When visiting web pages from our computer we use the browser, Google Chrome being the most used today in the world. Its features include compatibility with extensions or add-ons that help us provide it with new functionalities. These extensions can be installed from the Chrome Store, but if it is not available there are also other ways to install them.
Currently, Chrome prevents us from installing add-ons that are not approved by the platform, helping us avoid malware in our browser. However, there may be times when we need to be able to install an unapproved plug-in from a CRX file . This is something that is aimed especially at experienced users, especially those who are developing their own extension and require testing.
What are extensions and what are they for in Google Chrome
Chrome extensions or add-ons are nothing more than small programs that can be installed in our browser in order to provide it with extra functionalities. In this way we can obtain a more personalized and useful browser. To do this, we must access the Google Web Store where we will have thousands of add-ons available ordered by type of extension and valued by the users themselves, so that we can choose the ones that interest us the most and cause us greater productivity. Of course, it is advisable to only install those that we need the most so as not to reduce the performance of our browser.
Google is in charge of sorting all Chrome extensions by Categories, among which we can find “Accessibility”, “Blogs”, “Search Tools”, “Productivity and Social” and “Communication”. Extensions can be created by Chrome’s own developers or by third-party developers, and must be approved by the platform before they can be downloaded and installed.
Google does not allow downloading of extensions outside of the Chrome Store
Back in 2018, Google decided to block the installation of extensions outside of the Chrome Store itself . And it is that the extensions had become until then one of the biggest security problems of the popular browser. And is that by being able to install the extensions from any website we were exposed to them incorporating malware, viruses or could damage our browser, by not passing the relevant controls.
Therefore, it was prevented that they could install extensions even from the creator’s own website. With the idea of blocking the installation of add-ons outside its official store, Google is committed both to user safety and to achieve greater control over its platform, since it forces users to access it to download. In addition, the company itself defended it as a matter of transparency, because by forcing users to pass through its Store, they will be more informed before its installation and how it can impact our navigation.
But what if we are developers and we want to test the extensions? In principle, since they are not registered or approved by Google or present in the Chrome Store, since they are not launched, we could not install it. For these cases, Google activated a Developer Mode, through which it allows us to install CRX extension files loaded from our computer, without having to go through the official store.
Install extensions outside of the Chrome Store with Developer Mode
If we are programmers, extension developers or we are simply not afraid of the risk, we can install add-ons outside of the Chrome Store by activating the Developer Mode and being especially cautious since all its security options are not activated in this way. There are three ways to activate developer mode.
- Open Google Chrome and write in the address bar “Chrome: // extensions /”
- Open Chrome, click on the three points in the upper right, and click on “More extensions” and “Extensions”.
- Open Chrome, click on the three points in the upper right, click on “Settings” and in the new window click on “Extensions”.
Either way, it will take us directly to the Extensions page where we can administer and manage all our installed add-ons. Here, we will find in the upper right part the Developer Mode , so we must click on the switch so that the circle moves to the right side, which will indicate that it is activated.
Later we must download the CRX file of the extension that we want to install. In our case we have downloaded the ClearURLs extension from its repository on GitHub . Once we have activated the developer mode in Google Chrome and the CRX file downloaded, we can add the extension in two different ways.
Dragging and dropping the CRX file onto the interface
The easiest way is to drag and drop the CRX file directly onto the Chrome Extensions window. Once the file is released, a sign will appear indicating whether we really want to install that extension. Here, we click on the “Add Extension” button and it will automatically be saved along with the rest of the extensions in our browser.
This second option is a bit more cumbersome since we must unzip the CRX file in a folder. For this we can use any compatible file decompressor, such as WinRAR, PeaZip or 7-Zip, to name a few examples.
Once we have it downloaded, we go again to the Extensions window that we had open in Chrome with Developer Mode activated. Now we must click on the “Load unzipped” button that we see in the upper left part of the screen and we will choose the folder where we have the already unzipped extension saved. Click on “Accept”, and instantly the extension will appear installed in Chrome, to be used as normal.
Disadvantages of manual installation
The main drawback that we will find when installing extensions in this way is that they will not be updated automatically. Therefore, if there is a new update, it will be necessary to download it manually and place it in the same folder where we had installed the application. Finally, we must press the “Update” button, so that the update of the new version of the extension is carried out.