more quickly as it won't have to load all its components from your hard drive.

4. Xmarks for Internet Explorer 1.3.2

If you use more than one PC to access the web, chances are you find yourself frustrated when you scroll down your bookmarks in search of a link, on;ly to remember you saved it on the 'other' machine.

Fear not, Xmarks can help alleviate this issue. The browser add-on compatible which is compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome can be used to synchronise bookmarks online. This means that they can be accessed from any computer by simply logging into your Xmarks account, or they can be synchronised with another computer. Xmarks is also capable of synchronising passwords between computers, even if different browsers, or even different operating systems, are installed.

5. Browser Chooser 1.0.9

If you're reading a document, and click a link it contains, then Windows will usually open your default browser. And normally that's fine, but sometimes, just occasionally, you might like a little more choice. That's where Browser Chooser comes in.

Launch the program, and spend a few moments populating its stylish toolbar with icons representing all your installed browsers. Once that's done, Browser Chooser installs itself as your default browser, pops up every time you click on a link, and invites you to select the most appropriate browser. All you have to do is click once on the relevant browser icon, and it will open and display the linked page.

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