Ever since Google Chrome’s Reading List was separated from the bookmarking system, I’ve been excited for the future potential of it being tied into something like Google Collections or perhaps Chrome Memories or even Assistant Memory. I spent time loading articles I want to read later into it, and instead of it becoming a central hub that houses interesting content, it’s become a place where content goes to die.
Sure, it’s received a much-needed visual refresh with padding, outlines, and polish, but that’s simply not enough. Why on earth is Google focused on spit shining this tool if it’s not even as functional as it could be? Let me explain what I mean.
If you pop open the Side Panel using the icon at the top-right of the Chrome browser, you’ll notice that anything you add into it is virtually illegible. All of the titles are cut off after just a handful of words, and you can’t get the context around whether or not you should click to launch that link in a new tab.
On top of that, hovering over a link to see what it is does not produce a tooltip with the full title. Instead, you’re forced to click on each link, and then close them if they’re not what you’re interested in reading at that time. Sure, you can gain some context around the site source and the beginning of the title, but is that really the type of experience that makes any sense whatsoever?
The worst offender is that the Side Panel is near ready to roll out to the masses and you can’t even resize it! Hovering over the left-hand edge of the pop-out column does not show you a two-headed arrow for dragging the panel to the left to make titles legible. I hope this doesn’t stay this way when it’s finally released because all things considered, this is just ridiculous.
If Google is going to continue on its path of placing Reader Mode for simplified web pages, Google Lens, Bookmarks and even Shopping into the Side Panel, it needs to really think through its implementation before it scares everyone off, because with its current trajectory, this thing is a hot mess.
I’m not be exaggerating by stating that the current design feels claustrophobic at best and just plain thrown together at worst. Of course, this is just one person’s opinion, but I’m sure that many people would agree after using it for a short period of time.
My final issue with it is that it’s just out of sight and out of mind. I often forget it exists in a way that I don’t with the bookmark bar. Your bookmarks are laid out horizontally, and they’re always in front of your face if you need them so long as you’ve made the bar always visible. The Side Panel doesn’t have that luxury, and it requires more clicks to get to what you need.
My initial thoughts on the Panel itself was that it was meant to take ‘Read it later’ articles out of your bookmarks so they’re not static, dead content, and to put your saves to work for you. The current iteration of the panel means that it’s just a glorified bookmarking section that’s separated out for temporary content, and that’s disappointing.
At the end of the day, it’s important to note that this Side Panel experiment, while it’s maturing into a full feature, is just that – an experiment. It’s not even rolled out to the masses yet, but it can be activated via the
chrome://flags/#side-panel developer flag on Chrome OS Stable, indicating that most of its features have already been implemented as it nears its final form.
However, just because it’s experimental, doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it because I see a trend in Google releasing things that are half-baked, so my fear is that this will follow that trend. Let me know in the comments what you think about the Side Panel and if you’re okay with its current design as it is.