More customisations …


With the new version 77 Beta of Chrome OS comes something that I’ve wanted for a long time.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve got a thing for green themes so I’ve off to the Chrome store in search of the perfect theme. The problem is that I haven’t found the exact colour. So, I’d taken to written my own theme and applied it. Now, if you’re interested in creating your own customisation, you don’t have to go that far.

It starts at the “New Tab” page.

In the bottom right corner, you’ll find an option to Customise things that brings up this dialogue.

You can make your own clever background from stock items or upload something of your own. But, check out the bottom option for Colour and Theme.

And, if there isn’t the perfect colour and shade, head into the colour picker…

There is no longer any excuse for not having that perfect colour any longer.

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Virtual desks


I’ve been a longtime user of virtual desktops on my computers. It’s my way of trying to stay sort of organized and not get confused with what I’m doing. Or at least minimizing that confusion.

Up until now, virtual desktops weren’t available in Chrome OS but a recent release now makes it possible. Here’s how.

Enable it. It’s actually something that you need to make happen before the magic happens. It’s easy enough. By now, you should know that there are many things available in the chrome://flags screen when you type it in your address bar. Search for desks and enable them.

You’ll have to reboot your computer to make it active.

Show windows. I’m not quite sure what this key is actually called. You can use it to take screenshots and also to see all the windows that are open. It’s the key just above the 6 on your keyboard! Press it.

Create a new desk

In the top right, there’s a + New desk option that lets you add a new desk to your computer. A thumbnail of each desktop will appear centred on the screen. Above, you’ll see that I have three desks open.

Choose your desk

Once you have as many desks (up to 4) that you want, select the desk that you want to use and away you go. As you work, subsequent show windows actions will show you up to date thumbnails.

Alternatively, ALT+TAB will let you cycle through desks just like you would normally switch through windows. And, if you have content on one desk that you want on another, just drag and drop it where it’s needed.

Personally, I typically have three desks in operation. Two instances of Chrome – each isolated on a particular task, and an instance of Opera open. Periodically, I’ll open another desk to run another Android option if the urge comes.

Chromium Edge


As I was thinking about this, I wonder if Google takes offense to being paired with Edge or if Microsoft takes offense to being tied to the Chromium project and its Google connections.

Or maybe not.

It will come as no surprised to regular readers that I have this newish browser installed on my computer and I’m using it to write this blog post. I’ve had the Developer Edition installed since it was made available. In today’s world, we’re going to want the best browser we can have, n’est-ce pas? So, I’ve been kicking the tires with Microsoft’s proposed successor to its original Edge. I’m guessing that Edge didn’t have the uptake or the features that Microsoft wanted as a standalone offering and so wanted to join the Chromium world with all of the others – Chromium, Chrome, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, …

As luck would have it, I have those installed on this computer as well. Each has its own unique features. With my slow internet connection, advertisement blocking is crucial and so Opera and Brave were welcomed with open arms with their built-in blockers. The others achieve the blocking via extension so that is good. So many extensions have been written to go along with Chromium and they slide nicely into place with all of the products. Interestingly, the others have their own store but will let you click through to the big repository at Google to add others.

As with all of the browsers that I use, I’m a big reader of their blog and updated features; Edge’s is here.

It’s also the place where you can download the application for your computer if you’re so inclined. And, you’re not just limited to Windows 10.

The Developer’s Channel has served me well so I don’t see myself changing at any time in the near future.

All of the browsers based on Chromium have their own unique customizations. For example, Edge lets you adjust your new tab page.

In true modern fashion, none of the browsers claim to be finished. Updates and features are to be expected and we will only be winners as a result.

There is a nebulous (at least to me) part of all of these and that deals with how they handle Privacy. Adding an extension is easy enough. Generally, you do it because you want a feature and you can tell whether or not a feature is working properly just by using it. Privacy always seems just like a claim to me. How do I know that those little switches and options actually do what you think they might? I’d love to know the answer to that and how to test for it.

In the meantime, my quest for the ultimate browser continues. I didn’t know what to expect from Chromium Edge but I’m pleasantly pleased. There really is no learning curve to getting started and customization isn’t a big deal anymore.

Will this be the ultimate winning browser? I don’t know but it’s fun running it through my regular routine and seeing that it holds up nicely.

Saving things


I had a question posed to me today about curating the content for my Friday posts. It’s an ongoing thing that happens as I do regular reading throughout the week. The problem is that I like to have a number of posts and yet I don’t find them all in a single sitting. It may take close to a week to find what I’d like to include in the post.

In the beginning, I tried a number of ways to save them until I wrote the actual post on Thursday.

  • saved into a Google Document
  • saved into Google Keep
  • saved into OneNote
  • saved right into a new WordPress post

All worked well and got the job done. The only problem was that I’d have to go looking for them and bring them forward while creating the actual post. I thought that there had to be a better way. The easiest way was just to leave the blog post open in its own tab and then pull things together for the post. It had the added advantage of being open to look at and discuss during the Wednesday voicEd Radio show.

The only problem is that I have this bad habit of leaving a lot of tabs open! In addition to the blog posts, I have other things that I want to read or re-read or work my way through. It got really messy. So messy, in fact, that there are times when my computer just became very sluggish because of the demands on memory.

I changed my tactics. Why not look for a way to just manage tabs better. So, off I went and tried a number of different extensions. To make things difficult, the solution had to work on Chrome, Opera, Brave, and Firefox because, well just because. Regular readers know why.

I ended up using OneTab and it has been a really good solution for me. It basically sits as an icon in my browser and I have it configured to collapse all of my unpinned tabs into, ready for it?, one tab in my browser.

It’s just a click away.

Additional options appear here

And, it’s configurable too.

The configurability put it over the top for me. It’s now part of my regular routine; it’s been a “temporary” bookmarking tool for me. My “permanent” tool is Diigo.

Back to my routine, when it comes time to write the blog post, I just go to my OneTab tab, find the post I want, click on it and it’s ready to go in its own tab.

It’s just that easy and configurable.

Simplify your email


I don’t normally do a lot of work with social media in the evenings. That’s family time and normally we’re out doing something. But, with the rain last night, we were home and I had my laptop open on the table next to me.

This message from Peter Beens flew by…

If you’re a Gmail user you need this extension. It took me all of 10 seconds to decide I’m keeping it. The only thing I miss is the Apps icon but it’s not a big deal. Thank you @leggett!
“The former lead designer of Gmail just fixed Gmail on his own”https://t.co/BZiCNpVkWB— Peter Beens (@pbeens) April 25, 2019

Now, Peter is one of my go-to people for sharing information about Google so I grabbed the laptop and read the article.

Interesting.

As I’ve lamented on this blog before, I miss the Inbox program from Google. Like many, I hoped that its impact would have changed Gmail. Sadly, some of the features have but the overall look is much the same. I’ve looked for replacements and haven’t had much luck but the story above looked interesting.

A quick download later and I was in business. My first reaction was the Gmail didn’t fully load! I’d been used to so much cruft. I clicked through and read the documentation from the developer. Click through and see the screen captures to get a sense of how he did Simplify Gmail.

He explained that the extension was mostly CSS and gave the obligatory promise about not stealing your information. So, I’m playing around with it and I really like it.

So, kudos to Peter for staying ahead of the curve and sharing his learning. After all, that’s why we create and maintain learning networks, isn’t it? I do agree with Peter that the Application Launcher would be nice. I also use the right sidebar quite a bit and was pleased to see that it was reduced to a popup button in the bottom right corner of the screen.

As it would happen, a story talking about this extension appeared in my morning reading. But, thanks to Peter, I had scooped the information 12 hours in advance.

You can download the extension and try it out for yourself here. If you’re a longtime Gmail user, it make a bit of getting used to it. Your screen is just so clean!

Try it yourself


If you’re like me, you probably hear and read a lot about this.  “Chromebooks aren’t real computers”.

I always like to challenge back with a why?

The answers are typical – it doesn’t run Photoshop.  Or, I’m not always connected to the Internet.

So, I’ll add a reply to that – “When was the last time you used Photoshop?”  “Did you buy your current computer just because of Photoshop?” “If you could install a program on your Chromebook and could run it offline, would that change your perspective?”

Now, the misconception of a Chromebook’s capabilities undoubtedly stem back to the beginning when it really was a browser in a box needing an Internet connection.  It’s just that it’s come a long way since then but the Internet never forgets.  Neither do some of the silly people who still maintain that it’s just a browser.

In fact, the whole concept like the Chrome browser and Chromebook has come so far.  And, you’re not limited to just that; modern Chromebooks run Android and some are experimenting with Linux.

And yes, it’s not the product of universal choice in schools.  I’d be up in arms if someone indicated that a Computer Science or Drafting or Visual Arts program would be equally as served.  But, there are so many other areas where the Chromebook does a terrific job.

So terrific, in fact, that we’re now seeing that Microsoft is developing a version of Windows to put computers at the same price point.  That’s going to be interesting.

In the meantime, you owe it to yourself to get yourself up to speed.  To that end, you should check out the Chromebook Simulator in your current system.

chromebook

Even if you are a Chromebook user, there’s always something new to learn.  Maybe a little time in the simulator will change the opinions of some or make others more sophisticated users!

Make your own


I’ve been doing a bit of tweaking of the way my browser looks recently and sharing them here on this blog. In the past, I’ve played around with Google offered themes and the Chinese Zodiac ones.

Yesterday, I had the laptop out on the patio enjoying the warm spring (finally) weather and decided to create my own. That’s where I learned about the Chrome Theme Creator.

At 1.1 million themes already created at this site, I was definitely late to this party!

As a visitor, there are two options.

One is to download someone else’s work and install it as the theme for your browser. You can find something that comes close and then look to related themes or use the hashtags for each theme to find similarly tagged themes.

The second is to create your own. And, with the onscreen editor, it’s simple.

Just work your way through the four steps and you too can be a designer.

Now, I supposed if you were artistically inclined, it would be easy. For people who are challenged in this area like me, it sounds easier than it is. It’s not that it’s not easy to do – it actually is. It’s just finding colours that work well together.