One of the most compelling features of Google Plus is the little notification icon that pops up any time users visit a Google web site. It shows how many unread notifications are available if you’re using Gmail, Google Reader, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Search, and well… You get the idea. The notifier lets you know if someone has added you to one of their circles or commented on a post. And if you click on the icon, a window will drop down letting you read the update and even respond to comments.
But the icon only appears if you’re visiting a Google property. If you use the Google Chrome web browser there’s a nifty extension called Surplus which adds a Google+ button to the right of your location bar so that you can see if from any web page.
For Firefox users, there’s another option — one which doesn’t just show you the latest notifications, but rather all activity from your Google Plus page. You can load the mobile web version of Google+ in your Firefox sidebar. It doesn’t work perfectly, but if you’re willing to put up with a few graphics and navigation glitches, you can see all the latest updates from Google+ while you’re surfing the web.
The first thing you’ll need to do is load the Google+ mobile web site in a desktop browser. Normally if you enter m.google.com/plus in a mobile browser you get a mobile web app designed for touch input. If you visit the same page in Firefox or another desktop browser you get information about downloading the Google+ Android app.
So here’s the trick, courtesy of Chrome Story. Enter this URL instead:
You can use that URL to load the mobile version of Google+ in any browser, although in my tests it works much better in Google Chrome than Firefox. In Firefox, some of the graphics render in strange places, for example placing the word “photos” below the menu item you actually have to press to open the Photos section.
But Chrome doesn’t give you an easy way to load the page in a sidebar, and Firefox does. Here’s how:
- Once you’ve loaded the URL, bookmark it by either pressing the star icon in the URL bar or by using the Bookmark menu item if you have your Firefox Menu Bar enabled.
- Now locate the item in your Bookmarks menu and right-click on it.
- Choose Properties.
- Check the box that says “Load this bookmark in the sidebar.”
That’s it. Next time you launch the bookmark it will open in your sidebar. You can resize the page by dragging the border separating Google+ from the main browser window, and now you can keep Google+ open while you surf the web.
You can also load the full desktop version of Google+ in a sidebar if you prefer, but since it wasn’t designed for use in a small space you’ll have to spend a lot more time scrolling to the left and right.
Hopefully at some point Firefox will do a better job of handling the mobile version of Google+ though.