Chrome 89 has been out in the wild for a couple of weeks now and one particular feature appears to be getting the bulk of attention from users and tech bloggers alike. Chrome’s “Reading List” feature is shaping up to be Google’s answer to Microsoft’s Collections and despite Reading List being very much a work in progress, Google saw fit to roll it out in the latest update to Chrome and Chrome OS. The concept is simple. In lieu of bookmarking pages for later consumption, you drop them in the Reading List where you can quickly access them and dismiss them when they are no longer needed.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Reading List. I have a bad habit of bookmarking web pages that I only need to set aside for a few minutes but they don’t need to live on my Bookmarks bar. I can drop them in the Reading List and at some point during the day, I can go through and clean out the list. Sometimes, I just need to throw something in there while I’m at home knowing that, when I get to the office, it will be easily accessible for me to read. Anyway, I like it. That said, the Reading List is getting some push back from some Chrome users and numerous tech blogs have already diagrammed how to disable the new feature should you want it gone. I won’t blame you if you are in that camp but I would like to point out that the Reading List is going to get a lot more useful in the future with additions like the ability to add tab groups to the list as well as weekly reminders to view your saved sites.
Another cool feature that’s being worked on for the Reading List is a UI update that we have been tracking since late October of last year. The “Side Panel” feature will turn the Reading List into something very similar to Microsoft’s Collections. Instead of a simple dropdown for the Reading List, clicking the folder will slide out a sidebar that contains not only your Reading List articles but also your Bookmarks. The Side Panel flag has been present in the Canary Channel for weeks but enabling it actually broke the Reading List entirely. That is, until the latest update. I happen to hit my Reading List yesterday to see if there was anything new and much to my surprise, there was. Instead of the usual dropdown, my Reading List slid over from the right side of the browser. Check out the quick video below to get a first look at Chrome’s new Side Panel.
The new side panel is actually working very well and I think that it looks great. There are some questions as to what direction Google is going to take the new feature. With the bookmarks now showing in the Reading List, the Bookmarks bar now feels a bit redundant. For now, the Bookmarks tab in the side panel actually shows all of your bookmarks from Chrome desktop as well as any mobile devices you have synced and they are not nested in their respective folders. Also, if you hide your Bookmarks bar, the Reading List also gets hidden. This is counterintuitive but I presume that will not be the intended action when the side panel reaches Stable. I would hope that, eventually, the Reading List and the Bookmarks bar could become an either/or option. Simply disabling the Reading List could return saved bookmarks to the bookmarks bar. Of course, those can be easily hidden with Ctrl+Shift+B if you don’t want them visible and taking up space. We’ll keep track of the Side Panel as it evolves. I suspect that it should roll up to the Stable channel relatively quickly considering the fact that it is working as well as it is in Canary.