An experiment worth enabling

The Opera browser has had this for a while and it’s been indispensable for me. Typically, I have a few tabs open in my browser. Actually that’s a lie, I have far too many open and then when I start going down rabbit holes, it gets out of hand.

The problem happens when I want to return to a tab that I have open – somewhere. After a while, each tab gets squished so that only the icon of the site remains. Opera has had me covered for a while now. By floating my cursor over each tab, it displays a preview in the middle of my screen.

So, for example, I know that in among all the shared documents, there’s one that I share with Stephen Hurley and guest host for This Week in Ontario Edublogs. I just hover over the document icons until the preview pops up.

I recognize the content and click the tab to resume work on it.

A similar feature is available on Safari for Macintosh in preparation for MacOS 11 and the Vivaldi browser.

In Google Chrome, there was a hover feature but it was limited to the title of the window. No preview of the actual page …

A similar feature wasn’t available in Google Chrome until recently. It’s actually not officially there even now. I was reading about current “experiments” and this one sounded promising.

I enabled it, did the reboot of the browser, and voila! It doesn’t give the huge preview that Opera does but enough to give me an idea of what’s happening.

Now, experiments always come with a warning that things may not work perfectly, you’re doing so at your own risk, and you should undo the setting if you run into problems.

To date, this has been a very good actor for me and I like it. Productive time has increased as I spend less time looking for that elusive tab in my admittedly messy workspace. I suspect that this will be an official feature at some point.

For now, if you’re interested, just go to the chrome://flags/ page and look for

Tab Hover Card Images

enable it, and then reboot your browser.

Of course, the standard message about experiments applies.

If you try this, I’d be interesting in hearing your thoughts.

And of course, even geeky people don’t like new features. Here’s how to turn it off!

Not now but soon

There is a new feature in the latest version (86) of the Google Chrome browser that you might enjoy. I know that I’ve always had a workaround, typically by installing an extension. Even worse, I’ve been known to leave the tab open in my browser hoping that I’ll get around to reading it later.

The newest version is built right into the browser albeit as one of the experiments indicating that it may not necessarily end up as a permanent feature although it’s hard to believe that it won’t.

You enable it by going to http://chrome://flags/ and flip the switch on “Read Later”. It does require a browser reload to kick in.

This adds a new feature that you can access by right clicking on the tab that you want to save to read later. Just select “Read tab later”.

The tab closes and goes away and your bookmark bar now features an option labelled “Reading List” at the right of the bookmarks bar.

Select the Reading list and there is your reading, nicely tucked away.

Select the tab that you want to read, it’s restored and away you go. It isn’t automatically removed from your Reading List; it’s just moved to the bottom and a page that you’ve read. In the meantime, your browser uses less resources since it doesn’t have to keep the tab active.

If you really are done with the tab, when you highlight the article, a little X appears to let you remove the tab from your Reading List.

Easy peasy and I’m finding it pretty slick. Hopefully, it remains as a permanent feature to the browser. (And, others replicate it)

This grouping is ok

This type of social grouping is a good thing!

Life for me was so simple long ago on the web when the concept of tabs hadn’t been invented. One window, one website was the norm.

Then comes along the ability to have tabs in the browser and I jumped at the opportunity. And, if two tabs are good, then twenty must be better. Before long, it was like my elementary school principal used to call “a dog’s breakfast”. I never understood the concept then because we only fed our dog once a day, after supper.

I came to understand it as meaning a mess and it does truly describe the top of my screen at times.

My primary window right now…

On the other monitor, I have even more as I work on my Friday “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” post.

With tab development, we kind of got a break when we could pin tabs but even then, it gets difficult and it can be hard to tell tabs apart – especially when you have so many the browser shrinks the tab to fit them into the space on your monitor. Thank goodness for favicons. Things that I use all the time get pinned and the rest just sort of evolves until I can’t find anything and I’m forced to close some or use the OneTab extension to tuck them away.

With the release of Google Chrome 81 comes another formal option – creating tab groups. So, for example, I have a number of email accounts that I monitor – I could group them all together into one group called email.

The process is relatively simple. To get started, click on a tab and “Add to new group” or “Add to existing group”.

You can give it a colour and a name if you wish…

In addition to my email group, I’ll have a group especially for the reading sites that I use.

I could see, perhaps, grouping popular tabs by subject area. I guess you’re only limited by imagination.

I’m going to give it a shot for a while on Chrome and see what happens. Maybe it will make me more efficient or productive. Or maybe I’ll get confused as to where things are. Who knows?

Look for this feature to be replicated in other browsers if it catches on.

New .new stuff

I mentioned last week about attending the session delivered by Nicole Batte and Leslie Boerkamp dealing with extensions for Google Chrome. In particular, one extension was of interest to me – Google Docs Quick Create.

It seems like a very powerful extension and I did explore it a bit. The reviews are mixed though. But, the internet can be kind of troll-ish and besides, things are constantly changing and issues will undoubtedly be addressed. The author offers you to fork his code on GitHub so that could help the cause as well.

I didn’t keep the extension though. I’m cognisant of the performance hits that can be taken on your computer and browser with too many extensions or, even worse, too many tabs open.

Besides, I already had that functionality.

I can’t believe that it was over a year ago when I first started playing around with Google’s .new site and functionality. I remember specifically because I was doing a presentation about Hyperdocs. At one point, I had demonstrated to the group how to repurpose a Webquest into a Hyperdoc and I had used the command to create and open a new Google document for that purpose. The crowd gasped.

At least in my mind.

There was actually a pause in the presentation while I had to explain what I had done. Of course, a Google Document wasn’t the only thing that could be created. Sheets and Slides were there as well.

Each could easily be invoked by typing the URL in the address bar. It’s not limited to Google Chrome; it works in any browser since it’s just an address. So, it’s equally as functional in Firefox. Ever in search of something more productive, these things work nicely as a bookmark! So, I had created the three of them and then put them together into a folder on my bookmark bar in all my browsers.

As often happens, I forgot about it until the presentation. Those in attendance were impressed with how easy students could create new documents. It definitely would work for that.

After the presentation, I forgot again until this past weekend when I read this blog post on the Google site.

10 shortcuts made possible by .new

It’s just not the three shortcuts that I’d previously been using. In fact, there are a few more. I took a look through the list. If there’s something that I do repeatedly, it only makes sense to add them to my bookmarks. And I did. My list now looks like…

If you read the article, Google is letting people apply for new .new domains. The good news is that there may be more productivity shortcuts on the way. This is a good thing.

How about a .new to create a WordPress post?

Whole lotta extensions going on

Not related to this topic but I love this song anyway…

The session “There’s an Extension for That” was given by these ladies at the Bring IT, Together Conference.

I’m a sucker for sessions like these.

I firmly believe that owning a browser is just a starting point. You make it “yours” by customising the look and functionality. It makes no difference whether you’re using Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, or any of the other alternatives. They all browse the web well.

I’m a long time Firefox user and have always thought that you could turn a good experience into a great experience by adding addons that extend the functionality of the browser. I have my favourite collections – devoted to privacy and what I need for functionality.

But, I’m not confident enough that I have the best of the best or that I have them all. I enjoy sessions where people identify what extensions they use and how it makes them productive. I’m not above stealing borrowing a good idea.

That led me to this session, run on Leslie’s laptop, to see what these two presenters felt were important to them. I remember thinking that surely, surely, all of these extensions were loaded on Leslie’s computer just for the sake of the presentation and not that they’re always there!

I like the presentation dynamic that they had. Leslie was seated and operating the computer while Nicole gave us the description of the extension and what they felt was the value for them. The presentation moved along very quickly and if you were taking notes, you might have missed something. Thankfully, they shared their presentation.

The presentation was done in Chrome but most of the extensions/addons are available for all browsers.

I would encourage you to walk your way through the presentations and see what they’ve identified as their “Best of the best” choices. We can always learn from others.