A week after it was originally announced, Google rolls out a tool to “create iGoogle themes.” It can’t do everything we’d hope for, but check out what you can accomplish in the screenshots below.
To get started, sign into your Google account from any Google service, then head to the ThemeMaker page. You’ll see a preview pane with a large, blue “Upload an image” button, and these somewhat simple editing choices:
What you see is what you get—you can change and crop the photo, change the text and gadget box/background colour, and save your theme under a title, name, and description. As the Google Operating System blog points out, those with some XML chops can get a lot more done with the iGoogle API, and others halfway to coding nerd-dom can check out a tool like the previously mentioned igThemer.
But for most iGoogle users, having your own picture and colour choices is a pretty good customisation. The tool to select the picture lets you select from a link off the web, your Picasa Web Album pics, or uploading from your own computer (which actually creates a “My Dropbox” gallery in a Web Album account and selects from there). My main complaint is that the tool doesn’t tell you anything at all about what size of pic to use until you either go too big or too small, or you see the results and have to go through the upload again.
But here’s what I’ve learned, from multiple, multiple uploads: Crop the picture yourself in your own editor to the width of the desktop you normally start iGoogle from (1680 pixels, in my case) and no taller than 175 pixels (that might just be my system’s specs, but seems to work on different monitors). You might not have many pictures that crop easily into a super-wide strip, but those that do tend to look pretty neat.
After you’ve uploaded your pic and seen that it looks decent in the preview window, you’ll be asked whether you want to share your iGoogle theme with the rest of the start page community. Read the licence, hit the checkbox or not, than move on.
When you’re all done, you’ll arrive back at your iGoogle page, and your theme is in place:
It will definitely take most of us a few tries to get things down. You want pictures that don’t have a centre focus, since it’ll be covered with the search bar, and which look nice against the text colour you’ve chosen, since you can’t just change the text colour without re-drafting the whole thing.
So, you can tell from the tone of my type that this isn’t a hugely convenient tool, and it’s pretty limited in what it allows. But for iGoogle fans who’ve got a great picture in mind, it may be a bright spot on a page they check out every single day.