Ultimate Google toolbox: 20 tips, tricks, and hacks

With this arsenal of tips and third-party tools, you can bend Google to your will and extract more from its services than ever before.

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Get a bird's-eye view of your inbox: Sign up with your Gmail credentials, and Gmail Meter sends you a report at the beginning of each month with your top senders and recipients, plus charts for the time of the day and week when you receive and send the most email.

Eliminate YouTube annoyances: Watching a YouTube video is getting harder by the day with all the commercial distractions surrounding each video. You can make YouTube less annoying, however, with the YouTube Options for Google Chrome browser extension, which allows you to tweak every aspect of YouTube. Through this extension you can hide ads and annotations, disable autoplay, and hide comments.

Make YouTube videos easier on the eye: Compatible with most browsers, the simple extension Turn Off the Lights dims everything on the webpage around the video. Whenever you see a little lamp icon on your toolbar, you can click it to make the surroundings go dark, turning YouTube into more of a lean-back-and-enjoy experience.

Move quickly through YouTube videos: Keyboard shortcuts can save you a number of mouse clicks. Press the J key to rewind the video a few seconds, or press L to fast-forward a few seconds into the video. You can also use the K key, as well as the spacebar, to pause and resume videos.

Next up: Download YouTube videos

Download YouTube videos to your computer: Although many apps and websites claim to help you do this, they can be hit and miss at best, especially since Google is trying to block various services from downloading copyrighted videos. One simple and effective option is the Download YouTube Videos add-on for Firefox, which inserts a download button underneath videos on YouTube and allows you to select the quality level at which to save the file.

Edit photos and videos directly from Google Drive: The Pixlr Express app spares you from having to download photos, make basic edits in a separate program, and then reupload them. Once you install the app, simply right-click an image on your Google Drive to see an option to open it in Pixlrs, where you can crop and adjust the image, as well as add effects overlays, borders, text, and stickers. Once your edit is done, you can save and replace your Google Drive file, or save the new version as a copy, without leaving your browser. You can also try Pixlr Editor for a more Photoshop-like interface with tools for red-eye reduction and drawing. If you'd like to apply the same concept to video, check out WeVideo.

Send and receive faxes from Google Drive for free: Fax machines are almost extinct, but on the odd occasion you need to send a fax or sign a document, turn to HelloFax, a nifty extension that does both. The service lets you send a fax straight from your Google Drive to a fax machine just by entering the number; inbound faxes come to you by email in the form of a PDF, and reside in a special Google Drive folder.

Sign documents and fill in forms from Google Drive: With HelloSign, you can store your signature to sign documents or fill out forms, which you can send via email. The app also lets you assign signature fields in documents and send signature requests straight from a folder on your Google Drive.

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