Most of us use at least one Google service each day – usually much more than just one. Search, Gmail, Reader, Calendar, Drive, Play, YouTube…. this is just a partial list of the services we use every day. And for good reason, too. Google’s services are not popular just because they have the name “Google” next to them – they’re actually very good, and constantly provide their competitors with inspiration and ideas.
Even Google isn’t perfect, though. In fact, it’s far from it. While Gmail, Reader and the rest are extremely useful, there’s always room for improvement, and thanks to some excellent browser add-ons, it’s easy to upgrade our favorite Google services and make them even slicker, more accessible, and, well, just better.
Do you have a secret desire to have all your Google services look like this? Your dreams can come true with the help of a browser add-on called Google Redesigned. At first, I assumed Google Redesigned will let me control what my Google services look like, or at least offer several redesign options to choose from, but after seeing this new look on my Gmail, Reader, Calendar and Drive, I no longer wished for control.
If you’re a dark-theme buff, you’re going to love this redesign. If you’re a minimalist, you’re going to love this redesign. Actually, no matter who you are, you’re probably going to love it. Google Redesign can redesign Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Reader and Google Drive (which it still refers to as Docs). You can choose which of these services you want to redesign, and which you want to keep in the same old look by clicking on the add-on’s icon.
The only caveat: some services may be slightly less responsive, depending on the service, your browser, your computer, etc. Try it out to see for yourself.
Google Reader Mag [Chrome]
Google Reader Mag is powered by Feedly, and before you use if for the first time you’ll have to grant it access to your Google Reader. The add-on is different from the regular Feedly add-on – it automatically takes over your Google Reader and turns it into a Feedly-like experience. All your favorite feeds are already there, organized just the way you like them, and the only thing you need to do is start reading.
The interface is much nicer and cleaner than the native Google Reader, and you can choose to view your feeds in several visual ways such as magazine style, cards (seen above), mosaic, and more. When reading articles, you can easily share on Google+, Twitter or Facebook, save articles for later and add tags, and send articles to Instapaper, Pocket, Evernote, and others.
Google Shortcuts [Firefox & Chrome]
What better way to enhance your Google services than to access them easily? Google Shortcuts adds shortcut buttons to any Google service you can dream of, especially if you’re stuck sometime in 2010. Yes, the add-on is a little outdated, and includes services like Google Wave and the “Android Market”, but being completely customizable, you can add whatever service you see fit.
You can also choose between having buttons on the toolbar itself, as seen above, or in a configurable dropdown menu, as see below.
You can control the name, URL and position of each shortcut, as well as the browser’s tab behavior when a shortcut is clicked.
Integrated Google Calendar [Firefox]
Google Calendar really is a useful little service, but for some reason, it never felt truly accessible to me. This is not something I can explain logically, but to me, a calendar needs to be right there whenever I want to use it, and Google Calendar is always too many clicks away. Not anymore. Integrated Google Calendar is a simple little add-on that takes Google Calendar out of.. well, wherever it usually is, and brings it right to your Firefox toolbar. Want to see your calendar? Click the toolbar icon or use your designated keyboard shortcut, and voila, there it is!
You can change the window’s size, move it around and pin it so it stays always on top. You can even set it to delay its load when starting Firefox, so as to now slow anything down more than necessary.
The Google bar went through several iterations in the past year, but for now, it seems that we’re settled on the thin black bar with its More and Even More options. The current Google bar is nice and unobtrusive, but it also decides for you which Google services are the most accessible. By default, you get links to search, images, maps, Google Play, and the rest you can see below.
But what if you don’t need a link to Google Search staring at you on every Google service? What if you’d rather have a quick link to Google Reader, or Google Translate? Google doesn’t ask you what you want or don’t want, but this add-on does. after installation (note that you’ll probably have to restart your browser to get it to work), you’ll find a new cog icon on the left side of your Google bar. Use this cog menu to start rearranging your Google services.
Note that you don’t drag items onto the bar itself. Use the cog menu to arrange the items as you see fit, and watch them change on the bar itself as you go. It’s a little unintuitive at first, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
So how do you make your Google services even better? Any favorite add-ons or plugins? Share them in the comments!
Image credit: shiny image via Shutterstock
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