You Spend Hours a Day in Your Browser. Now Make It Better.

Artificial-intelligence enhancements can prevent tab overload and help you draft messages.
Artificial-intelligence enhancements can prevent tab overload and help you draft messages.

Summary

Team Chrome or Team Safari? Don’t be afraid to rethink your browser of choice—plus add AI and other enhancements.

Your web browser is the portal through which you shop, check email, draft work memos, watch videos and more. You spend most of your computer time in it, yet you probably aren’t using it to its full potential.

Artificial-intelligence enhancements can prevent tab overload and help you draft messages. The right extensions autofill your logins and help you work, bank and live faster. Some browsers can reduce battery drain, while built-in privacy protections can stop your personal web searches from being seen by marketers and others.

If any of these are priorities for you and your current browser isn’t making them easy, you might need to jump to a new browser. (I know, scary!)

Either way, here’s your five-minute browser makeover.

Browser vs. browser

First, rethink your browser of choice. Does it fit your devices and your needs?

• Google Chrome: Yes, Google Chrome is the most popular desktop browser, used by more than half of Americans. But it can eat up your machine’s battery life and slow down processing capabilities. If you don’t switch, be sure to update. Google has a number of newer features to improve performance, such as Memory Saver, which deactivates unused tabs.

The allure is clear: If you use Gmail and spend time in Google apps such as Docs and Sheets, Chrome does more, including offline editing. You can also cast your browser screen to Google-compatible TVs and media players. Versions of the browser work across Windows, Mac and Linux computers, as well as Android and iOS mobile devices.

One Chrome feature rolling out to users is an AI-powered intelligent tab organizer. Right-click on a tab (on Macs, you can Control-click or do a two-finger click) then select Organize Similar Tabs. This will group your open webpages by topic and suggest a name for the group. For example, you can keep a bunch of vacation-rental options together. To try it, install the latest version of Chrome Beta and enable Experimental AI in Settings.

Soon, Google is launching an AI-powered generative-text tool in Chrome. When logged into your nonwork Google account, you’ll be able to right-click any text box and select “Help me write."

• Safari: Apple’s built-in browser has typically performed more efficiently than competitors on Macs. It can also sync open tabs, bookmarks and your reading list across Apple devices. Safari has automatic privacy tools to limit cross-site cookie tracking and hide your IP address. But it’s Apple only and doesn’t support as many browser extensions as Chrome or Firefox. (See below for some useful extensions.)

The latest Safari version—which requires MacOS Sonoma and iOS 17—lets you create multiple profiles, so you can keep separate browsing histories for personal, work or school tasks. You can also set up a Focus filter, essentially a custom version of Do Not Disturb, to automatically switch to a specific Safari profile.

And you can biometrically lock open webpages so people walking by can’t have a peek if you step away. When you come back to Safari, you’ll need to unlock those pages with Face ID, Touch ID or your device passcode.

• Microsoft Edge: It isn’t surprising that our past testing showed Microsoft’s own browser to be the most efficient on Windows-powered computers, using less RAM and battery than competitors. Edge uses the same underlying technology as Chrome, called Chromium, so it works with Chrome browser extensions and supports such features as offline Google file editing. It also runs well on Macs and mobile devices.

Besides being an efficient alternative to other leading brands, Edge now comes with a built-in chatbot powered by OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT.

• Firefox: This browser, developed by the nonprofit Mozilla, is for privacy-conscious folks. You can open websites into different “containers"—personal, work, banking, shopping, etc.—to prevent cross-site tracking. The browser can also auto-fill forms with a randomized email that forwards to your real email, so you don’t have to share that data with companies.

Essential extensions

Once you know you’re using the right browser, you can supercharge it with extensions—plug-ins that add functionality. Extensions are generally safe, though you should be cautious: Some can create security holes or unnecessarily capture too much information, so make sure you only use recommended extensions (like these!), downloaded from reputable sources.

• Tab organizer: OneTab (Chrome, Edge, Safari and Firefox) can help with an affliction many of us suffer from: Too-many-tabs-itis. Dozens of open sites can slow down your computer and clutter your workspace. With a click, OneTab collapses all tabs in a given window and saves the shut sites as a list of links.

• Performance enhancer: uBlockOrigin (Chrome, Edge and Firefox) is a free extension that makes websites load faster by blocking certain cookies and other memory-hogging elements, such as interactive graphics. Sometimes with extensions like this, the process can backfire and the website will look weird or not function right. If that happens, uBlockOrigin is easy to turn off.

• Password manager: Browsers have their own built-in password managers, but I prefer third-party options such as 1Password, Dashlane or Bitwarden because they have more features and work across platforms. Using your manager’s browser extension is a must, because it will auto-fill your logins and other info on websites.

• Dark-mode maker: Dark Reader (Chrome, Safari, Edge and Firefox) can give your eyes a break, especially at night. You can use the extension to adjust a website’s brightness or invert the text to white-on-black.

• New-tab personalizer: On Chrome, Momentum takes over your new-tab screen with gorgeous photography, a giant digital clock and text box to set an intention, while Bonjourr (yes, two r’s) can do something similar on Safari, Edge and Firefox. Bet you didn’t realize your hectic browser could be the source of the occasional moment of Zen.

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Write to Nicole Nguyen at nicole.nguyen@wsj.com

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