Google sure has been busy lately. Gmail has a brand new look, Google+ received some new add-ons and even YouTube is getting a facelift. But did you notice the changes to Google Reader? If you’re a regular user, you must have noticed how the color scheme changed, how the spacing changed in list mode, and to top it all off, that you can’t share items anymore, unless you use Google+.
As opposed to Gmail, where you can control the spacing between items in the new look, no such option has been added to Google Reader. This means your screen is now less utilized and you can see less items in your feed, just because of added padding. And if you were used to sharing items via Reader’s sharing options, they no longer exists. The only way to share is via Google+. So what are avid Google Reader users to do?
Here are two add-ons that will help you restore some of these features and get your good old Reader back.
Reader Sharer [Chrome]
Reader Sharer is a simple Chrome add-on that restores the sharing functionality to Google Reader. If you want to continue sharing through Google Reader with its own sharing configuration, or if you simply don’t have Google+ and don’t feel like opening an account just so you can share, you should definitely try out Reader Sharer.
Once you install the add-on, head over to Reader and check if your sharing buttons have been restored. You might need to refresh the page to get them back. But sure enough, here they are!
Reader Sharer restores the entire Reader sharing interface. You can set up who you want to share with, and then share items or share with note, exactly like it used to be. The sharing settings are now back on your sidebar where they used to be, between “All items” and “Explore”.
Reader Sharer comes in two versions. One that simply adds the sharing options (linked above), and another one which also takes care of the new spacing problem in list mode. Using the second version, you can kill two birds with one rock – get your sharing options back and fix the spacing.
Reader Sharer [Firefox]
Reader Sharer Monkey for Firefox comes in just one version, the one that also takes care of the spacing problem. This is not a Firefox add-on, but a Greasemonkey userscript. In order to get it, you have to first install Greasemonkey, and then head over to the userscript page and install the script.
Now, when you open Google Reader, all your sharing options will be back, and the extra spacing in list mode will be reduced.
If you’re OK with Google+ sharing, and don’t want to mess with sharing options, try FixStyleSheet for GoogleReader. This is a simple Chrome extension that does just one thing: it changes the new spacing in Google Reader and lets you use your screen efficiently again. Here is what Google Reader looks like in list mode with the new look:
It’s not that this looks especially bad, but many people have lots of different feeds, and the more items you have on your screen, the easier it is to scan through them and find what you really want to read. The extra spacing also makes the post excerpt smaller, which makes it just a bit harder to understand what the post is about without clicking.
If you’re ready to fix this, download FixStyleSheet, and take another look at Google Reader. The change is automatic, you don’t even have to refresh.
See how much more compact it is? On my 15’’ screen, it increased the number of posts I can see without scrolling from 13 to 23! That’s a lot of wasted space recovered.
Another small thing FixStyleSheet does is make the post view a bit wider and a bit more compact. This is what it normally looks like:
And this is what it looks like after installing the add-on. The title is now smaller, and the whole post stretches over a somewhat wider area, so it takes up less room on your screen.
The change is not huge here, but if you’re minimalistic and don’t care much for formatting, it’s a nice change.
Changes to the user interface of a product you use regularly is always a tough ride. We all have our way of doing things, and when a company comes in and changes everything on us, we’re bound to be looking for ways to soften the blow. This doesn’t mean the change is necessarily bad.
Making users share only through Google+ is quite a different move, and is not necessarily meant to improve our experience as users, but to improve Google+’s standing. So don’t be shy, if you’ve been using the share option in Google Reader, get the add-on and resume your normal sharing routine.
What do you think of all these changes from Google? Do you like the changes to Reader, or are there other elements to the change you don’t like? Share in the comments!
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