July 25, 2011
The flood of Google Chrome browser add-ons for Google+ continues. One of the latest is Google+ Ultimate. I took a look.
A theming and presentation plugin, Cory Lulu's Google+ Ultimate lets you control various aspects of how Google+ presents itself in your browser. Most of the changes available to you are entirely cosmetic. Think feature placement, not underlying functionality. But Google+ Ultimate shows how malleable the Google+ service is.
I wish Google+ allowed some of the changes available here as defaults. Sometimes Google's sparse aesthetic is trying. I like conveniences such as the ability to allow the left-hand and top navigation bars to always be visible. Another Google+ Ultimate tweak I like: Give status messages bolder margins and rounded corners, That makes them a little easier on the eyes. Among the more radical changes available in Google+ Ultimate is an experimental feature called Side By Side View. If you've got an extra-wide screen, use this to view items in your stream two at a time. It isn't hard to figure out that you read across -- then down. But each stream item is numbered. Compact Navigation, also designed for wide screens, moves some more navigation controls into the top bar.
Google+ Ultimate also lets you move the chat function into the top bar. Note the Facebook / Twitter links are relocated here. These came via the Start G+ integration plugin. Here's an issue I ran into. Using multiple Google+ modifications at the same time causes interference. For instance, I was using the Start G+ integration option to have Facebook and Twitter streams available from links shown below the Sparks section at left. Using Google+ Ultimate caused those links to move into the status bar dropdown -- the dropdown that contained the relocated Chat function. Not a major breakage, but all the same it hints at how these things work at cross-purposes. This is, I fear, a problem with the way plugins work in Chrome across the board. It's as yet unclear to me, as a user, what the binding order is for plugins that act on the same resource--or even if you can define an order at all. I'm hoping future revisions of Chrome will take this into account. In its services, Google has always favored Ikea-esque minimalism over style. The more we use our web browsers as environments, as opposed to as applications, the more robust they need to be on every front. Serdar Yegulalp is managing editor of reviews at BYTE. Email him at [email protected].
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