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All Things Appy: 5 Best Chrome Web Reference Apps

By Patrick Nelson
Feb 13, 2013 5:00 AM PT

Reference is the perfect genre for app and extension exploration. Web page pop-ups and on-the-fly search results are all possible.

All Things Appy: 5 Best Chrome Web Reference Apps

This week, TechNewsWorld's All Things Appy takes a look at the best in this category.

About the Environment

Google's Chrome apps and extensions can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. Download a Chrome browser, and then click on a new tab from within the browser.

Choose the Chrome Web Store link in the lower right corner of the page. Use the on- page Search text box to find the required app. Alternatively, browse by selecting Apps or Extensions.

What's the Difference? Within Google's Chrome environment, apps are often self-contained, whereas extensions can provide pop-up functions or otherwise interact with a Web page.

No. 1: Extension

The Extension has 4+ stars out of a possible 5 from 73 reviewers in the Chrome Web Store. The extension has 20,911 users.

This extension is distinct from's app for Chrome which merely opens a Web page. The Extension lets you double-click on any word, on any Web page, to see the definition in a pop-up box -- or you can enter the word in a search box.

Both are fast ways to look up words, and are infinitely superior to having to launch a tab and flip between dictionary tab and text that you're reading.

Options include supplying synonyms, and moving pop-up positions within the Web page.

No. 2: Search Box

Search Box Extension has 4 stars out of a possible 5 from 294 reviewers in the Chrome Web Store. The extension has 43,805 users.

You're not missing something if you've noticed that Google Chrome browser product doesn't have a native search box or search bar.

Tirokea's Search Box Extension fixes the omission by providing a search icon next to the browser address bar that you can click on to launch a search pop-up.

All the usual search suspects are included and more -- including Twitter, Amazon and YouTube -- and you can add, disable or remove any of them.

No. 3: Wikipedia Instant

Wikipedia Instant has 4 stars out of a possible 5 from 33 reviewers in the Chrome Web Store. The app has 8,932 users.

Wikipedia Instant, from, suggests topics and displays Wikipedia articles when you enter search terms in the search box. It's faster than the Wikipedia website, because the app starts to search as you enter the text.

TechNewsWorld likes this app partly because it's a good example of how an app can provide faster functions over a plain old static website.

No. 4: Google Maps

Google Maps has 4+ stars out of a possible 5 from 8,439 reviewers in the Chrome Web Store. The app has 5,078,114 users.

What an extraordinary product. Who would have thought 15 years ago, thumbing through paper maps, phone books and atlases, that within a few short years, local business information, street-level imagery and directions from around the world would be wrapped into one free interface: Google Maps.

Disappointingly, this app isn't much more than a website with no additional features, which is why TechNewsWorld rates it a runner-up position in this Best-Of app roundup. However, as with the other four apps here, it's a must have.

No 5: wikiHow Survival Kit

wikiHow Survival Kit has 4+ stars out of a possible 5 from 402 reviewers in the Chrome Web Store. The app has 100,378 users.

Thousands of people have voluntarily contributed to this compendium app that tells you how to care for pygmy goats, run away from home with your dog and survive (tip: don't go to a friend's house, it'll be the first place parents look), and how to get a China driver's license, among other gems.

Treating hypothermia, identifying a stroke victim, and how to stop bleeding are probably more useful reads -- they're all included, along with about 88,000 other articles in an enjoyable, animated app launched from a new tab.

Want to Suggest an Apps Collection?

Is there a batch of apps you'd like to suggest for review? Remember, they must all be for the same platform, and they must all be geared toward the same general purpose. Please send the names of five or more apps to me, and I'll consider them for a future All Things Appy column.

And use the Talkback feature below to add your comments!

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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