Search your Gmail, Contacts and other Google services easily from Chrome

If you are a Chrome user and regularly use awesome Google services like Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Drive, Bookmarks, Google Plus, Photos, YouTube, Maps, Play, News, Finance etc., then this tip is for you.

Few days back I wrote an article on how to search Google Drive files easily from Chrome (and Firefox). As pointed out by one of my readers, this technique can be easily extended to almost any search service that queries things via the URL. Another reader pointed out the easy way to add search engines to Chrome which is as below.

    • Go to the site for which you want to add a search engine
    • Locate the search box for that site and right click on it
    • Chrome shows a context menu called Add as search engine…
Google Chrome - Add as search engine
Google Chrome – Add as search engine
    • Select and it will show a pop-up with all the details filled in as below
    • Just click OK and your search engine is ready for use
Google Chrome - Edit Search Engine
Google Chrome – Edit Search Engine

For some reason though, this does not work with Google Drive search box. Google Drive search box does not allow right click and that is why we have to add search engine for Google Drive separately.

Although the above technique should work perfectly for some sites, sadly for Gmail or Google Contacts it does not work. The default URL populated is outdated and does not fetch results anymore. Below, I have listed correct URLs for the most useful Google services. I have added more to this useful collection from Brian Johnson.

Happy Searching!

Search Engine URLs for Google Services
Name Keyword URL
Gmail mail https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/%s
Google Calendar cal https://www.google.com/calendar/render?q=%s
Google Contacts contacts https://www.google.com/contacts/#contacts/search/%s
Google Drive drive https://drive.google.com/?#search/%s
Google Bookmarks links https://www.google.com/bookmarks/find?q=%s
Google Plus plus https://plus.google.com/u/0/s/%s
Google+ Photos photo https://plus.google.com/photos/search/%s
Youtube video http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%s
Google Maps maps https://maps.google.com/maps?q=%s
Google Play play https://play.google.com/store/search?q=%s
Google News news https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&gl=in&tbm=nws&authuser=0&q=%s
Google Finance finance https://www.google.com/finance?q=%s

Reduce tab clutter and memory consumption in Chrome with OneTab

As I read & research a lot on the Internet, I always look to improve upon my research workflow. Sometimes while doing my research around various topics, I end up opening a large number of tabs on Chrome. As we all know, Chrome is a real memory hog and it really slows down your computer as the number of open tabs grow. There are a bunch of TAB manager extensions available for Chrome which could help. But OneTab really stands out for me for a number of reasons. It is really simple to use and does what it says in really un-complicated manner. It is FREE as the developers have created it out of their own need and not to make money.

Save up to 95% memory and reduce tab clutter in Google Chrome.

OneTab
OneTab toolbar button

For me, OneTab solves two problems in one go. It helps me keep my browsing organized and reduce memory consumption very quickly. You can install OneTab from Chrome Web Store. Once installed, it will add a OneTab button to Chrome toolbar. Now whenever you are browsing, if you feel that your machine is slowing down due to too many open tabs, just click the OneTab button. All your tabs will be closed and a clean, elegant looking OneTab page will be loaded with links for all your tabs which were open before. Open Chrome Task manager (press Shift+Esc) and you will see that memory consumption is highly reduced. All the links (tabs) added to OneTab will be persisted even if you close the browser or shut down your machine.

Quick Tip

If you want to access your one tab page all the time and especially once you open the browser, you can simply pin this OneTab page (right click on the OneTab page tab and select Pin tab from the context menu). The OneTab page will now stay with you all the time like your other pinned tabs.
OneTab in action
OneTab in action
OneTab Page

Coming to OneTab page, here it has a number of things to offer. Restore all will restore all the tabs. Well, it does not hold your tabs in memory but simply preserves the URLs. So Restore all will open all those URLs in separate tabs. By default all the restored tabs will be deleted from OneTab page. But you can still keep those by using Options page. As for me, I won’t delete a tab unless I’m completely done with it. So I changed my option to Keep them in your OneTab list. Alternatively you may Lock the tab group which will prevent the tabs from getting deleted as you restore them. As the name suggests, Delete all will simply delete all the links/tabs from OneTab. Click on More… button and you have useful options to Name, Lock and Star the tab group created by OneTab. To stay organized, I always name my tab groups appropriately mostly based on my research topic. You can also name a tab group by clicking on the label that indicates the number of tabs. I also Star the important tab groups so that they always stay on top. One can also Lock the tab group to prevent it from accidental modification. Really well thought out and precise options. None of your tabs or browsing activity is transmitted to cloud unless you use Share as web page option. This actually takes all your tabs and creates a web page for you to share quickly with others. This option is available for individual tabs groups or all the tab groups at once.

Once you start opening a new set of tabs or start a new browsing session and click on OneTab button again, a new tab group will be created for you. You can easily drag and drop links/tabs from one tab group to another and this will be really useful to keep those organized all the time. You may also open a single tab by clicking on individual links. Similarly you may also delete a single tab by using a X button next to each link.

Next we will talk about OneTab context menu, syncing tabs across multiple devices & OneTab options.

Interesting concepts for strong but memorable passwords creation

Recently while doing my research around the topic of passwords, I came across a few interesting concepts. What makes those interesting is the fact that they intend to help us create a password that is tough to break but easy to remember. These concepts are namely Pass Phrase, Diceware, Password Haystacks & by now the very famous comic strip (see below) by xkcd. Don’t worry, the concepts are not as difficult to understand as they sound.

A pass phrase is a sequence of words or other text used to control access to a computer system, program or data.

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

 

In short, instead of using a difficult to remember and difficult to type passwords like H46R8TBXHY5D or iWb024#thM79, simply use a pass phrase “I Like 15th August 1947!” It is easy to remember and easy to type and almost takes the same amount of time to type. It also satisfies all the elements of strong password like upper case, lower case, numbers and punctuation.

Well, when it comes to memorable passwords, there is a long standing debate that pass phrases are easy to remember and difficult to hack. There are voices which do not really agree with this statement. They have some valid arguments as below

  • With pass phrases, the brute force attack will shift from character level to word level.
  • Users are more likely to pick up common phrases/quotes from books, popular movies or other proper nouns that are easily guessed, as the basic idea is to make those memorable. This makes hacking easier than ever.

You may be wondering how these concepts stated above are related. In order to take care of problems with pass phrases, experts have come up with solutions. The famous comic strips by xkcd shown below offers one such solution. In short, the idea is to choose random dictionary words instead of meaningful sentence. The random words are chosen from poll of common words which makes those easy to remember. If you are really interested in a nice and detailed explanation of it, I highly recommend you to read this article on agilebits blog.

xkcd : Password Strength
xkcd : Password Strength

Easily copy plain text from web sites using Chrome or Firefox

All of us face this problem every now and then. Say you want to copy some text from a website such as a flight schedule or a quote and paste it into Evernote, email or a Word document. Most often the result is formatted, HTML text when all you want is to copy plain text. This is really annoying. But if you’re using either Chrome or Firefox, there are a few easy to use extensions you can use to solve this problem.

Copy Plain Text for Chrome

If you are using Chrome, you just need to install Copy Plain Text extension for Chrome. Now select any text you want to copy, right click and choose “Copy … Unformatted” menu as shown below. One drawback, reciprocated by many reviewers of this extension, is that it also loses the New Line character when it copies the text. Nevertheless, it is a useful extension to have if you are using Chrome.

Copy Plain Text
Copy Plain Text
Copy Pure Text for Firefox

If you are using Firefox, you have a number of options like Copy Plain Text, Copy Plain Text – Jetpack, Copy As Plain Text and Copy Pure Text. All of these, more or less, offer similar functionality as expected i.e. copy plain text. Copy Pure Text stands out for me as it also preserves the New Line characters.

Copy Pure Text
Copy Pure Text

Use your own brain to generate and manage passwords

Safest vault to store your passwords is your own brain. Now if you could use it to generate & re-generate strong & a unique password for each of the accounts, services and software, you are saved of all the hassles with password managers. You can try and design an algorithm to generate a long enough password, which includes all the ingredients (upper case, lower case, numbers & special characters) of a strong password.

Most such algorithms start with picking up a base component which will be used for all the passwords. Then the base component is mixed/padded/prefixed/suffixed with a component which is specific to site or account for which password is being generated. Base component can be created by connecting first letters of a phrase which is easy to remember.

One such simple, step by step algorithm is described neatly by Loren Baxter in this blog post. This will give you a good idea on how this can be done.

Yaara Lancet also describes some interesting techniques at her post on makeuseof.com.

Get creative and design your own unique algorithm that should be complex enough to generate a password that is difficult to decipher and simple enough to recollect and regenerate the same password again and again for a given website. One little problem with algorithm based passwords is that, some weakly managed sites limit the characters you can use in a password.

My recommendation if you’re going for this approach is to refrain from a few things:

  • Don’t design your scheme around a website URL. A URL may change down the line and you may not be able to recollect the password based on it.
  • Try to have at least 2-3 different schemes for different sites. You won’t like to be in a situation where a weak site leaks your passwords letting hacker access all your important account as they just know the only scheme you are using.
  • Try and not to base your scheme on keyboard motor patterns as it may be difficult to reproduce on different keyboard layouts on various devices.

Lastly, I will leave you with few videos from various security experts to help you design your own easy to remember password generation scheme.

Another video from abc7.com which explains Password Haystacks concept in under 3 minutes.

Easily create link for current page in various formats

If you are a blogger or even otherwise if you frequently need to create (and copy) links in various formats like plain text, HTML, markdown, mediaWiki and use either Chrome or Firefox, then this tip is for you.

Create Link for Chrome

If you’re using Chrome, you need to install Create Link extension for chrome and you’re done! Just right click on the web page or hyperlink for which you need to create a link and select Create Link menu. Click the format of your choice and your link is ready to be pasted.

Create Link for Chrome
Create Link for Chrome

Alternatively, you may use the Create Link button in the Chrome toolbar. The toolbar button offers same options to create the link but also give you access to more configurations. The existing options are completely configurable and you may add more options if you want. For e.g. I changed default HTML option by adding title and target attributes as shown below

Default HTML Code

<a href="%url%">%htmlEscapedText%</a>

Modified HTML Code

<a title="%title%" href="%url%" target="_blank">%htmlEscapedText%</a>

You can also use a variable called %input% if you want to specify a custom value during link creation. A input box will pop up to get your input at the time of link creation.

Make Link for Firefox

Above extension for Chrome is actually inspired from Firefox extension called Make Link. Basic functionality is mostly similar to Create Link for Chrome. It also offers a rather useful but experimental feature to create links with the shortened URL. You can use a variable called %tinyurl% to do the same. But in my tests it did not work for me on Firefox 25.0.1.

Colt is another option worth looking at which offers advance functionality like conditional statements which could be very useful in controlling the link output.

Paper based password management systems

What? Passwords on paper? Isn’t that a NO-NO? Well yes, but a couple of interesting password management systems could still be useful here. And where do you keep that paper? Well, in your wallet, if you are one of those people who are good at securing their wallet!

Password Card
Password Card

Password Card Generator is a tool which allows you to generate a password card which is about the size of a credit card. It contains 12 rows and 26 alphabets as columns. To create a password, take each letter of the account\website you want to create a password for and then take the corresponding code from the table. You can design any scheme for yourself. For e.g. you can combine your account\website name + user name to generate a password. Say you want to generate a password for your amazon account and your username\login is [email protected], you can take your base string as “amazonxyzabc“. Now for each letter in this base string, pick up a character from each row in the above table. So our password will be “&BWL:ttogA{n“. Alternatively you may just pick up any single character of your website/account or username, say ” a” for amazon and pick up characters in each row diagonally starting at A, so your password will be “&rR8″On:1RKI“. Follow the edge if you hit the edge or go in another direction until you pick a character from each row. If you’re worried about losing the card and exposing your passwords, you may mix it up with a string known to you only. For e.g. &BWL:ttogA{n + 250189 (some random date you can easily remember), you can create something like &B2WL5:t0to1gA8{n9 which is created by adding each character in 250189 to &BWL:ttogA{n after every 2 characters. As you can see we’ve got ourself a very strong password. If you lose your password card, you can recreate it by visiting Password Card Generator tool just by entering your master password again. The random characters are generated in your browser and no data is transmitted.

Another advanced technique described by John Graham-Cumming involves printing Tabula Recta on a piece of paper. Once you have that, you can design your own scheme to generate password for a given account. His post describes this technique in detail.

Password Chart is another easy to use and effective tool which falls into this category. With options to include numbers and symbols, all you need to do is to enter your pass phrase or master passwords and a chart like the one shown below will be instantly generated for you. Everything is done in your browser and no passwords are sent over the Internet. Again, it’s up to you to decide how you want to use this chart. You can simply substitute characters in your account name with characters in password chart against that alphabet. So if you want a password for your Facebook account, you get “+87r6Wmf#vB8B8n7” which offers high entropy.

Password Chart
Password Chart

Generate and manage passwords without master password

A tool called iPassword Generator offers an interesting alternative for password generation and management. Guess what! If you choose so, you do not have to remember even a single password. This tool uses a key file to build Tabula Recta that in turn acts as your master password.

The tabula recta is a square table of alphabets, each row of which is made by shifting the previous one to the left.

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

 

A key file could be any file including images, audio or video whose size is more than 50 KB. Apart from key file, all you need to enter is your account\service\website name and you are done. If you are worried about the multiple account problem, you may choose to enter your user name as well but it is optional. You may also choose desired length of your password. You can always go overboard by specifying a master password as well but this is completely optional. Want more? It also helps you encrypt your key file using AES-256 algorithm.

Let’s quickly see how to use this tool

    • You can simply select a key file that is more than 50 KB, enter Application/Website’s name, choose desired length and you are done.
Generate password with iPassword Generator
Generate password with iPassword Generator
    • Alternatively, you may encrypt your Key File first as shown below.
Encrypt key file with password
Encrypt key file with password
    • Then, you mount the encrypted key file created in above step, enter Application/Website’s name, choose desired length and you are done.
Mount encrypted key file with encryption password
Mount encrypted key file with encryption password

A popular password management tool, KeePass also allows you to use a key file to protect your password database.

Search Google Drive files easily from Chrome and Firefox

If you are a lot into Google Drive and use either Chrome or Firefox, then this tip is for you.

Search Google Drive files from Chrome

If you’re using Chrome, we have a couple of options here. Install Google Drive Quick Search extension for chrome. Once the installation is complete and extension is ready to use, just type drive in the address bar and hit TAB key. Now you can enter what you want to search for.

If you don’t like extensions, alternatively you can follow these simple steps:

  • Right click on the Chrome address bar.
  • Choose Edit Search Engine… from the menu options. This will open the settings page for Search Engines in Chrome.
  • Alternatively you may directly enter chrome://settings/searchEngines in the address bar and skip above steps.
  • Scroll down to “Other search engines” and add a new search engine.
  • Enter “Google Drive” as the name for your search engine or whatever you would like to call it, “drive” as the keyword you’ll type for activating search (again your choice) and URL as https://drive.google.com/?hl=en&tab=bo#search/%s
  • Now you’re ready to use new search module. Enter your keyword “drive”, hit TAB key and enter your search term.
Google Drive Files Search for Chrome
Google Drive Files Search for Chrome
Search Google Drive files from Firefox

For Firefox too there is an extension called “Google Drive Files Search”. Install Google Drive Files Search using Firefox and click Add to Firefox. This will add a new search engine module to Firefox. Howevere, for quick access from the address bar, you need to do the following:

  • Go to Manage Search Engines… from the search box drop down menu.
  • Select newly added module “Google Drive” and click Edit Keyword….
  • Enter a keyword of your choice say “drive”.
  • Click OK to close both the dialogs.
  • Go to Firefox address bar and enter “drive”, SPACE followed by the search term.

Password generation using master password

Some of the tools that we are going to discuss today not only help with password generation but also act as simple and easy to use password managers. All you need to do is remember single master password or pass phrase. These tools help you generate strong password on the fly so that you do not actually have to remember passwords for your individual accounts.

Password Generator is a simple online tool that works in the exact same manner. Enter your master password and site name and it will generate the same 8 character password for you. They also have a bookmarklet version which picks up the domain / site name once you use it on the site you want to login to and populates generated password for you automatically in the password field. There is another tool called SuperGenPass based on similar idea. Unlike Password Generator, it allows you to build a custom bookmark by choosing your browser, the level of security for your master password and length (default is 10) of password to be generated. The problem with these bookmarklets is that if you have more than one account with different passwords for a given site (e.g., multiple Gmail accounts), it will not be able to make a distinction between two accounts and always generate the same password for both which may not be desirable.

Secure Password Generator
Secure Password Generator

A simple yet powerful tool that solves above problem is Secure Passwords from Digital Inspiration. Along with master password (pass-phrase), length and domain name, it also takes a user name as input to generate a strong, unique password for a given account. This automatically solves multiple account problem mentioned above. The source code is available on Github. You may download and host it on your machine if you are skeptical about generating your password online. The password is generated in your browser itself and no data is transmitted.

Lastly, if you are looking for something overwhelmingly comprehensive, do check out PasswordMaker as well.