Working in a church today takes quite a bit of savvy beyond the visible liturgical and pastoral functions. Talk to any parish priest, faith formation leader, or lay leader, and they will all tell you how much time they spend on a computer.
Increasingly, that computer time is being spent using Internet-based applications. Using a strong web browser is key to ensuring a great workflow, freeing up more time for the work of the church.
Google Chrome is the most popular browser for the people who visit this site; it accounts for 40 percent of our total visits, compared to 33 percent from Safari and 14 percent from Firefox.
How can you maximize your Chrome experience and make your life easier in order to maximize your efficiency and ministry? Extensions.
Think of extensions like options on a car: Would you like power windows, power seats? Those are the basics. What about heated and cooled seats? Even better. What about a heads-up display and massaging seats? Now we’re talking.
Extensions customize and improve any browser’s performance—and once you start using them, you’ll never go back. When extending Chrome, make sure you’re signed in using your Google Account so all of the apps will sync.
Here are some of the best extensions that I use hourly, daily, and weekly. Some you’ll find useful when you need them down the road, and others will be working for you every time you open Chrome.
Go to your church’s Facebook page. See all of the ads on the side distracting you from valuable work? Now go install Ad Block Plus to Chrome and return to the same Facebook page. All of the ads have now disappeared. The extension will work in the background and ensure you never see annoying ads or pop-ups again.
Need to send an email to the vestry in the morning but have the energy to type it up tonight? Have an important email that needs a response but after you have more time or information?
Boomerang for Gmail allows you to set a time for an email to be sent, whether it is in an hour or a month. And it allows you to look at an email now and then pop it to the top of your inbox in a few days, ensuring it does not get buried in the bottom. Boomerang for Gmail will change your email experience forever.
Simple and straightforward. Those of us who rushed to get on “Do Not Call” lists for our home phones will appreciate this extension. Many websites today track your activity in order to gather information about your surfing habits. This extension will cut down on your Internet annoyance.
This extension allows you to view any Word document, PDF, or PowerPoint presentation within Google Docs. This feature makes it easier to review documents quickly—without having to wait for Word or Adobe PDF Reader to boot up. Plus you can easily save the document in Google Docs to secure it in the cloud for as long as you need.
Need to keep up with Key Resources and your favorite church blogs and websites? Try one—or, like me, both—of these RSS readers. I wept when Google Reader went away, but these two have really stepped up to fill the void.
Using an RSS reader helps you stop wasting time going to various websites to see if something new has appeared. Just subscribe to the website and let Feedly or Digg notify you know when they are updated so you can catch up when you have the time. RSS readers have been around for many years; if you have never used one before, start now.
A quick dictionary that will give you the definition for any word on the web. Great for those who get too caught up in “churchy” words.
The Episcopal Church is so much more than just the stereotypical English-speaking population. We have members who speak a myriad of languages (especially Spanish and French), and an entire province not in the United States.
Stay connected to the wider Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion with help from Google Translate, which will instantly translate entire websites to your desired language.
If you miss the days of AOL Instant Messenger or simply have a quick question for someone, use Hangouts. The Google Chat function you see in your Gmail window becomes a desktop client. Hangouts can also replace Skype for your video call needs. They are becoming an essential for online collaboration.
This one takes a bit more legwork to install but becomes instantly worth the effort. Hover Zoom makes any image enlarge to its full size when your cursor “hovers” over an image. Instead of wasting time clicking on each image to find the perfect picture for a church publication, use Hover Zoom to see which images have the resolution you need. This is the one app I find myself using constantly.
Have a different password for every site you use? Can’t remember them all? Use Last Pass. Some do not want one website caching multiple passwords, but I would be lost without Last Pass. Last Pass automatically fills in your username and password for any website you’ve visited.
I did not realize how much of a time-saver Last Pass had become until I used a computer where I did not have the extension installed.
Save that great Key Resources article for later in the day with Pocket. Just click the button on the top of the browser and the article is saved for reading later on your computer, tablet, or your phone. It’s a great way to collect articles from Twitter or any material with a link.
Received an email from someone with an odd email address? Rapportive displays in a side panel the sender’s name, Linkedin and Facebook profiles, and contact information.
Quickly cut out a section of the screen for use later with Screen Capture. I do not find myself using this extension that often, but when I do need it, I always have it handy.
This extension provides a simple spelling and grammar checker for anything you type within Chrome. Ensures those pesky misspellings and simple grammar problems are caught before someone else catches them. Great for quick updates to the church website or for social media posts.
Since you’ve made it this far, you will now get my best tip for Chrome. Sometimes the browser can slow down as a computer ages, and Flash Player becomes enemy number one. “Click to Play” allows all of those great church videos to play only when you’re ready for them to play and not slow down your computer in the meantime. Here is how to enable this “hidden” feature.
Choose “Settings” from the menu in the upper-right
Select the “Show advanced settings” link
Select the “Content settings” button
Scroll down in the new window until you can select “Click to Play”
After selecting this feature, whenever you see a website with a grayed-out area, you just need to click it and the video or flash plugin will begin to run.
You can thank me later—in all that time you’ll save.
Chris Hamby (@chris_hamby) is the digital producer in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and an M.Div. student at Virginia Theological Seminary.