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I’ve gotta say, Google + is pretty awesome. Google’s privacy foibles aside; I’m loving it, and I’m immensely looking forward to when it finally launches. Just the same though…no matter how good something is, there are always improvements you can make to it. No, I’m not talking about changes to the platform itself- Google’s not yet released the developer’s kit, to my knowledge. I’m instead referring to improvements upon the experience, by integration of Google’s newest social networking platform with its excellent web browser, Google Chrome. And not just simple integration, either.
I’m talking about a lot more.
See, even though G+ has only been out for about two weeks now, a number of hardworking independent developers and designers have already released a number of extensions that not only bring the Google + experience closer to Google Chrome, but improve upon that experience in some rather excellent ways. If you’re using Google + with the Chrome browser, these addons are inarguably all worth a look. Now, those of you not using Chrome don’t have to feel left out, either- there are a number of addons like Greasemonkey, Stylish, and Greasekit that’ll let you run these extensions even if you don’t want to bother taking a few minutes to download and install Chrome. Anyway, let’s have a look, shall we?
Here’s the thing about a lot of us Google Geeks- hell, computer geeks in general. We love hotkeys. And why shouldn’t we? They’re simple and convenient, and make an already efficient and streamlined task or process fly by even more quickly. Google kind of made a bit of an oops in this regard. I want you guys to think of every single keyboard command you’re aware of in Google +. Hell, let’s do a bit of an experiment: Name ten. And no, not browser commands, either- keyboard commands specially tailored for G+.
You can’t do it, can you?
The creators of the Google + Commander Userscript realized fairly quickly that Google + doesn’t offer much for us command happy tech geeks, and they quickly set to work putting together a script that installed the following keyboard commands:
* c to comment
* s to share
* + to +1
* gg to go to top.
* G to go to bottom.
* n to show notification panel.
* i to focus to a form of new entry.
* esc to close current active textbox.
* gh to go to Home.
* gP to go to Photos.
* gp to go to Profile.
* gc to go to Circles.
Not too shabby, eh?
The Google bar is great. I’m not denying that. It’s efficient, functional, and easy to use. But what if, for some reason, you wanted to hide it? Make it invisible when you were’t using it in order to save space in your browser? That’s precisely what Google Header Hider does. It basically turns on autohide for the Google bar- meaning that when you aren’t using it, it’s tucked out of the way, but you can mouse over the area where was to make it pop up. This’ll work for pretty much any website the Google bar appears on. Pretty nifty, no?
The folks behind the userscript improvements weren’t satisfied just stopping at the autohide feature. Oh no. They wanted to do more with Google +-much more. See, they figured that there are actually several other functionalities and features that were missing from the Google Bar. Naturally, resourceful folk that they are, they set right out to rectify their concerns. The Enhancer usercript adds unread counts for Gmail, Calendar, and Reader, thus connecting you to your Google account in such a way that Google curiously forgot to do.
I actually just recently covered this one. You can read my article on the subject here. Basically, this one is designed for those of you who want to remain active on Facebook while switching over to Google +- thus providing something of a panacea for the sting of ditching a social network where you’ve had years to get entrenched and make friends. Installing the Google + Facebook browser plugin will add a new icon next to the Google + default pages on Google’s site. Clicking it will show your your Facebook news feed, without forcing you to return to Zuckerberg’s site in order to read it. Nice.
Update: Hold off on installing this one for now, folks. Fellow on Reddit by the name of RogueDarkJedi looked through the code, and his conclusions were…distressing, to say the least. Turns out, Google+Facebook could potentially be malware. Assuming the developer response he received for his original post is legit…let’s just say it doesn’t look good. I’m going to do a bit more research on the matter- I’ll keep you folks posted. For the time being, it would be best to err on the side of caution.
I recently spoke of this extension, as welll. Long story short, it lets you access the basics of your Google + profile without taking you back to the site to do so. Granted, there are a few glitches with it at the moment, but the developer’s working hard to repair them.
Here’s an addition to the list that’s more stylistic than functional. It adjusts the layout of Google + to be more ergonomic in design, making it easier to use many of the feature on Google’s website. Basically, it totally refines the layout of the website. I’m hoping that Google works out some way to adjust personalize the layout of Google + at some point in the future- perhaps something involving widgets, and the ability to change the theme as you can in Gmail- but for now, this’ll do quite nicely as far as improving the look of the site- even though it’s not exactly an ugly duckling to begin with.
And there you have it. A few apps and extensions that are pretty much guaranteed to improve on your Google + experience.
Via Extreme Tech