|by Sean O'Neill||Helpful Websites, Innovations, Online Travel Agencies||6|
This winter, the Web browser wars heated up: Google's Chrome overtook Apple's Safari in popularity, and is now used by 10 percent of Americans online. Windows Internet Explorer remains the most widely used browser, followed by Mozilla's Firefox.
But Google has been upping the ante. It is beta-testing a new version of Chrome that is 60 percent faster on some measures, according to independent studies. It is arguably the quickest of all browsers when it comes to loading webpages and avoiding crashes.
Besides a blazingly fast speed, Chrome stands out for being customizable. You can surf smarter and faster by adding free tools, called "extensions," that are relevant to your interests.
In December, Google launched the Chrome Web Store, and we've combed the store to find the most useful and merely cool travel-themed extensions available so far. Our suggestions will let you get a good value for frequent flier mile redemptions, forward a page with a map from your desktop PC to your cell phone as you run out the door, and other actions—all to save you time online. These extensions are free and each can be downloaded in one click.
The unofficial tool for calculating how to max out the value of your frequent flier miles by picking an airline ticket that has a good value cost per mile (CPM). This app shows you the CPM for the cheapest economy fares listed by schedule on aa.com.
There are a few free currency-converter extensions, but XE stands out for drawing on the most used currency database online. Calculate exchanges between more than 190 currencies, pulling from interbank market rates—what banks use when swapping money.
Ever start filling out an online form at a travel agency site and—out of nowhere—something crashes and you lose all of the information you've typed in? Don't let it happen again. Add this extension, which will "autosave" everything you type so you can easily recover it.
Click to add this button once. Then, any time you visit a page that's different from the language you ordinarily use, a banner will appear at the top of the page asking you if you'd like its text instantly translated. If yes, click the button. You can even opt for auto-translation any time you visit a page that's in a particular language.
If you only need the most basic tools of Photoshop-style software, Picnik is a leader. Edit your photos quickly on the fly before you share them with family and friends by e-mail or via photo-sharing sites like Flickr.
Zap an open web page on your desktop browser to your Android phone. Perfect if you're about to head out the door. Have an iPhone instead? Then try the Push Browser app
Sad to say, but many travel sites still don't look good in Chrome. It's the browser's major weakness, but the blame actually lies with the makers of the sites themselves. But it is what it is. You can view these pages in Explorer if you download the IE Tab extension. You can then open an Internet Explorer tab within Chrome to view a page and save a trip having to fire up another browser and find the page separately.
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