Sure, Chrome's New Tab page is useful enough, and forged from the analysis of millions of user experience clicks, but why stick with what Google wants to serve up to you? There are several impressive extensions that can transform your New Tab page and provide some handy extra functionality.
Currently keeps things simple with a minimal layout that shows the time and weather forecast for your current location. Information you can easily get elsewhere, of course, but having it on your New Tab page is hugely convenient and can act as a useful reminder that your lunchtime is fast approaching or that you need to rearrange this weekend's outdoor picnic.
The extension comes with some helpful layout and design options so you can modify the time and weather display to suit your own preferences. You can set a manual location if you don't want to use your current one, while Wunderground is the site powering the weather forecasts.
Install Quick Start to get speedy access to the sites you use the most. It works and looks a lot like the default New Tab page, but there are some nice extra touches, such as the option to set your own wallpaper image and quick access to all of the extensions installed in your browser. The settings page lets you choose from a number of different layouts.
Multiple screens let you access your bookmarks and most visited sites, and there's an integrated weather widget as well. Search is featured prominently too, with the news stories currently trending on Google already listed for you, should you want to jump straight to today's topics of note.
OneFeed turns the New Tab page into what it calls "the ultimate social dashboard" — that means the latest updates from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Gmail and other services right there as soon as you open up a new tab in your browser. You can get notifications from each service and search through your various accounts from the same interface too.
Elsewhere, there are links to the sites you visit the most, like the traditional New Tab page, and plenty of customisation options — you can sort your links into separate folders if you want to. OneFeed also includes a handy news reader, a lightweight RSS-style tool that lets you keep up with the headlines from your choice of news sites.
Ultimate New Tab
The Ultimate New Tab extension puts everything on one scrollable page — frequently visited sites, Web apps, extension settings, bookmarks, browsing history and more. The tool also works with the Smooth Gestures Plus add-on from the same developer, so you can control Chrome using the movements of your mouse.
You can change the wallpaper and the theme of the New Tab page with Ultimate New Tab as well as quickly jump to any of the tabs that are currently active in your browser. The SpeedDial section lets you customise which sites are reachable with a single mouse click, while each of the page sections can be shown or hidden as required.
Home New Tab Page
You'll find a nice blend of shortcuts, information and notifications available in the Home New Tab Page extension. You can get updates from Facebook, Google Calendar, Gmail and a number of other services to save you having to open each site in turn, and there's the option to load in a wallpaper of your own if the wood panelling effect isn't doing much for you.
The Quick Notes section is useful too if you want to jot down some reminders for yourself that you'll see at various times through the day. There's no space for your Web bookmarks or your frequently visited sites, but the extension does provide easy access to the apps installed in Chrome as well as recently closed tabs.
There are plenty of other alternatives when it comes to New Tab replacements — if you've got your own favourite that you think deserves a mention, leave a comment below.