Let’s say, for instance, that some of the people reading this are the biggest Google users imaginable. Some of you probably are. You use Gmail, Google Reader, Google News, Google Voice, Google Docs, Orkut, Picasa, Google Earth… if Google doesn’t have some part in it, you don’t know about it and you don’t use it. Other people, by way of comparison, don’t use Google, can’t stand Google, and wouldn’t use a Google product if it was the best option and they were being paid to use it. This second group should probably stop reading right about now (if the title of the article wasn’t enough to make you decide to skip it completely). Most of you probably fall somewhere in between. Regardless, there are hundreds of different Google services available. In addition to the many just listed, there is the Goo.gl URL shortening service, Feedburner, Google Code, Google Checkout, Google Buzz, Blogger, Hotpot, and more. Some you use regularly; others you use only occasionally. Some of them have easy Web addresses to remember, others are buried inside other applications or services. If you’re the type of person who uses a lot of Google services, this Google Chrome extension makes it possible to access all of them with just two clicks, and all without adding them to your regular bookmarks.
Simply put, Google Shortcuts (which is an official Google Chrome port of the Firefox extension of the same name), is a bookmarks manager for Google Services. But it’s also a bit more than that, which makes it even more valuable (although I’d still be inclined to look at it even if it only managed Google services, as I use so many of them myself). Because in addition to allowing fast access to Google services, Google Shortcuts allows you to use it with your Custom Domain for Google Apps, and even for non-Google services. In this way, you could actually keep all your bookmarks inside Google Shortcuts.
Using Google Shortcuts couldn’t be much simpler. When you first install it, you’ll see a new icon in your toolbar. Click it, and you’ll see a handful of Google services, such as Gmail, Google Reader, Google Maps and a few others. Click the icon for that service and it opens. It’s easy to use, and configuring it to suit your needs doesn’t change that a bit.
Speaking of configuring Google Shortcuts, that’s pretty simple too. Either right-click the Google Shortcuts icon and choose Options from the menu, or else click the gears icon in the Google Shortcuts pop-up. You will be taken to the Google Shortcuts Options page, which allows you to add new Google services (from the list of 150 services provided by the extension), tweak their order, name and URL, as well as create your own links, which don’t have to be related to Google at all. The icons in the pop-up can be a wide variety of sizes between 16 pixels and 64 pixels, and your shortcuts can be arranged vertically or horizontally, with or without labels (which can be below or beside the service’s icon). Links can either open in the current tab or a new tab, and you can select whether to focus on the newly-opened site or not.
The icon in the toolbar can also be customized. There are currently 11 different available icons, which is nice if you’re trying to fit the icon visually with your current theme. My only gripe about this is the lack of a custom icon. It would be useful for people who use Google Shortcuts with a lot of non-Google services, so the pop-up could represent all bookmarks, and not just Google services.
Finally, if you are a Google Apps user who uses a custom domain, Google Shortcuts lets you tweak the URL for those services (Google Calendar, Contacts, Docs, Gmail, Groups, Sites, Tasks, Video and Wave), and even choose which of those services uses the custom URL. This is nice for people who might use a personal calendar, but a custom domain for their email.
All in all, Google Shortcuts is a nice utility. It’s obviously not something people who don’t use a lot of Google services will have much use for, but for people who do, it’s a nice way to get a lot of links all in one place. Add to it your own batch of custom shortcuts, and its utility is further enhanced. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll keep using, as my list of Google services is maybe only 5-6 long, but if the bookmarking is as simple as I think it is, I just might. Either way, it definitely has value, is put together nicely, and works well.