Last week at Google I/O, the company’s social network received a facelift. In some ways, it looks great, but it also introduced a slew of new problems. Enter userscripts to clean things up.
Most of these extensions will play nice with either Greasemonkey (Firefox) or Tampermonkey (Chrome), however each have their own set of instructions and idiosyncrasies. Be sure to read carefully before installing anything.
Bring Back Auto-Refresh
One of the biggest changes to the new Google+ stream is that it no longer auto-refreshes. Instead, you get a little blue button that tells you how many new posts are waiting for you. That’s neat and all, but it becomes almost useless when you reach 50 or 100 new posts. If you’d rather have those posts automatically show up, Auto Load G+ will bring those new posts to the top of your feed without any action.
Get Rid of the White Space in Single-Column View
The multi-column layout is great for filling up your page with posts, but it can get really busy and difficult to read. You can set the page to a single-column layout, but then you end up with huge gaps on either side of your stream. Fix this with the Wider posts on Google+ user style.
Change the Font to Something More Readable
The new design features the Roboto font that Google’s been so proud of since Ice Cream Sandwich came out. This looks great on super-high resolution displays, but it can get a bit grody on the less pixel-packed displays on computer monitors or some laptops. The Google+ Change Font script will switch it to a more palatable font by default (though with a little CSS trickery, you can set it to anything you want).
Automatically Stay in Video Hangouts
Hangout parties (the new name for the multi-user video chat formerly known simply as Hangouts) have a mildly annoying habit of prompting you to prove you’re still there and awake every 90 minutes. If you’re prone to long video sessions, G+ Hangouts Unlimited will automatically confirm that you’re present whenever the alert pops up.
Add Notification Boxes for Other Google Services
We’ve all gotten used to the bright red box notifying you of new things happening on Google+. If you’d like that same kind of service for other Google products, check out Google+ Enhancer. The name is a bit of a misnomer as it works outside of the G+ stream, but it helpfully adds a red box next to Gmail, Calendar or Reader to let you know when those services have something to share with you.
Remove the Google+ Notification Box on Other Sites
On the flip side, sometimes the best way to get things done is to just reduce the number of notifications you get. If you want to focus on searching when you’re searching and email when you’re in Gmail, this script will hide the Google+ notification box unless you’re actually visiting the Google+ stream itself. It won’t remove the share button, but you’ll at least be free of the constant bouncing button telling you there’s new stuff to be distracted by.
The new design has only been out for about a week, so more userscripts are likely to crop up that improve the experience eventually. In the meantime, these should already provide a nice usability boost.