Today's post gets filed under the "things that have been around forever but that I just found out about" column.
If you can say the same, this will be a very handy bit of knowledge.
Chrome introduced a way to assign keyboard shortcuts to extensions way back in Chrome 22. The capability gives devs the option to include built-in keyboard shortcut for their Chrome extensions. If they do that, users can then customize the shortcut, using a specific entry to activate the extension.
To assign a keyboard shortcut to an extension, open up Chrome's extension page (tools > extensions), and scroll to the bottom of the page. There, you'll see a small "Keyboard Shortcuts" link. Click it.
Any extension for which the developer included keyboard shortcut capability will be shown in a list. To change a shortcut, click the text box and punch in your shortcut. Keep in mind that you can't assign any old shortcut; they must follow one of the following patterns:
Ctrl+Letter, Ctrl+Digit, Ctrl+Shift+Letter, Ctrl+Shift+Digit
You can override standard Chrome shortcuts (like Ctrl+T to open a new tab), but of course, I wouldn't advise it.
Need a good extension to try out the keyboard shortcut function? Try Google's +1 button, Stylebot, or, my personal favorite, Neat Bookmarks, which gives you access to all boomarks in the bookmarks bar, including the ability to execute bookmarklets.