Modern Software Experience

2011-07-19

improving Google+

Google Chrome extensions for Google+

Google+ is a Google project, so it may not seem surprising that there are several Google Chrome extensions already. It actually is a bit surprising, as Google has not released a programming interface for Google+ yet. In these early days of Google+, what's available is likely to change quickly, but the Chrome Web Store has a search function that let's discover what's available now - if you figure out what to search for. Simply searching for either Google+ orGoogle Plus results in lots of extraneous results. The trick to zooming in on Google+ stuff is to search for "Google Plus" instead, i.e. include those straight quotes.

Chrome Web Store: google plus

The screenshot shows how well this query works. It also shows that some extensions are using the Google+ name to get exposure; the first item show here, called Google Plus, with the purple cross icon, has nothing to do with Google+,\ and is raking in negative feedback.

Extended Share for Google Plus

Extended Share for Google Plus

Extended Share for Google Plus extends Google Plus with a quick way to share your post to Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn and Tumblr.

Extended Share for Google Plus adds an Share on... link to Google+ posts. It is still somewhat buggy. I found that I often had to refresh the page to see that extra link. It is supposed to show the icons of the services you can share with, but somehow, it did not work for me, making it impossible to share anything. Reading through the comments, it seems that some have gotten it to work as extended, but others had problems, and complain that it does not work as advertised.
Your kilometrage may vary. I disabled it to try again later.

Share+ Social Buttons for Google Plus

Share+ Social Buttons for Google Plus

Share+ Social Buttons for Google Plus is similar to Extended Share for Google Plus; it allows you to share google posts to various social networks. Right now, Share+ Social Buttons for Google Plus supports a lot more social networks than Extended Share for Google Plus does.

Share+ Social Buttons for Google Plus supports FaceBook, MySpace, Yahoo! Bookmarks, Digg, StumbleUpon, posterous, LinkedIn, WordPress, NetVibes, FriendFeed, Twitter, Windows Live Favourites, Google Bookmarks, delicious, Technorati, Tumblr, Viadeo, Blogger, Netlog and Plurk.
I certainly did not try them all, but it seems to work as advertised, and most feedback is positive.

Usability Boost for Google Plus

Usability Boost for Google Plus

The author of Usability Boost for Google Plus claims that it improves readability. All it does seems to do is change the Google+ background to grey. Google+ posts continue to have a white background, making them stand out. The author believes this improves readability, I think the readability of Google+ is fine already, and some users comment that they experienced some problems with this extensions. I uninstalled this within five minutes.

Notification Count for Google Plus

The Notification Count for Google Plus adds a toolbar icon that displays your Google+ notification count. I personally find the notification count on the black navigation toolbar more than distracting enough, so I uninstalled this, but I imagine that other will like it very much. It checks your notification count every minute.

GPlus Notifications

GPlus Notifications does the same thing as Notification Count for Google Plus; it adds a toolbar button that shows your Google+ notification count.

I imagine the scripts for these extension to be quite similar. The icons look practically the same as well. There seems to be no objective reason to choose one of these extension over the other.

Native GMail for Google Plus

Native GMail for Google Plus

Native GMail for Google Plus integrates your Google Mail account into Google+. I don't see a need for third party integration between these two Google properties The black navigation bar lets me switch from Google+ to Google Mail and back. Perhaps Google will integrate them further, but right now, this is convenient enough. The description is a bit misleading; it does not integrate GMail into Google, it merely adds a GMail notification count. The extension adds a GMail notification count to the black navigation. That's kind of cool; if you are going to add a GMail notification count, that is the right place for it.
It even seems kind of handy, because now I do not have to keep both a GMail tab and a Google+ tab open; I used to keep my GMail tab open, now I keep my Google+ tab open, knowing that I will be notified when there is new mail. But wait, yet another notification that redirects my attention. That only adds to the notification madness. That the square failed to display an updated count, but remained grey instead, makes it the extension less maddening - and useless.
I uninstalled this extension. I am sure that many will like it when it works, and fear that Google may implement it themselves as a standard feature of the black navigation bar.

Fixed top bar for Google Plus

The descriptions for Fixed top bar for Google Plus reads This extension fix the position of top bar on Google+.. Well, that sounds nice, but I never experienced any problem with the position of the navigation bar; it is always on top, just where it should be.
What this extension does is keep the bar on-screen when you scroll down. Normally, the bar scrolls out of view, as it part of the web page. This extension makes the bar behave as if it is part of the browser.
It makes the navigation bar behave like a browser toolbar and that is exactly why I dislike it; all those toolbars take up space, reducing the space available for web content.
I quickly uninstalled this.

Remove Black Bar from Google

Some will like Fixed top bar for Google Plus, others will liked Remove Black Bar from Google; this extension removes the black navigation bar.
The name and description are wrong; it does not remove the black bar at all, it merely changes it from white on black to blue on white.
It makes the navigation bar blend in better. I like it.

Google Plus Bar Minus

Google Plus Bar Minus

Google Plus Bar Minus is a toolbar button that lets you toggle the black navigation bar; you can hide the bar to reclaim screen real estate, and unhide it whenever you'd like to have it visible again. Simple but useful.

Color Plus

The Color Plus extension changes the colour of the navigation bar to green. Ready-made versions that change the default colour to blue or pink are available to, but the author suggests you edit the contentscript.js to change the colours to anything you fancy.

Google Plus Button

Google Plus Button adds a toolbar button to quickly open Google+. This seems so superfluous to me that I did not even try to install it. After all, if you use Google+ a lot, it will automatically become one of the Most Visited pages on your New Tab.

Google Plus Status

If Google Plus Button sounds like a good idea to you, you'll probably find Google Plus Status to be an even better idea. Google Plus Status is not only a button to quickly open Google+, it also shows you whether you are logged into Google+ or not.

Facebook Like for google plus

Facebook Like for google plus does not add a FaceBook Like button to Google+. All it does is change Google's +1 icon into FaceBook's Like (thumb up) icon. Cute, but useless.

Tweetify for Google Plus

Tweetify for Google Plus does not add or support Twitter in any way. Tweetify for Google Plus makes your Google+ stream twitter-like; every post is reduced to show only 140 characters or less. The author admits that it is heavily experimental. It did not seem to work for me at all.

Google +1

Google +1

Google +1 is not strictly a Google+ extension, it is an extension that brings the +1 button to all web pages. This is the +1 button seen in Google's Dear Sophie video. Without a button like this, you can only +1 a web pages if the author included Google's +1 button on their page. With the Google +1 button on your toolbar, you can +1 any web pages. The pages you +1 appear on the +1 tab of your Google+ profile.

Google+ Tweet

Google +1 integrates a Twitter client into you Google+ account. It does not change the home page, but adds a Twitter button in front of the Home page, Photos, Profile and Circles buttons near the top of your Google+ pages.

Google+ Tweet button

You do need the authorise the app the first time you use it, and that involves clicking a light grey that you hardly notice. When you click the twitter button, you get to see your twitter stream and can make a new tweet. I discovered that Google+Tweet is a bit slow and does not like the + character much, but it works. Google+Tweet is not perfect, but the integration already looks so good, that you could forget that it isn't part of Google+ itself - something you'll be reminded of when you use Firefox or log in using another PC. Still, pretty nice extension.

+ Photo Zoom

+ Photo Zoom does one thing and does it well; hover over thumbnails shown in Google+ posts to see the large version of the image.

Google+ Tweaks

Google+ Tweaks

Google+ Tweaks combines a bunch of tweaks in a single extension. There is a dialog box that let's you control which tweaks you want. You might expect this tool to install a toolbar button, but it does not. When all the tweaks are off, nothing shows that you've installed this extension, until you click the Gear icon in the upper right corner of the navigation bar; Google+ Tweaks adds a Google+ Tweaks item to the settings menu. When you choose the Google+ Tweaks menu item, you get to see the Google+ Tweaks Options dialog. That dialog box is so chock-full of options that it needs more than one tab.
The tweaks that Google+ Tweaks offers on the first tab are:

Google+ Tweaks

The second tabs offers to hide some of the things in the left and right Google+ column.
The option that I thought I would like best is Use the full width of your browser. Google+ was clearly designed for 1024 x 768 displays. Most users have much larger screens. but Google+ will keeps it fixed-size design centred, leaving large areas of white space to the left and right. This option lets you use the browser space you have. However, you need to manually refresh the page every time you resize the browser, which limits the appeal of this option a lot.

An option that many users will like is Toggle Comments, which collapse post comments. Posts often become way too long as users adds comments. When you check this option, all posts remain collapsed by default, and only when you click to expand do they expand. I've found however, that I prefer the +1 Comment Toggle extensions.

+ Comment Toggle

+ Comment Toggle

The +1 Comment Toggle extensions collapses all Google+ posts, and adds a comment toggle that lets you expand and collapse comments. It is just what Google+ needed.

-1 Minus One

The -1 Minus One adds a -1 button to all posts. This third party -1 does not influence the +1 count, so it mostly a placebo.

Facebook+

The Facebook+ displays your FaceBook stream on Google Plus. It does so by adding a FaceBook stream, as if you had a FaceBook circle. I don't like that.
The deeper issue is that FaceBook and Google+ are different platforms. It makes no sense to have Google+ navigation and controls around my FaceBook stream. I want the FaceBook navigation and controls around my FaceBook stream. I'll simply keep two tabs open.

the best

After trying twenty Google Chrome extensions for Google+, I had uninstalled or disabled most of them. Only four extensions remained installed and enabled for continued trial.
The idea of browser extensions is to customise your browsing experience to your liking. You are free to disagree violently with my choices, but just in case you are curious, these are the four Google Chrome extensions for Google+ that I did not uninstall or disable within five minutes of trying:

Try a few extensions to find out which ones you like.

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