The disappointing Theme Maker for iGoogle

A week ago I was pleased to read that Google had finally launched a tool to create custom themes for their personalized homepage, iGoogle. However when I tried to access the link provided in that post, the page wouldn’t load. In fact the iGoogle Theme Maker tool was down for a few days after its theoretical launch, until I could finally open it up today. And I must say I’m more than disappointed with it.

iGoogle Theme Maker gives a nice first impression: a simple form to fill in and voilà! you have your own personal theme up and running in no time. But it’s nowhere as easy as that.

iGoogle Theme Maker

First, the image uploader doesn’t work properly. You upload an image without having a clue about what’s the most suitable size, and sometimes get an error about image format (even if you have uploaded a JPG, GIF or PNG file, the ones supported by iGoogle). Also, I didn’t understand the usage of the cropping tool. What is it intended for? What size should I crop my image to? What is that thumbnail for? How do I know which part of the image will appear on iGoogle’s header?

Second, there’s the color scheme selector. I can’t say much about it, because it simply didn’t work for me. After doing some research I found that the problem could be due to my browser being in a language different from English, so tried it on an English-speaking Firefox. It didn’t work either.

The funny thing is that, while I was searching for a solution for these bugs, I came across a much efficient way to create your own iGoogle theme. It’s a small Javascript bookmarklet you can save on your Bookmarks toolbar in Firefox and launch it when you open iGoogle.

iGoogle Theme Maker

You’ll see a small editor on top of the webpage, with which you can actually change iGoogle’s logo, background image, colors and more. The script generates an XML file you have to upload to a server and link from your iGoogle’s page (see complete instructions in the developer’s blog). Of course, this is not as user-friendly as Google’s Theme Creator, but hey, at least it works.

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