What's the Difference Between a Chrome App, Extension, and Theme?

Learn About the Chrome Web Store Options

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Chrome Apps were removed from the Google Web Store and declared deprecated in late 2017 by Google. However, the Chrome Web Store still includes an extensive collection of extensions and themes.

The Google Chrome web browser and Chrome OS provide you with a convenient to access the web. Like other browsers, Chrome can be enhanced through the use of extensions and personalized with themes, which are available at the Chrome Web Store.

Chrome Extensions

Chrome extensions have a global effect on the Chrome browser. For example, a Chrome extension might let you take a screenshot of an entire website and save it to an image file. After installing the extension, you have access to it on any website you visit because it's installed to the whole browser.

Another example is the Ebates extension that can help you find deals on websites you visit. It's always running in the background and checks for price savings and coupon codes for lots of different websites.

Extensions are small programs that download to your computer in the form of a CRX file. They're saved to a specific location within Chrome's installation folder, so you can't typically choose where on your computer to save the extension. Chrome stores it somewhere safe and can use it any time you open the browser.

How to Install Chrome Extensions

To preview and install extensions:

  1. Go to the Chrome Web Store in the Chrome browser.
  2. Click Extensions at the top of the left panel.
  3. Optionally, in the left panel, select to view extensions only with certain characteristics. Options include: Runs Offline, Free, Available for Android, Works with Google Drive, and others.
  4. Click any extension in the main window that interests you to see a description, screenshots, reviews, version information, release date, related apps and other pertinent information.
  5. When you find an extension you like, click Add To Chrome.
  6. Click Add extension in the confirmation box that pops up.

Chrome downloads and install the extension and usually opens up the settings for the extension when it's finished.

You can uninstall Chrome extensions by opening the Chrome menu at the top right of the browser (the button made of three stacked dots) and choose More tools > Extensions. In the box containing the extension, you want to uninstall, click the Remove button.

Chrome Themes

Themes are used to personalize the appearance of your browser by changing the color scheme and background. Themes are powerful because they change the appearance of everything from the tabs to the scrollbar. However, unlike extensions, changing your theme does not change the basic function of those items or Chrome as a whole. 

How to Install Chrome Themes

Personalizing your Chrome browsing is fun and temporary. Try out as many themes as you like.

  1. Go to the Chrome Web Store in the Chrome browser.
  2. Click Themes at the top of the left panel.
  3. Click on a theme to see a larger image, read any reviews of it, and see a description of the theme.
  4. Choose the Add To Chrome button, and the theme downloads and applies immediately. If you don't see the effect in the window you have open, open a new tab or window to see it.

You can remove a custom Chrome theme by opening the settings and clicking Reset to Default in the Appearance section or by downloading another theme.