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A crafty new Chrome power-up


Multitasking is magnificent. But in the domain of your weary ol’ web browser, it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed and overloaded when you start juggling too many tabs.

For me, this virtual labyrinth takes shape when I aim my overly moist eye spheres at a web page — say, an alluring article by an adjective-appreciating, Android-minded mammal of some sort — and I’m then inspired to look at a link within that article, to peek at another riveting resource of some sort. That’s when my tab jungle starts growing and I either lose track of what I was originally reading or end up with a backlog of tabs I never get around to ingesting.

The Android Chrome app has an awesome answer for this productivity puzzle: The app sports an easily overlooked option to preview a link while you’re viewing another web page. It’s thoroughly tucked away and hidden out of sight, but once you get yourself in the habit of using it, it’s one of the browser’s best multitasking tricks.

And while Google’s in the midst of bringing a similarly inspired option into Chrome on the desktop front, an ambitious outside developer has come up with an even more advanced and advantageous implementation that’s available for anyone to use this minute.

It takes Google’s core concept and cranks up the productivity power considerably — and it works in virtually any desktop browser, too, in case Chrome isn’t your top choice.

Trust me: Once you try this web-working wonder, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

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Google Chrome, enhanced: Your new secret web work weapon

The secret to seizing that Android inspiration and sprucing up your desktop web workflow is a saucy little somethin’ called MaxFocus.

MaxFocus is a simple extension for the computer version of Chrome — as well as Edge or Firefox, if those are your cups of cocoa — that takes Google’s existing link-preview philosophy to dizzying new heights.

By default, once you have it added into whichever browser you prefer, it empowers you to long-click on any link in any page — to click and then hold down your mouse button or finger on the trackpad for a second, in other words — to summon an in-page preview of the link without leaving the original page that you were already viewing.


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A pop-up link preview, courtesy of the Chrome MaxFocus add-on.

JR Raphael, IDG

You can use it for taking a quick gander at a link without interrupting your workflow while reading regular ol’ articles on the web, of course, but you could also use it for feats like viewing a linked YouTube video in-line within a page, previewing results from a search query (be they in Google or anywhere else) without having to open up a zillion tabs, or viewing any manner of links in-context while working on a Google Docs document, a Notion database, or an email in your inbox.

Conceptually, it’s almost exactly the same as Google’s still-under-development Chrome equivalent. But aside from working in Edge and Firefox in addition to Chrome, it’s much more polished and fully featured, and it offers some interesting extra options that could save you some serious time.

To wit:

  • The overlay for any page you open as a preview can be resized and placed anywhere within your browser window.
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You can move and resize a link preview with MaxFocus’s Chrome (or Edge or Firefox) browser enhancement.

JR Raphael, IDG

  • Your overlay can be opened in a full-screen form, too, while still leaving your original page open and available beneath it within the same tab.
  • You can customize and change the pop-up opening mechanism — if, for instance, you’d rather have links automatically open in previews anytime you hover over ’em for a certain amount of time or anytime you click ’em while also pressing a specific key sequence (like Alt or Ctrl and Shift together).
  • You can click a pushpin icon to pin a link preview overlay in place and have it remain there in all of your Chrome/Firefox/Edge tabs, even as you open new ones.
  • If you want to move a page from a pop-up into its own tab, you can click its link in the lower-left corner of the overlay to do so (a possibility that’s vexingly missing in Google’s current Chrome version of this concept!). You can also find and copy the page’s URL in this same way.
  • If the page you’re previewing is a touch too cluttered for your taste, you can switch it over into a distraction-free reading mode with a single click — with no ads or other interruptions and with simple, consistent fonts and a customizable color scheme of your choosing.
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One click, and boom: Any page in your preview is transformed into a clutter-free reading delight.

JR Raphael, IDG

  • And, last but not least, if you opt for the service’s premium Pro upgrade, you can access an AI assistant at the bottom of every page preview overlay. That lets you summarize the page on demand, get a list of key points or related links for further reading, and even ask specific questions about the information in the associated article or resource.
An AI assistant is always at the ready within your link previews, if you opt for the service’s premium path.

JR Raphael, IDG

MaxFocus is perfectly functional in its free form, and all of its basic features work quite well in that context. The Pro upgrade does add in some interesting extras beyond the AI elements, though, including the options to create site-specific pop-up positions and to customize the appearance of your link preview pop-ups. Perhaps most intriguing, the developer says the Pro version will soon include the option to open multiple page-preview pop-ups at once so you can easily “compare and contrast different sources and perspectives” within the same single tab setup.

That Pro version costs 18 bucks a year or $25 for lifetime access — but, again, all the core features around the link previewing work even in the regular free form, without any obnoxious ads or limitations littered into the mix.

On that note, MaxFocus says it doesn’t collect or so much as see any personal info or browsing data. The privacy policy is refreshingly short and unambiguous about that.

All in all, it’s quite the enticing efficiency upgrade and a welcome complement to our Android-based Chrome page-peeking possibility. It feels like a native part of the desktop browsing experience and something that should just exist for everyone in that environment — and that, more than anything, speaks volumes about how well-crafted and thoughtfully inspired it is.

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