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We might not notice it, but minimalism is everywhere. In art, architecture, lifestyles, and of course in web design. Minimalism is a movement and though one can say it is about simplicity, it may not be entirely true. It is about getting to the essence of something by removing the non-essentials. So, when one talks about Gmail and Google Reader, the non-essentials have a long list of their own.
It is ironic that a web service which dominates the world with an austere, barebones interface has a few allied services which are cluttered. In my opinion, Gmail and Google Reader are not very cluttered. Is it because we have learnt to live with them? Whatever might be your opinion, it is also true that they can be made simpler and easier on the eyes.
Minimalist for Everything is one of the options you can consider to reduce Gmail and Google Reader to the bare essentials. It is a follow up to the deprecated Minimalist for Gmail.
Why Move Towards Minimalism?
Google was among the first, and to a large extent still is one of the companies that makes intelligent use of whitespace. But Gmail (and also Google Reader has elements you hardly use (e.g. the chat box or the profile photo). Chrome extensions like Minimalist for Everything give you the ability to customize Gmail and Google Reader for better usability and reclaim more whitespace. I personally think that removing distracting elements improves productivity in subtle ways, and what could be better than turning your favorite web app into a productivity beast.
There are quite a few other options that let you change Gmail’s appearance. From the well-recommended Gmelius to the broader Stylish. Simple Greasemonkey scripts also help you customize the app’s interface are available by the dozen. So, it’s not about choices…they are aplenty. It’s about usability, and that’s where we put Minimalism for Everything to the test.
Installing Minimalism for Everything
If you are on Chrome and Gmail and Google Reader are your go-to apps, then Minimalist for Everything should be an essential install. We have it on our Best Chrome Extensions page for this very reason. Minimalist for Everything is not only an ad-blocker on Gmail and Google Reader; it lets you zap you unneeded clutter with nothing more than a selection against their names.
Straight out of the box, Minimalist for Everything comes with modules for Gmail and Google Reader. Operation is simple:
- Click on the Minimalist icon.
- Click on Dashboard.
- Enable one or more modules.
- Click Options to change that module’s options (Modules have all options disabled by default)
- Go through the tabs and select the options you want by previewing each element.
- Click on Save Changes.
The extension detects if you have a Google account open, else it shows that Gmail or Google Reader are disabled. Once you log into an account, you can click to enable the extension and go to work selecting and deselecting interface elements. Click on Options…
As you can see, you have a preview of what you are changing. Let’s go on a de-cluttering blitzkrieg across the header, toolbar, footer, and sidebar elements.
Here’s the interface of a Gmail before any style tweaks:
Here’s the interface of Gmail after applying a few style tweaks:
I gave the unread emails a green highlight. Of course, it won’t always serve to cut down all the interface elements as some like the search bar and the toolbar are always needed. You can effectively use it to hide the chat box if you don’t use it that often and the ads of course – though there’s nothing in the dashboard for the top most ads. I have done it to merely illustrate the level of minimalism you can achieve. Also, the Google Toolbar can be made to re-appear with a mouse-over the spot.
Extra Modules for Greater Flexibility
If you don’t know how to, just tweaking Gmail and Google Reader could be beneficial enough.
Sometimes Quirky but Still Pretty Good….
Make no mistake. Minimalist for Everything is probably one of the most customizable extensions out there. But it does exhibit a few erratic behaviors. Or at least in my case it did. For instance, you might need to refresh the Gmail or Google Reader page manually to make the changes apparent. I noticed it while making the color changes.
The image preview of all options is very helpful and really cuts short the time to go through the settings. Disabling the tweaks and enabling them again didn’t break the interface changes. Yes, right now non-coders have only Google Reader and Gmail to go with. You would expect a few more user-created modules out there, but that’s just a small grouse. (Stylish is better in this regards.) I do most of my reading on these two apps anyway. An iota of productivity with Gmail and Google Reader is always welcome. What do you think? Tell us if Minimalist for Everything manages to hold its own or do you have another alternative to customize your favorite website chalked down?