Thursday, September 22, 2011

Theme Customization - Chrome Extensions For Google+

Let’s be honest here, although Google tried to go for the basic, not so cluttered, plain look to make it easier for us to find our way around a new Social Network site, we all can agree G+’s basic theme is just plain boring, like a canvass on an easel just waiting for an artist to fill it with color, depth and beauty. That’s where these Chrome extensions come in changing almost every aspect of the G+ theme to make it more appealing, easier to interact with and simply make the G+ experience more pleasurable.

Due to recent updates on Google+ some of these extensions or features on the extensions may be broken or obsolete by the time this is posted so feel free to ignore those extensions or the feature that is broken or obsolete. Each extension has been linked to it’s page on the Chrome Webstore so you can check it out yourself.


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Usability Boost for Google Plus
Like other extensions, this one is also full of features although some are not really necessary anymore such as making the top notification bar fixed. This is already part of G+ so this can be ignored. I do like how the stream section is divided by the Grey background although it would be nice to have some optional colors or even designs. Still being able to easily distinguish one post from another at a glace is a plus (pun intended) on a Social Media site where the white background is just too plain, boring and causes visual clutter. At the time of this test the creator stated the extension was broken so i am unable to test the starred post feature. Hopefully this will be fixed by the time I post then then you might not actually see this comment. Otherwise, the concept seemed interesting but a shame it didn’t work. For now my rating will be lower but will raise it if fixed in time.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Google+ Ultimate for Google Plus
Although the name makes it sound, well, “Ultimate” this extension does not really have that many great features I’m sorry to say. I do like the background color changes, the brush and grain backgrounds are a great option. The thin scroll bars sometimes work and sometimes don’t, not sure why. I have yet to get the floating panel to work. No matter what I do they always scroll with the page. The options menu does not have any options for it’s ability to change images into thumbnails as the description states, some may not want to make the images into thumbnails although it doesn’t work for me. Not sure about the side by side feature as I can’t get it to work at all. So far it’s a hit and miss with this one. Combined with the Usability Boost extension background changes, it would definitely make browsing G+ much easier to the eyes. But either I am doing something wrong or the extension is broken at the time I tested it.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Styling for Google Plus
Another all-in-one extension, Styling is really an “Ultimate” G+ extension. The options are endless, just about every G+ page can be changed to your liking. My favorite feature is how it separates each column and gives it a 3D effect making it so much easier to distinguish each section. Finally, an extension where the floating column feature finally works. Having only the stream move up and down is an pleasure and it even adds thin scroll bars to the side columns that are long so you can see everything. There is even an option to change the background colors on just about every section of the main G+ screen and even the profile, photos and other screens. The custom theme provided in the extension is nice and clean and allows you to change the colors of some of the areas which gives it an extra personal touch. Just be aware that changing colors without the theme is not very clean looking. The G+ team made the screen very basic and therefore colors look weird and undefined. I’m definitely liking this particular extension.
It also has the option to show your unread email and reader count on you nav bar not to mention allowing to exclude some of the Google products linked on the nav bar in case you don’t like seeing them there.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Google+ Tweaks
Google Tweaks has all kinds of goodies for changing all kinds of things on G+. It lets you view G+ the full length of the browser, it adds notifications count to the favicon, forces images to thumbnails to save screen space and even sets posts as previews to view more posts in less space, plus much more. Bare in mind though that some of these features do not function properly but most do and work well. It’s a matter of picking and choosing the features that best suit you and work well. None the less I am sure you will find many, many useful features.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Layouts for Google Plus
Layouts is an extension very similar to a feature found on Facebook where you can change the background of your home age to add some uniqueness to you Facebook page. In this case it’s an extension that changes your G+ background (which also changes some other Google pages) to give a more pleasant look to that old, boring white background on the edges of the G+ screen. There is a page where you can either choose of a large variety of background images uploaded by other users or add one of your own. Be advised, the images on the site cover the entire background so choosing an image that does not show anything on the edges is kinda pointless since this is where the images will be seen. It would be best to create your own images specifically designed to be seen on the edges of your G+ screen.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Everything Went Black for Google Plus
This is a very interesting extension. I am not sure I get the name of it compared to what it does but I do like how it gives you the option of a floating header bar with a really cool look of floating above the stream I might add and to change the colors of the Google+ logo although I prefer it in color, black is not my color of choice when it comes to themes. The scroll back to top button is perfect for my needs, I do hate having to either press q or scroll back to the top manually. Yea, I know, I’m lazy like that. The only thing I think needs some work is the option button, it could be just a bit bigger. I almost missed it. These features definitely make using G+ more convenient.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Google Plus Colors
Now this little extension here is quite interesting. It allows you to change the look of the nav bar in G+ from preset colors or patterns. It’s actually quite nice and gives better preset options than other extensions that do the same. A very nice addition.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Color Plus
Here’s another extension that changes the color of the Google Nav bar. An interesting extension for those who find that black color boring except this one is currently set to a neon green color and does not have options to change it. The creator does have a link that, I believe, allows you to download and install extensions with alternative colors. I would prefer to have the option to change the colors at will but if you like any of the alternatives and don’t plan on changing them much then you might find this appealing.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Google+ Refined for Google Plus
Like other extensions, Google+ Refined gives you access to change the look of G+ to make it easier to view and more aesthetically pleasing. It has a ton of options allowing you to change each section of the G+ screen individually. Now that’s something I like. You can eliminate some of the clutter such as the suggestion section, send invites section, Welcome link, Sparks link, etc. It will even allow you to set the top left and/or right columns. It can even change background colors to make each section that much easier to distinguish although it does not give you the option of what color to use. Perhaps this may be included in a future update. My favorite feature is putting the options in a pop-up from the icon making it easier to change options on the fly.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Google Plus Bar Minus
Now you see it, now you don’t. That’s how easy it is for this extension to make the Google nav bar disappear and appear by simply clicking the icon. I’m sure someone out there will find this useful although I don’t know why personally.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

1-Up for Google+
G+ can be a very plain site, all white and hardly any decor to speak of. Doesn’t mean you should leave it that way. With this extension you can add a little bit of fun to your G+ experience by changing the +1 button into a Mario Bros 1-Up mushroom with sound effects and everything. now you can +1 or 1-Up those posts with style. Of course, if the sound annoys you, there’s an option to turn it off and also as an added bonus you can choose from several mushroom colors and styles. Gosh, now I feel like dusting off my old Nintendo and give it a go.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Slinky G+
This extension claims to have several very useful features such as Translate, Photo zoom, share buttons and more, but at this time the extensions has not been updated and with G+’s recent updates the extension code is currently broken. The extension creator claims an update is coming soon, for now I have to give it a low rating.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]

Beautify G+
Beautify G+ is yet another extension designed to alter the G+ main screen by pinning the top and side columns, hiding some of the display features like Go Mobile and suggestions and even add notification sounds and favicon animation. The only problem is this extension is broken, possibly due to recent G+ updates so am not able to give it a good review.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]

Change Circle Images for Google Plus
This extension is a rather interesting one, it can actually serve as a way to make it easier to add and remove people in your Circles by creating images for each Circle. Of course you have to go out of your way to create the images you would like to use. I used an image I found online of a Wheel Of Fortune wheel for my Evernote Circle. At first I discovered that the images I used were too big and therefore did not display properly in the Circles so I tried many sizes and found that 124X124 pixels is about the right size for the Circles. I have to say it does look quite cool, with some time one could come up with some very interesting images for each Circle. The extension itself could use some refining such as the button for the image links, could be in a better position, maybe more integrated within G+ Circles display.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Google Plus Remove Mobile Reminder
I’m sure many wouldn’t mind not having to see the “ Get Google+ for your mobile device” link every time they open G+ but it’s there and odds are it’s not going anywhere, unless you remove it yourself. This extension is meant to take care of that for you however it’s not currently working, possibly due to recent G+ updates breaking the code. There are several other alternatives to do this if you really feel the need to remove it.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]

Goodbye for G+ Games
Did you dislike Facebook games? Were you not so thrilled when G+ added games as well? Well you’re in luck. If you can’t stand having that button on you G+ nagging to play games then just get rid of it with this extension. You’ll no longer have to worry about getting pulled in to the world of games while you socialize with family, friends and strangers.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

GTools+
GTools is another extension chock-full of features such as changing the notification count color, allowing to add or remove Google links from nav bar gmail and reader count on nav bar and even a translation option although I can’t get it to work, not sure how. Still, a very cool extension indeed.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

G+? Why not A+?
Can’t get over the name of this extension but basically it wants to raise the value of Google+ from a G to an A thru some really cool features (and some funky option descriptions), sadly the extension seems to be broken at this time probably due to recent G+ updates that broke the code.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]

GPlus Sawayaka Background for Google Plus
Is that white G+ background too boring or bright for you then let this extension help you change that. Just put the HTML color # in the link on the top right corner of the page just below your notification count and save. refresh and enjoy the new background color.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]star_thumb[11][15]

Google Plus Transparency
Now this extension has the potential to be an excellent addition to your G+ extensions, especially if combined with the “Layouts For Google Plus” extension because it’s suppose to make the main G+ background transparent allowing the images from the “Layouts For Google Plus” extension come thru. But the extension seems to be broken possible due to recent G+ updates. What a shame.
My rating: star_thumb[11][15]


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