By Harry McCracken | Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 10:59 pm
Two days ago, I mentioned that the wildly popular, extremely useful Google Toolbar didn’t work in Google’s Chrome browser. I said I missed it. So do legions of other people, judging from the thousands of Toolbar fans who have read that post, and the 140 who have commented on it so far. Who knew that a humble toolbar could be so beloved?
I think it’s pretty much a given that Google will eventually either release a Toolbar for Chrome or essentially build in all of its functionality. But it’ll only happen on Google’s timetable, and I suspect it isn’t priority #1. And while Toolbar is cool, it’s not exactly advanced technology–what it does, mostly, is to provide fast access to various Google services.
Is it possible to put together a stopgap? After reading some of the comments to my original post, in which folks discussed putting bookmarks in Chrome’s Bookmarks Bar to mimic certain aspects of the Toolbar, I decided to try to fake the whole damn thing. Call it Project Fakebar, if you will.
If you want to follow along with this experiment at home, a few notes:
1) Start by clicking on Chrome’s wrench icon and selecting “Always show bookmarks bar.” We’re going to fake it into doubling as a pseudo-toolbar, so it needs to stay open.
2) In the instructions below, I link to Web pages that include bookmarklet links–just drag the bookmarklet links onto the Bookmarks Bar to place ‘em there. You can also drag them around to reorder them if you like.
3) I also link to pages that I’ll turn into bookmarks; just click on my link, then click the star to the left of Chrome’s address bar (aka Omnibox) and make sure that Bookmarks Bar is selected as the folder, then click Close.
4) I edited the names of most of the bookmarks to match Google Toolbar’s names; you can do this by right-clicking on the bookmarks once they’re in the Bookmarks Bar.
5) You may not be silly enough to add all the bookmarks I discuss below–but you can, of course, add only the ones you care about, for a Google Partial Fakebar. Or you can use other bookmarks and bookmarklets to fashion a Google Custom Fakebar.
Here’s what I did, starting from the left-hand side of the Toolbar:
Truth to tell, the search field in the Google Toolbar would be kind of superfluous in Chrome, since you can do searches right from the browser’s Omnibox. And I know of no way to truly replicate the Toolbar’s search experience. But the Google Toolbar wouldn’t be the Google Toolbar without search. So let’s use the Google search bookmarklet available here. You can highlight any text on a Web page, then click it to Google that text; if you haven’t highlighted anything, it’ll ask you for text.
Search for News Articles
This icon is basically a link to Google News; we can replicate it easily enough with a simple Google News bookmark.
New buttons available for your Toolbar!
This icon leads to some additional Toolbar features. We can be true to its spirit, if not its specifics, by creating a bookmark that leads to this nifty Google Operating System blog post that includes additional Google-related bookmarklets. Once it’s in the Fakebar, you can click the link to get to a page of additional bookmarklets to drag onto the Fakebar.
Click this icon and you go to Gmail; click the little arrow to the right, and your inbox pops up, letting you check your mail without leaving the page you’re on. I don’t know of any way to replicate that latter feature, but a simple bookmark for Gmail handles the first part.
Bookmark This Page
Click this star, and you bookmark the current page using Google’s Web-based bookmarks, which should have some sort of integrated support in Chrome but don’t. This bookmarklet lets you do the same thing.
This link proves access to a drop-down list of your Web-based bookmarks. The drop-down part we can’t replicate, but a simple bookmark can take us to the bookmarks’ online version.
This link gives you Google’s PageRank for the site you’re on–a gauge of how important the Google search engine thinks it is. So can this bookmarklet. The arrow to the right of the PageRank link provides access to more features: one that lets you see Google’s cache of the page (replicable with bookmarklet #5 here), one that lets you see similar pages (bookmarklet #6), and one that shows pages that link to the page you’re on (bookmarklet #7). If we really want to be obsessive, we can fake the drop down by creating a folder on Chrome’s Bookmark Bar, putting all the bookmarklets into it, and changing their names to match the Toolbar’s terminology, like so:
This lets you spell-check Web forms. Chrome has built-in spellchecking, so we can get away with not trying to replicate this–which is fortunate, since the SpellingCow bookmarklet doesn’t seem to work in Chrome.
This turns information on Web pages into links–hotlinking an address to a Google Maps map, for instance. I know of no way to replicate this in Chrome. Betcha that Google builds autolinking into the browser at some point, though.
This link/drop-down lets you send links to Web info via Gmail, Blogger, or SMS. The Gmail This bookmarklet handles Gmail, and BlogThis takes care of Blogger. Both Google and Yahoo used to offer SMS services, but they seem to have discontinued them; if know of a way to replicate ‘em, let me know. As with PageRank, we can put a folder on the Bookmark Bar and rename the links to simulate the dropdown:
The little highlighter icons highlights the keywords from your most recent search. So does bookmarklet #10 here.
So there you go. I added all these bookmarklets and bookmarks to the Bookmark Bar, edited their names to match the Toolbar (I used a * for the Bookmark This Page’s star), and ended up with this:
It’s not as pretty as the Google Toolbar and doesn’t replicate all of its features, nor make the ones it does provide as convenient. But hey, it’s a start.
Of course, you might not want to dedicate most of your Bookmark Bar’s real estate to the Fakebar. It’s easy enough to create a folder on the Bookmark Bar called Fakebar–right-click and choose “Add Folder…”–and then drag all the bookmarklets and bookmarks into it. That creates a much more space-efficient Fakebar that isn’t really a bar. Which, come to think of it, is in keeping with Chrome’s minimalist spirit:
I’d hoped to post all the bookmarks and bookmarklets needed to create the Fakebar on this site, so you could grab them and bring them into Chrome without much work. But Chrome has no way to open a file of bookmarks, and when I tried loading the Fakebar into IE or Firefox and using Chrome’s browser settings importing feature to get ‘em into Chrome, it didn’t work properly. So if you want a Fakebar, you’ll need to follow my instructions about, which involve about ten minutes’ worth of work.
I had fun putting together the Fakebar; if nothing else, it reminded of just how handy bookmarklets are. If you can build a better Fakebar than mine–or figure out how to automate the process–lemme know how you managed to do it!