How to Enrich Your Surfing with Chrome Side Panel

Side Panel allows users to browse a web page while opening a sidebar to display some commonly used widgets or applications. In the early days, some extensions implemented a sidebar-like feature, i.e., they supported displaying a window on the right or left side of a web page. However, the experience with these extensions wasn’t great, it could obscure the content of the webpage or when switching tabs, you needed to reopen it every time. Chrome’s Side Panel feature, on the other hand, keeps the Side Panel displayed regardless of tab switching. Developers can achieve more functionality and a better user experience. Chrome has some default Side Panel apps built in, such as Reading List, Bookmarks, History, Google Search, and more. As the Side Panel API for third-party extension developers goes live in May 2023, more and more developers are adapting this feature and launching a variety of Side Panel extensions.

GetVM: Free Linux and IDE for the Cloud

Linux is a very powerful operating system with a wide range of applications in the server space. GetVM, a Chrome sidebar extension, helps you quickly create a Linux virtual machine running in the cloud in your browser. The advantage of using the sidebar feature is that you don’t have to switch windows as often, so you can focus more on your studies or work. You can open preset templates such as Ubuntu Desktop, Jupyter Notebook, VS Code, and various databases as needed. Or submit your own Docker Hub image to link to GetVM. Whether you want to learn to program, test your code, or open a website you don’t feel comfortable with for security reasons, you can do it all in GetVM. The biggest advantage of GetVM is that it’s lightweight and easy to use, so you don’t need to get bogged down with complex environment configurations when you’re just starting out, or worry about contaminating your local environment and messing up your system, or even crashing it. You just need to click on the menu bar of your browser to get a Linux virtual machine in the sidebar, which is a very good choice for newcomers to Linux.

Tab Shelf: Vertical Tabs with Side Panel

Vertical tabs, as the name suggests, allow you to place tabs on the left side of the browser instead of the traditional top. The advantage of this is that it makes better use of the space on a widescreen monitor, with longer headings and more tabs, which makes it easier to differentiate and filter. While there are a number of browsers that support vertical tabs, Chrome itself doesn’t have this feature. However, there is a Side Panel app called Tab Shelf that can help you achieve a similar effect.

Tab Shelf lets you manage all your current tabs in Chrome’s Side Panel, offering tab grouping, mute, copy, fix, sleep, close, and more. Tab Shelf is a great vertical tab extension for the Side Panel, both in terms of looks and functionality, and it’s worth a try. The only downside is that it doesn’t provide a Chinese interface, but of course you can use the beanbag mentioned above to translate or summarize the official manual, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Page Sidebar: Open Web Pages in Side Panel

If you’ve used Arc or Edge before, you’ll be familiar with Page Sidebar, which lets you view two web pages at the same time. Split screen allows you to view two web pages at the same time, which is useful when you need to work across pages or compare content. Google Chrome doesn’t support split screen, but Page Sidebar’s sidebar app does something similar in a way that’s a bit of a workaround.

You can right-click on any link on the current page, find the “Open link in sidebar” option in the menu, and then open the link in the sidebar. For example, while browsing the list of articles, you can open the article details in the sidebar. Of course, Page Sidebar uses iframe to open the web page, so some websites may have security policy restrictions that prevent it from opening properly. But for most websites, Page Sidebar works fine.

In addition, the developer of Page Sidebar also provides another sidebar extension application Note Sidebar, which is a note-taking application with very simple functions, so I won’t go into details here.

TickTick: a lightweight to-do list tool

TickTick is a well-known to-do list tool, and its Chrome extension also supports sidebars. Since it’s embedded directly into the web version of TickTick in a Page Sidebar-like way, you can do everything in the Side Panel that you can do in the web version, including adding tasks, viewing tasks, setting reminders, and so on.

Finally, I’d like to mention a few more Chrome Side Panel-related settings options. You can find the Appearance option in Chrome’s Settings, and then in Side Panel you can choose whether the default Side Panel is on the left or the right, depending on your personal preferences.

You can also go to chrome://flags and search for side-panel to see some experimental Side Panel features. However, you need to be careful with these features as they may cause instability in your browser.

The advent of the Side Panel has allowed some tools and efficiency apps to have a better presentation and experience, making them easier to use without having to frequently switch windows and open separate web pages.

However, the current Google Chrome Side Panel application ecology is not perfect enough, the official often make changes in the function, and developers are often directly embedded in the Web version of the page, the lack of some native adaptation, so that the overall product experience is a little rough.

At present, AI assistant applications basically occupy half of the Chrome Side Panel applications, and I hope that more interesting applications will appear in the future. Of course, I hope that Google Chrome will not remain stagnant, and while improving the features of the Side Panel, it will also actively absorb the excellent features of other browsers, so that the user experience will become better and better.