Google Chrome 42’s awful new bookmark manager (and how to switch it off)

UPDATE: Friday 29 December 2017

Google have again updated the bookmark manager and this time it’s really rather good. It has the Material design but it now works the way I expect it to.

I’ve updated the blog title to make it clear that this post was referring specifically to Chrome 42.


UPDATE: Monday 22 June 2017

Google is ripping out Chrome’s awful new bookmark manager

Great news! Google have listened and the new bookmark manager that sparked so much panic and upset is being removed from future versions of Chrome.

For those who did like it, you can use the Bookmark Manager plugin.


ORIGINAL POST: Yesterday my copy of Google Chrome updated at work. It rolled over from version 41 to version 42. No big deal, I thought. Until I went to reorganise my bookmarks…

Google Chrome's new bookmarks manager
Google Chrome’s new bookmarks manager

What the…?!

To my surprise, Google Bookmarks had gone all Material.

My initial response was positive. It looks pretty. The thumbnails look like they could be useful. And I’m generally in favour of Google’s aim to standardise the look and feel of their web applications (whether Chrome OS, web-based, or Android).

But then I tried to reorganise my bookmarks.

It was a nightmare.

As silly as it sounds, I genuinely began to panic. And then started my out-loud commentary to the rest of the office about just how awful an experience it was.

My workflow

Whenever I spot something useful I quickly bookmark it to a folder called “Check out”.

Then every day or two I sort the bookmarks (A–Z) so that the sub-folders move to the top, and I can find the bookmarked page titles more easily.

Then I organise these bookmarks into 3 sub-folders:

  1. Action
  2. Keep track on…
  3. Watch or listen

I often bulk-select items with shift + click.

Truly awful user experience

But with the new, redesigned bookmarks manager this was virtually impossible to do:

  • The sort alphabetically option was missing.
  • I couldn’t bulk select a group of bookmarks: I would have to click each bookmark separately.
  • I couldn’t drag and drop bookmarks. I had to use some awful and clunky, dynamic drop-down-style interface to select which folder to move them to.

This was without a doubt the worst user experience I have encountered in a long time. It was awful. Utterly, utterly awful.

After about five minutes I gave up. Of the 40 or so bookmarks in “Check out” I had moved maybe six or seven. I didn’t have forty minutes to spare just to move bookmarks. Life is too short.

“This redesign has killed my productivity,” I complained to no-one in particular.

After seriously considering moving to another browser, I went looking for a fix… but not before writing some strongly worded feedback to Google.

This isn’t a new complaint

Negative feedback about this new, card-style design isn’t new. It goes as far back as December.

Computer World reported it on 1 December 2014 in an article entitled, Card-style display displeases users who see it pop up in their beta builds. The article notes that

when Google asked for feedback, it got a thumbs down from most users.

How to fix it

My first port of call was the Google Chrome flags page (chrome://flags). This hidden section contains settings that control experimental features of Chrome.

Sure enough, it was there, so I disabled it. Restarted Chrome and sanity was restored.

Enable Enhanced Bookmarks now set to Disabled.
Enable Enhanced Bookmarks now set to Disabled.
  1. In your address bar type: chrome://flags/#enhanced-bookmarks-experiment and hit Enter. (Or right-click that link and select Copy link address.)
  2. Change the drop down to Disabled.
  3. Restart Google Chrome.
  4. Your bookmarks manager should now be the familiar, sortable, draggable version.

Why Google? Why?!

What I can’t understand though is why—even after all that negative feedback in December during the beta phase—Google still pushed out this car crash of a design to the stable channel.

In the Google Material guidelines it says,

At Google we say, “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” We embrace that principle in our design by seeking to build experiences that surprise and enlighten our users in equal measure.

Well, that certainly surprised me. But it certainly didn’t address any of my user stories—it didn’t allow me to work productively. In fact, it did the opposite: it slowed me down, the interface got in the way of what I wanted to do.

I’m not unilaterally against a Material-style design of the bookmarks manager. But it needs to work more efficiently. Something along the lines of how files may be ordered in Google Drive would be a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, I’m sorry Google—I don’t often complain about your stuff—but in this case, after only five minutes I stopped your experiment and returned to sanity.

The cobbler’s shoes, pt. 2

Back in April I wrote a post called the cobbler’s shoes in which I made the poor excuse that I hadn’t redesigned my website for 11 years because I had been too busy building sites for other people.

We also had three children in that time who turned out to be somewhat time-consuming, and they didn’t simply auto-upgrade on a one-click four month roadmap like WordPress.

The plan

I concluded with the following (slightly amended) plan:

  • Move to a new host.
  • Standardise URLs, which will also mean that after 11 years on a sub-domain this blog will move to www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/shed/. (See update below)
  • Mobile-friendly sub-sites.
  • Use a content management system or two.
  • Delete a lot of content.

Of course, if you were to visit garethjmsaunders.co.uk right now you might just notice the tiny detail that erm… in the last eight months I’ve not quite managed to do any of the above.

The truth is that I delayed my plans for two reasons:

  1. My web hosting with Heart Internet wasn’t going to expire until mid-January 2015, they don’t offer pro-rata refunds, and I didn’t fancy having to buy hosting twice in a year; and
  2. the little matter of me getting viral meningitis in July in which I lost my sight for a couple of months. It turns out that I often relied on my eyesight for building websites.

So, this is it. Over the next month I’m planning to go through with what I’d sketched out in April.

Everything must go…

One of the things that I realise that I’ve dithered about while planning this is the “delete a lot of content” bit. I’ve got a lot of content on my site that hasn’t been updated in a long, long time (sorry). Some of it is out of date, but a lot of it isn’t but currently it’s too much for me to migrate neatly.

A lot has changed in the lasts 11 years. I no longer use a Psion (although I do still rather enjoy people emailing me about them) and I haven’t written a line of code for one for the last decade. Sadly I haven’t played mahjong much (except on the computer) in the last six years, since writing a book on it and, oh, our oldest children have just turned six—do you see a connection? And nobody really needs to read my poetry from the mid-90s, or essays I wrote at theological college, do they?

So it’s all going. Except this blog, and a few other bits and pieces. Some of it may make a reappearance at some point in the future, in a different format, but for now I need to clear the decks and give myself the space to focus on the projects I want to pursue next year, which is mostly writing. And getting well.

I just want to take this opportunity to especially thank the Psion and mahjong communities for your support over the years. I’m sorry I’m bailing out at this point but my priorities are currently different.

See you on the other side, which will now be at www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/shed/ rather than on the ‘blog’ subdomain.

Update

Thursday 8 January 2015

After much deliberation I have eventually decided to retain my www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk subdomain. For a number of reasons:

  1. I was never really happy with my blog moving to www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/shed/. If anything I’d want www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/blog/ but that’s not possible in WordPress multisite other than importing the blog into the root site, and I wasn’t happy with that because…
  2. I want to keep the designs of my website and my blog different.
  3. I realised that my website and my blog serve two very different purposes and therefore I wouldn’t necessary want to tie both to the same content management system.
  4. My blog has been on the ‘blog’ subdomain since 2004, according to the WayBack Machine. If I moved the blog from that subdomain it would adversely affect search results and existing links to my blog. (I could of course use an .htaccess file to redirect traffic, but… it just seems unnecessary.)
  5. I visited a couple of other sites today who had their blogs on a blog subdomain and I thought that looked cool.

And so there you have it, for now it is settled. This blog isn’t moving… except, of course, it is. Because I’m going to move it very shortly to another server.

See you on the other side…

London tube map redesign

Redesigned London tube map by Jug Cerović
Redesigned London tube map by Jug Cerović

The London tube map first designed in the 1930s by Harry Beck was a piece of design genius. But I really like this redesign by French- Serbian architect Jug Cerović.

Ukip will be pleased, it returns the Circle line to being a circle again!

Not content with the London underground map he has also tackled maps of

While we’re on the topic of tube maps. Here’s a tube map made entirely from HTML and CSS.

Workaround to get a /blog site on WordPress multisite

The following words are reserved for use by WordPress functions and cannot be used as blog names: page, comments, blog, files, feed

Last month I said that I would soon be redesigning and re-architecting my website, including this blog. It has now begun!

Losing the subdomains

Something I want to do is standardise the URLs used on the site. Once upon a time I had an idea of using subdomains for all my mini-sites, so

  • www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk
  • blueprint.garethjmsaunders.co.uk
  • mahjong.garethjmsaunders.co.uk
  • psion.garethjmsaunders.co.uk

I got as far as setting up my blog on a subdomain and I changed my mind. (Or got lazy, I can’t remember now.) 11 years later I have now decided to bite the bullet and move from www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk to garethjmsaunders.co.uk/blog. It’s potentially going to involve a lot of work (and a little .htaccess wrangling) but it will be worth it in the long run.

WordPress doesn’t like blog sites

My plan was to create a new sub-site called “blog” but when I set up a WordPress multisite installation on my local machine to test how this would all work I encountered an unexpected problem. When you try to create a new site called “blog” WordPress multisite returns this error message:

The following words are reserved for use by WordPress functions and cannot be used as blog names: page, comments, blog, files, feed

Ah!

Workaround

The workaround I worked out, however, is pretty simple:

  1. On the WordPress multisite default site, create a new page called “Blog”, with the URL of ‘/blog’. (On my localhost test site this has a URL of http://garethjmsaunders.shed/blog/.)
  2. In Settings > Reading set the posts page to be your new “Blog” page.
  3. Now import your blog into this site. (I imported it category by category, one at a time as I have a lot of posts.)

Of course, if you want your blog to use a different theme than the rest of the default site pages you will need to use a multiple theme plugin.

The cobbler’s shoes

Something that has been on my task list for the last few years has been to redesign and re-architect my website garethjmsaunders.co.uk. It has been a perfect case of the cobbler’s shoes: I’ve spent so much time making and fixing websites for other people that I’ve not had time (or energy) to do anything with my own.

Enough is enough. My last site design was in 2003, I think. That was over 10 years ago. In 2003 Internet Explorer 6 was the dominant web browser, the war in Iraq began, Concorde made its last commercial flight, Apple released Mac OS X Panther. A lot has happened in the years since then: web standards have been embraced, the mobile web is on the move, and table-based layouts are so retro!

Issues

The last time I built my site I hand-coded everything using 1st Page 2000 (how I loved that application) before eventually moving to Dreamweaver 4.0 as it automated asset-handling and rewrote paths more quickly than hand-coding everything. I had only just learned CSS 2 and was eager to put it into practice. My site still suffers from a very bad case of both ‘divitis’ and ‘classitis’.

And there’s not much room for expansion. When I created a mini-site to support my Blueprint CSS extras I couldn’t integrate it into my site. The same happened with my original SEC Calendar site.

And last but not least, there is a mild hotchpotch of URLs: a mix of sub-domains (www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk) and directories (/mahjong, /psion, /writing).

The way forward

After a few months of procrastination and mulling things over, I now realise that I have a number of projects that I want to work on, but as each requires that my website be up to date it is now time to bite the bullet and re-architect.

My current plans:

  • Move to a new host.
  • Standardise URLs, which will also mean that after 11 years on a sub-domain this blog will move to www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/blog.
  • Mobile-friendly sub-sites.
  • Use a content management system or two.
  • Delete a lot of content.

Having delayed this for a couple of years it will be good to finally get these ‘shoes’ fixed!