If you take a look at Google’s “Web Store” many Google Chrome apps listed there are basically just quick ways to access web-pages.

For example, the official Google Docs app does what? It opens docs.google.com.

The Hootsuite app? It opens hootsuite.com/dashboard

Etc.

While that may defeat the purpose of an app (shouldn’t it be more than just a bookmark?) there’s an interesting way we can exploit this.

Creating A Custom Chrome Dashboard

When you start up Google Chrome, you have two options:

1. Either you see all your “Most Visited” webpages in the form of thumbnails:

2. Or you see your Google Chrome apps:

UPDATE: Google recently changed its “new tab” page, hiding the apps.

“Users who want to restore the previous design should type “chrome://flags” in the omnibox — minus the quotation marks — locate the “Enable Instant Extended API” setting in the long list, and change it from “Enable” to “Disable.”” - makeuseof

Seeing these big icons on start-up can be an advantage to the often cluttered gallery of mini-screenshots of recently visited webpages.

It’s more focused, clean and enables super-quick access to everyday functions even when your eyes are tired. The big icons also lend themselves to touch-based interfaces.

I’m going to show you now how you can add your own Google Chrome applications to this start-screen.

For the sake of example we are going to be adding a Google Chrome app that launches this blog (see the last icon in the row below):

Again, this is just an example, you could build a Google Chrome app that launches the BBC homepage or whatever site/service you need quick and daily access for.

Here’s how it goes:

Step 1: Building The App

We are going to need two things:

-  A file called manifest.json

-  An icon

The first thing we’re going to do is

1. Create a new folder somewhere (name and location are not important)

2. Find an icon somewhere. You can use a site like findicons.com. A good size is 128 by 128 pixels. Download the icon and put it in your folder. Rename the file, for our example, let’s just call it “icon.png” 

3. Create a new text-file and paste the following code inside it:

{
"name": "NAME OF YOUR APP HERE",
"version": "1",
"manifest_version": 2,
"icons": { "128": "icon.png" },
"app": {
"urls": [
"http://PUT-THE-URL-OF-YOUR-WEBSITE-HERE"
],
"launch": {
"web_url": "http://PUT-THE-URL-OF-YOUR-WEBSITE-HERE"
}
}
}

4. Change the red parts to whatever you need. If you’d want to build a Chrome app that launches the BBC homepage, you could write BBC launcher under “name” and put “http://bbc.co.uk” under “url”s and “web_url”. In our example case we would write:

{
"name": "Launch Blog",
"version": "1",
"manifest_version": 2,
"icons": { "128": "icon.png" },
"app": {
"urls": [
"http://learnoutlive.com/blog"
],
"launch": {
"web_url": "http://learnoutlive.com/blog"
}
}
}

4. Save this text-file in your folder under the name manifest.json

 Step 2: Installing And Activating Your Custom Google Chrome App

Now, click on the Wrench icon in Google Chrome and go to Tools -> Extensions:

On the next screen, click on “Developer Mode” and then on “Load Unpacked Extensions”:

Simply select the folder you created above and hit OK.

Your new Google Chrome app is now installed and ready to use.

That was easy, wasn’t it?

Here’s an example of apps I created.

To give you a few ideas, one of these apps is a direct link to adding a new article, another one launches this blog and the third opens up the Kindle Indie-Publishing Dashboard.

Note: The above process is for creating apps for private use only. If you want to submit apps to the Webstore, please look here.

I hope you’ve found this little tutorial helpful and it will make your day-to-day business more productive and/or pleasant.

Have a nice day!

-

img: first screenshot of “most visited” via lifehacker