Things to Do: Plain Simple Task List on Chrome New Tab Page

The featured extension today is extremely simple.  It is a handy tool that helps Chrome user to remember important things and enhance productivity.

Things to Do - Chrome Extension

Have you ever thought that the new tab page in Chrome (i.e. the page that opens when a new tab is opened) is not quite useful?  For many people who do not install many web apps, the new tab page does not do much other than a decent bookmarks page.  The developer of “Things to Do” came up with a better use of this page, i.e. to display you to do list.

Probably since the only function of this extension is productivity enhancement, the developer removed everything that may get your attention distracted.  After installing Things to Do, the only thin you see is a pure text page in white background and black text.  You could customize the look and feel by changing the width and text color, if you do wish to add a little personal touch to it.

Using this extension is extremely easy, just enter the task name in the empty box and hit enter.  As the list grows, you can re-order the items by dragging and dropping.  Deleting an item is as simple as clicking the red cross on the right end.

If you need something simple and effective, Things to Do is a great choice.  However, if you are a frequent web app user and would prefer having the web app icons right in front of you every time you open a new tab, this extension does not help.

 

Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/lpppkimladplpkcafniegcicploefkeo

Google Drive – Why It’s Awesome and How It Makes Chromebook Sexy

Google launched Google Drive on 24 Apr.  I believe it is a significant step that takes cloud living and working into a new era.  In this article I shall briefly introduce what Google Drive is, how to use it and what killer features does it have.

Google Drive Icon

 

Activation

Currently Google Drive is not fully opened to all users.  If you go to http://drive.google.com, chances are you would see the following screen.  Note the “Your Google Drive is not ready yet” message and the “Notify me” button (top right corner).  From here you could ask Google to send you an activation email.

Google Drive - Not Yet Ready

 
It may take hours or days to receive Google’s welcome email, which looks like this:

Welcome to Google Drive

 

Basically Google Drive is an upgrade of Google Docs.  It doesn’t look much different from Google Docs.  You can use it the same way as Google Docs, there is not much of the user interface to learn.

Google Drive
 

Features

But Google Drive is not simply a Google Docs with a larger capacity (Google gives you 5 GB storage for free).  I see a few improvements.
 
Firstly, Google Drive has a built-in OCR function, meaning that if you search for a phrase in your Google Drive, not only would text-based files containing the phrase would come up in search results, pictures which the phrase would also be searched.  Google recognizes the text in graphics form.  Similarly, Google Drive also integrated Google Goggles the image search engine.  So it you try to find “the great wall” in Google Drive, even if the file name does not contain the words, Google Drive could recognize the photo you took in Beijing in your last trip to China.
 
Secondly, just like Dropbox and Skydrive by Microsoft, the desktop app of Google Drive automatically synchronize your files between your Windows PC or Mac and your Google Drive.  There is also an Android app and an iOS app is in the pipeline.  This level of synchronization was not available in the previous Google Docs.

Google Drive for Windows 
 
Thirdly, Google brought web apps into Google Drive.  When I first entered Google Drive, I was asked if I wanted to use Pixlr Editor as the default image viewer and editor.

Google Drive - Web Apps

This is a smart move by Google.  There are way too many online storage competitors in the market, the most famous ones include Dropbox, Box and Skydrive.  Why should we use Google Drive if other companies provide the same (or more) storage space?  By adding web apps to web storage, Google created not only a storage space but an online working space!

 

There is a growing collection of Chrome web apps that support Google Drive.  You can identify these web apps by the Google Drive icon in chrome Web Store:

Chrome Web Store - Google Drive Apps

And you can add more web apps by clicking “Create”, choose “More” and then “Get more apps”.

Google Drive - Get more apps
I see huge potential in integrating Google Drive with web apps.  Image editor, word processor, music player and editor, spreadsheet editor…  All web apps could be ran on the same Google Drive platform, this makes online working and collaboration much easier.  The Google Docs in the past was primitive, it only had basic editing function.  Now when third-party app developers could create web apps that have direct access to Google Drive, more possibilities are created.
 
The launch of Google Drive with web apps also makes Chromebook a much more attractive product.  Users can store all their files online in one place and have them viewed and edited in the same one place.  Chrome OS + Google Drive + web apps is an integrated, independent and complete system.  As long as you have web access, you have access to your files and apps to view/edit your files.  I think Google Drive filled the missing piece of a complete cloud system.  The cloud era has come, now in a more desirable way.
 
Finally watch this introductory video, know what Google Drive is and try it now!

Geo Notepad – Location-based Popup Notification

If you need to carry your notebook computer to work here and there, today’s featured Chrome web app is your good friend.

 

Geo Notepad – Geo-based Reminder

With this app, you can pre-define a number of locations and the reminder / message to display.  This web app uses Chrome to track your location.

Geo Notepad - Chrome Web App

Image source: Lifehacker

Whenever you arrive at your pre-defined locations, the corresponding reminder / message would pop up.  The app requires a WiFi connection to function.

How could you use this app?  You may set a reminder to call your client when you back to the office, or pop up a message when you back from the lecture hall to the dorm.

This kind of app is quite popular in smartphones, but now with Geo Notepad you could do the same in your computer.  Try it here:

 

Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/kcnnkkdebnblllkpddjdlghokigblmml

Official site: http://geonotepad.com

Accessibility Extensions for Chrome and Chrome OS (Google Chrome Tutorial)

Internet is the most effective communication tool nowadays, yet due to limitation in technologies, some people with varying degrees of accessibility issues may be unable to enjoy the internet as much as we do.  This article introduces a few accessibility extensions for Chrome and Chrome OS that helps these people to browse the web.

 

ChromeVis

Many info sites such as newspapers and blogs contain lot of words, to put as much information on the page as possible the texts are usually quite small.  ChromeVis is a a handy tool to address this issue.  It magnifies and highlights texts.  Simply choose an text, ChromeVis will display an enlarged version of it on top of the page.  You can choose the background and text colors to create a high contrast.

ChromeVis - Text Magnifier Extension for Chrome

ChromeVis in Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/halnfobaneppemjnonmmhngbfifnafgd

User Guide: http://google-axs-chrome.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/chromevis_tutorial/chromeVis_userManual.html

 

ChromeShades

ChromeShades is designed to help blind users.  It re-formats a web page in a way that simulates how a blind user would perceive it with a screen reader.  The final outcome is a much simplified web page without losing (most) interactive features.  For web developers who want to create accessible web pages, this tool helps them to identify issues before opening a screen reader or send it to a tester for testing (but it is not a full .  Below are a few illustrations I found in the user manual:

ChromeShades Example 1

ChromeShades Example 2

ChromeShades Example 3

 

ChromeShades in Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hlklboladblmgfpkenhlgbhoojdlfoao

User Guide: http://google-axs-chrome.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/chromeshades_docs/chromeshades_help.html

 

ChromeVox

ChromeVox takes one step further by directly reading out the texts on page.  There are many text-to-speech apps out there, what’s so special about this function?  Firstly, ChromeVox has a number of keyboard shortcuts to help users to navigate around the page.  For example, you can jump to the next heading directly.  Users can control the level of navigation, e.g. jumping between objects (for instance, bullet points), sentences, words and characters.

Secondly, this extension guides users by sound.  When finished loading the page, you hear a beep sound telling you that the page is ready for navigation.  It could read out the texts on the page and the menu items of Chrome.  Watch this video (with video descriptions) to know more:

 

 

ChromeVox in Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/kgejglhpjiefppelpmljglcjbhoiplfn

User guide: http://www.chromevox.com

 

Image source: Google

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