I've been using Gmail for years now, and while it's been a dependable workhorse for me sometimes it feels a little on the spartan side. Themes are nice, but it'd be nice to jazz up the conversation threads in some small way... For example, by letting me see the profile picture of the person who sent me the message I'm reading.
Well, would you look at that! Someone put together a Google Chrome extension which does exactly that. If your sender has a picture attached to their Google profile, the extension adds it in below the reply/forward/etc. drop down.
And on the off chance that you can't remember who a sender is by their name alone, now you'll have a handy visual reminder. Unless, of course, they don't have a profile pic -- in which case you'll just see a light blue cartoony head. In that particular case, it probably won't be helpful unless you're communicating with Brainy Smurf.
Personally, I just enjoy a small image breaking up the monotony of text which I've grown accustomed to in my inbox.
One more thing: no RAM is used by this extension. Sweet.
Last month at Computex, Acer's rumored Chrome OS netbook was nowhere to be found. Of course, I'd already said it wasn't going to be on display -- and Acer backed up my prediction days later with an official press release. Computex has come and gone, and while we still haven't seen Chrome OS hardware prototypes we may have a clue as to who's working on them.
Officially, Google has only stated that Chrome OS devices will be arriving late this fall "from select partners." So who might those partners include? If the files I spotted in the Chromium OS Git repository are any indication, Acer, Dell and HP are good bets. The overlay-x86 bits take care of configuring Chrome's hardware support during the build process -- so these would seem to indicate that Dell, Acer, and HP might be at the point where they're building the OS for specific configs.
Apart from the conspicuous files, all three have already been connected to Chrome OS in some way. Dell engineers put together a customized build for their Mini 10V netbook shortly after Google opened the Chromium OS code. As Sebastian wrote recently, HP is tinkering with Cloud Print -- which will feature prominently in Chrome OS. They're also not averse to trying different things with their netbooks -- like their heavily-customized Ubuntu remix.
As for Acer... Well, if anyone's willing to try cramming a Chrome OS dual boot option onto a netbook, it's Acer. They already tried an Android/Windows combo with the AOD250, but that didn't turn out so well.
Acer and HP were, of course, mentioned in Google's initial "so who's working with us on Chrome OS?" post. While Dell was left off the list, I'm not surprised to see their name in the project files. Who better to help sell your OS to consumers than the top 3 OEMs in the game?
Over at TechCrunch, Mike Arrington is hoping Google changes its mind about releasing the Google Voice desktop app they've been dogfooding for some time. The program likely began taking shape after Google acquired VOIP software company Gizmo5 last year. Things looked even better following Google's acquisition of Global IP Solutions -- a company which specializes in media-over-IP technology.
Just when the public was starting to get excited about this amazing new desktop VOIP app, it now appears as though it may never see the light of day. As it turns out, the software likely won't ever be released to the public -- due in no small part to Google's feeling that "legacy desktop apps" have run their course and the Web is the platform of the future.
No problem! Google should be able to deliver a pretty sweet browser-based Voice app, right? Not so fast, says Arrington. According to TechCrunch sources, HTML5 isn't ready for that kind of heavy lifting. One big factor working against it is shoddy microphone support in the still-evolving spec. If you're expecting an in-browser VOIP app, you're not going to see it any time soon... Or are you?
Even if HTML5 isn't ready to shoulder the load, Google has plenty of other tricks up its sleeve which it can leverage right now if they really want to deliver a browser-based Google Voice app which reproduces the awesome desktop app we never saw. The other day word leaked out that Google was beginning to test Google Voice inside Gmail -- which certainly seems to indicate that they want to go the webapp route.
So how could Google make this happen right now? Because --remember -- Mike doesn't want to wait until HTML5 is ready for duty.
For starters, there's Flash. Love it or hate it, Flash is still a useful tool and one thing it's got tucked away in its bag'o'tricks is good microphone and webcam support. On top of that, Flash was recently integrated into Chrome's core as an internal plug-in. And it's still handling video duties over at YouTube until HTML5 is ready to go there, too.
There's also the presence of libjingle in the Chromium source code. Libjingle is a peer to peer interoperability library which is utilized by both Google Talk and Google Voice. According to the FAQ on the project's Google Code page, there's a newpublic version of the lib on the way (they've been continually updating an internal version) . Among the things you could build with libjingle? Google lists:
- A multi-user voice chat application
- A multi-user video conferencing application
- A multi-user live music streaming application
- A peer-to-peer file sharing application
... all of which would be right at home inside a browser-based VOIP communications app.
Last, Chrome also has Native Client. Google developers have been quietly working away at porting a number of Linux libraries to NaCl several of which are related to audio and video. While I don't have confirmation from anyone inside Google, I've got to think that a browser which is now capable of playing Quake (which was ported and demoed on Chrome earlier this year) should also be able to handle VOIP communications.
Armed with these weapons, there's every reason to think that Google has the software artillery it needs to pull off an amazing Gizmo5/Google Voice app for the browser. When will we see this? Sooner than Arrington expects, I believe. Chrome OS is late coming this fall, and this baby would certainly be a killer app to debut with all those shiny new devices...
Bad: It's a perfect example of what is wrong with the Chrome Extensions Gallery.
The themes actually appeared late yesterday, though they looked like extension spam to me. There were no screenshots posted. They're not labeled as themes. Their titles, if you browse via the recent extensions link, only show the name of the country. The image you see below is the "detail" page for the England theme.
It really is time to give themes their own home. Chrome, after all, doesn't take you to the Extensions Gallery when you choose to get themes via the wrench menu's options page. No, it takes you to the themes site.
So how about it Google? Can we please add a "user created" section next to Themes by Artists and Themes by Google and get them out of the Extensions Gallery once and for all?
I actually wanted to cover this one a few days ago, when I first heard about HP's new range of 'just email me!' printers -- but we're not a hardware site! However, now that Google's in on the gig and now that we know Chrome OS played a role in HP's printer development... well, now it's software news! (Fast forward to 31:37 in the video above for the Google Cloud Print presentation.)
If you haven't heard about HP's new printers, it's a complete range, from domestic printers priced at $99 through to enterprise-level machines. They have one amazing trait in common: they're all Web-aware. They all have an email address. You can simply send a document or some photos to that email address and... it prints! I'm trying to find you a link to the actual printersso you can check their specs, but it seems like HP hasn't updated their website yet. Darn.
Google Cloud Print is basically the same thing, but without the email step. You simply press 'print', and Google Cloud Print does the rest. If you've tried printing from your smartphone, you'll probably appreciate just how awesome such a feature would be.
Anyway, Lee and I have been keeping an eye out on the Google Chrome OS source, and the Cloud Print functionality is only available for internal testing at Google. We'll be sure to let you know when it's ready for public testing!
Those of you who -- like me -- run Google Chrome and Chromium on multiple computers with different operating systems probably find its built-in sync abilities incredibly useful. They've been steadily expanded from initially only handling our bookmarks to now syncing just about every personalization option available.
Preferences? Check. Form auto-fill? Check. Theme? Check. Extensions? ...
Maybe not yet, but we all knew it was just a matter of time. With Google pushing the "your apps everywhere" philosophy in Chrome OS, there was no question that our Google Chrome extensions would be added to its preference sync options soon enough.
This morning, extension sync appeared in the Chromium source code. Better still, it's enabled by default -- meaning there's no need to flip a command line switch to turn it on.
It's clear the Chrome developers are hard at work, and there's really not much difference between a .CRX containing a theme and one containing an extension -- and theme sync has been working beautifully for quite some time now.
So when will extension sync hit the Chrome dev channel? Sooner rather than later, I expect.
In truth, I barely notice the page menu is there. Why, they might as well just figure out some way to roll it in to the wrench menu and be done with it... And that's precisely what might happen.
In the Chromium nightly source code, a command line switch has been added to enable a new iteration of the wrench menu. When turned on (on Linux only right now), the page menu disappears and the additional options are rolled into the wrench menu.
The code revision ends with "Note how long the unified menu is." It's longer, obviously, but not distractingly so -- and I think it's a good trade-off. Visually, you're only looking at a couple pixels difference -- but the subtraction makes perfect sense for Google Chrome's minimal UI.
Hey, if your browser is going to boast the simplicity and intuitiveness of a unified address and search bar, why muck about with two separate application menus?
Chrome: Blank Canvas Script Handler is a user script manager for Google Chrome that makes Greasemonkey scripts more compatible with Chrome while also providing a nice interface for managing those user scripts. More »
Blank Canvas Script Handler is an excellent extension to install if you browse with a number of userscripts. Install the extension and a script icon appears in your browser actions area. Click it to display your installed scripts, see what features they utilize, and see where they run. You can also enable and disable scripts, delete them, and edit their source code.
Developer Jerome Dane also hopes to implement all the Greasemonkey functions that are missing in Google Chrome. As Jerome puts it, "Even though Chrome now supports installing user scripts as extensions, they completely left out support for most of the syntax that script writers have been using for years now, so most scripts would have to be redone to work with Chrome."
You can find Blank Canvas in the Google Chrome Extensions Gallery. It's a must-have for userscript fans.
Whether you're on Team Apple or Team Adobe in the whole Flash vs. HTML5 brouhaha, you really can't dispute just how nice some of the new HTML5 and CSS3 features are, and while Microsoft was quick to throw a demo page up to tout IE9's capabilities, Apple for some reason waited until yesterday to post one for Safari.
Google Chrome: Chrome Notepad is an effective extension that syncs notes and even the last place you left off in your document across multiple computers, using Chrome's built-in bookmark sync functionality. More »
The long awaited Google Chrome OS will be make its debut later this year, Sundar Pichai, the head of the Chrome project confirmed yesterday at the Computex Taipei.
Pichai also noted:
Chrome OS is one of the few future operating systems for which there are already millions of applications that work…
You don’t need to redesign Gmail for it to work on Chrome. Facebook does not need to write a new app for Chrome.
Remember those Chrome speed tests? Well, apparently the guys at Opera saw them too, and wanted to one-up Google. The only issue was what approach to take. Google's tests are apparently very well funded and are done by a large crew of dedicated professionals.
PR budgets and relative size differences being what they are, Opera wasn't left with much of a choice but to play the underdog card, ... and they played it hard.
In a highly scientific speed test, you can see a couple of overdone Norwegians trying to pit the Opera browser against the time it takes to cook a potato. I don't want to ruin the end, but let's just say that Opera does come out on top.
No, I don't want to right-click and reopen five tabs just to get back to the one Web page that I want reopened. I want choice! Give me a drop down menu that lets me choose from a selection of recently closed tabs -- like Opera does!
Fortunately, there's a new addition to the Google Chrome Extensions Gallery that bolts on this missing feature. Install Trash Can, and you'll get a handy icon in the browser actions area. As you close tabs in Google Chrome, they'll appear in Trash Can's menu; select only the tab you want, click it, and restore! That's much better.
As the developer states, it's pretty minimalistic right now. Future versions will add support for session saving, multiple Google Chrome windows, and the option to limit how many tabs you want remembered. While Incognito support is also mentioned, I found that Trash Can worked just fine in Chrome's private browsing mode.
ed note: The Recently Closed Tabs extension also offers this kind of functionality (with a few additions like favicons and tumbnails), but it uses about 5x as much memory as Trash Can.
Google Chrome's application shortcuts turn any web site into a separate item on your Windows 7 taskbar, but unfortunately many sites have low-res icons that make your taskbar ugly. Here's the simple trick to make your taskbar beautiful again. More »
My Google Reader was a-buzzin' this morning with talk about ChromeDeck, a utility designed to create and manage multiple Google Chrome profiles. Truth is, it's pretty easy to do this without using a 3rd-party program.
The first step is to add a command line switch to your Google Chrome (or Chromium) shortcut: --enable-udd-profiles. If you need help figuring out how to add a switch, check our tutorial post -- Windows and Linux users follow pretty much the same steps, while Mac users may just want to launch the command from a terminal session.
Once you've added the switch, double-click your shortcut to launch Chrome. Once it's loaded, press control + M to invoke the profile selection menu. You'll have two options initially: default (what you're using right now) and new profile.
Create a new profile, and Chrome will automatically launch a new window with it enabled. You can even run the windows side-by-side, which can be handy for testing web projects, that new extension you're coding, or even just keeping tabs on multiple webmail accounts.
You'll also have the option of creating a desktop shortcut to open Chrome with your new profile. You may notice a little weirdness on your taskbar if you're using Windows 7 and running multiple windows with different profiles simultaneously. One of my icons showed a jumplist, the other did not -- but it did show per-tab thumbnail previews (and the original did not).
While creating new profiles and switching between them isn't that hard using Chrome itself, managing them isn't so easy. For that task, ChromeDeck is actually quite handy -- just make sure you've got .Net 4.0 installed.
Just last month, Google let us know that they were working on "a global browser based plug-in to allow users to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics." It's now here, and ready for users of Chrome, Firefox 3.5 and 3.6, and Internet Explorer 7 and 8.