How to Create A Custom Chrome Theme Tutorial

Instead of writing a lengthy blog post for this, I’ve created an in-depth video that outlines the process! Yay you!

Video Transcript

Alright, so unlike most videos I’m going to jump right into showing you how to create your own custom Chrome theme. If you’re in the extensions area, which you go to the little options here, more tools > extensions, you’ll end up on this screen here.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is flip on “developer mode”. This is going to allow you to have some features that we’re going to need in a little bit, once we pack everything up for our extension. So one of the first things I’m going to do is open up the Chrome Web Store. Because what I want to do is I want to find a theme that I can just quickly open and install that will allow me to find the necessary files to create my own custom theme.

I don’t particularly like this theme but whatever, here it is. I can click “Add to Chrome” but first what I’m going to do is show you where you’re going to go to find the necessary files. In my case, it’s C: > Users > [Your Name] > AppData > Local > Google > Chrome > User Data > Default > Extensions. This is where you’re going to find all of your extensions, some of which are themes, some of which are addons or apps.

What you’re going to do is install a theme. So let’s say this one here — “Add to Chrome”. Then you can see that it has installed this theme. Now, what you’ll notice here, if you sort by Date Modified, is the theme is going to be at the top. That’s what you’re going to do to easily find a theme file. It’s helpful to find a theme that is very close to one that you want to create but, of course, you can just create one essentially from scratch as well.

So I’m going to click into here and I’ll get a version folder and then you’ll have a few different files here. The main ones you need are “images” and “manifest.json”. “Manifest.json” contains all of the parameters [should be attributes] and colour codes and all of that kind of information for the theme and the images, of course, contain a couple of the images for the background of the theme and so on.

I would normally copy these into my own folder but I’ve already done that so I’m just going to open that folder here. So this “Custom Chrome Theme”. Now there are two files here that won’t be there initially, so I’m just going to delete them for now. If I go into the “images” folder here you’ll see that I took this originally from a “Wolf” theme so I’ve just packed the old images in this folder here but really these are the ones that I mostly care about — “tab background” and “toolbar background”. However, there are also the “theme frame” and the “background” here. So these two will provide an overall background, like an overall image background, if that’s what you’re looking for. In my case, I went with an all-colour background so I skipped those images and just did the tab background and toolbar theme here.

Once you’re in here you can switch these out, you can change the colours for the different toolbars. You can also use these “frame” and “background” images to provide an images for the background as well. The main thing you want to do is come back to the top-level folder and open up this “manifest.json”.

So the “manifest.json” will look like this. What you’ll see here is a number of pieces of information — the description, the key, a few things not to worry too much about — you can name it here by providing your name. This is where you get to the main parameters.

First of all, you have the colours — bookmark text, button background, frame — some of these I’m going to link to an article that actually takes you through these. So if I open this up here, there’s a couple of articles. There’s this “theme tutorial” — this one is a little old but it’s really good because it shows you each of the different positions of the colour elements and then it gives you a table with a description and the notation, which you can add into the JSON file.

Separately, Google Chrome has their own official theme documentation and it’s a little bit harder to use but it gives you some examples here and then below there’s a “colour”, “image”, “properties”, and “tints” section. If you click on, say, the colour table, what you’ll see is all of the different options available to you here. So “frame”, “frame inactive”, “frame incognito” etc. All of these are the different parameters that you can set to set your colours.

Again, you’re going to want to use this theme tutorial to help you understand what those colours are. So I’m not going to spend too much time on that, I’ll let you guys fiddle around with it but I’m just going to show you how to actually do it and then you can start customizing it yourself.

So in here, you set some of your colours that are in “rgb” format. So red, green, blue. You can see a lot of mine are the same. I’ve chosen dark grays, slates and stuff like that. My overall colour theme is this essentially white. Down in the images section — theme tab background and theme toolbar — these are the images I was showing you before, which are in this folder here. These are going to set some of the major colours across the interface. Properties, I’m not too worried about here, but if you have a background image that you want to repeat you can deal with some of the settings there. And then tints, which changes the colours of the different buttons like the back button, the refresh button and so on. You can set that to a black, you can set that to, in my case, a dark gray.

So once you’ve got the “manifest.json” file with all of the information that you want, the correct parameters, again, you’re going to want to play with this over and over — it’s pretty easy to repack. Then what you’re going to end up with is a folder like this. This is my custom chrome theme. I’ve got my “images” folder, it’s got my “manifest.json” with my new parameters that I’ve set. Then the process of bring it up is pretty simple.

Go to your extensions again. If you’ve enabled “Developer Mode” you’re going to click “Pack extension”. It’s going to ask you for a root directory and you’re going to browse to that root directory, in my case, “Custom Chrome Theme”. I’m going to hit “Ok” > “Pack extension”.

You get a little confirmation here that it created two files, you’re “crx” file and your “pem” file. What you want to do is double-click the “crx” file and it is going to ask if you want to open it — hit continue, and add it with “Add Theme”.

So this is the custom theme I created. It was based off of a “wolf” theme initially. Also, I used a really cool “Blue/Green” one that I really liked. So I’ve got this as this kind of white here. The toolbar and the search bar are the exact same colour and you can only see the toolbar when I hover over it. You get that little bit of a gray with a dark gray in the background.

So let’s say I did that and I don’t really like the look of it, I need to make some changes, that’s fine. All you’re going to do is delete the “.pem” file — so if I delete that it’s going to let me repack it. So I can come in here, make whatever changes to the JSON file that I want, save it out, pack extension again, browser to the folder, “Ok”, “pack extension”, “Ok” and then double-click the “crx” file again and you’ll see that it will add it.

It’s very easy to do and very quick to do. Again, the documentation will show you, if you want to add those images back in, the ones that I chose to take out, you’re just going to add them to this image section here. I only have these two in this main image folder, but you would have two like this in your main image folder as well named “theme_frame” and “theme_ntp_background” and you would throw them in here and just like to them by creating parameters for them in the JSON file. That documentation is available and I will post a link in the description.

That’s pretty much it. So hopefully you guys found that useful and relatively straight to the point. I tried looking for quite a while to find something that was simplistic but also gave me the information I needed and I couldn’t find it so hopefully this is going to do that for you guys.


What is 2-Factor Authentication & Why is it Important?

You may have heard the term before but if you are not a tech nerd there is just as good a chance that you have not — and that is truly a shame. With hacking on the rise and people’s entire lives residing on the internet, it is more important than ever to think about your digital security.

So what is 2-factor authentication?

Simply put, 2-factor authentication (two-factor autentication or 2FA) is the technology used to gain access to a site/service/app using more than just 1 method of authentication (the most common single method being a username/password). Instead, 2-factor authentication relies on both a username/password combo in conjunction with something that typically cannot be guessed or “hacked” remotely, such as a code sent to a user’s mobile phone or biometrics (fingerprint, iris scan etc.).

Continue reading “What is 2-Factor Authentication & Why is it Important?”

Google Maps’ New “Typical Traffic” Route Planning Feature

Google Maps has just introduced a new feature that I have been patiently awaiting for several years now — Route planning with typical traffic conditions!

Route planning allows you to plot a course between two points and not just with current traffic but with typical traffic for various times during the week and day. Previously, you could only see current traffic conditions, which was not very helpful if you were trying to plan your trip to the airport a week in advance.

Continue reading “Google Maps’ New “Typical Traffic” Route Planning Feature”

What is a Camless Engine, and Why Should You Care?

So as not to bore the car fanatics, I will keep the following description brief.

A camshaft is found in a car engine that enables the opening and closing of valves as the engine rotates to enable combustion — bringing in the fuel (intake valve) and expelling what’s left after combustion (exhaust valve).

I have embedded a video below illustrating the purpose of a camshaft.

The important thing to know about a camshaft is that it cannot operate on valves or cylinders independently of the others. The rotation of the engine moves the camshaft through the same motion every time. As a result, a camshaft creates efficiency limitations.

Enter the camless engine!

Instead of a camshaft, the new Freevalve engine uses pneumatic actuators to independently control each set of valves for each cylinder. This allows for enormous flexibility, including the ability to dynamically control the number of cylinders in use.

As a result, the technology, right off the bat, will improve power and torque by 30%, and increase fuel efficiency by 50%. That’s huge! The new engine is also smaller — truly incredible.

There is even talk about being able to use such engines to run multiple types of fuel, such as diesel and gas in the same engine, though this would require a separate tank and system for each.

The only drawback to the engine so far is that the pneumatic system that will control the valves may be more susceptible to damage than a camshaft. This could be a big problem as camshafts are currently extremely reliable, standing the test of time. However, we have to start somewhere and the benefits will surely outweigh the costs if the pneumatic system can be built in a robust manner.

You can learn more about the new cam-less engine here. I, for one, am very excited.


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Dell XPS 18 Review | My New “Ridiculous” Computer

“I just bought a new computer”. Normally this is something someone will post to FB, grab a few likes and move on, however the computer I recently purchased is pretty unique, so I thought I would share it in a more detailed post.

I recently picked up the Dell XPS 18, an 18-inch All-in-One / tablet. You read that right. It’s essentially an 18-inch tablet. Except, well, it’s not.

The Dell XPS 18 functions primarily as a desktop. It’s large screen size means it has a full-size monitor “built right in”. It’s secondary purpose is as a tablet. 18 inches is pretty massive for a tablet but the picture below will hopefully make the use-case a little clearer.

Dell XPS 18 as a Tablet

You see, the XPS 18 is not meant to be held in one hand like smaller tablets; instead it is perfect company resting on your lap on your couch. It comes with a charging stand that you can set up on your desk and when you want to relax with it on the couch, you simply grab it off the stand and away you go!

You can see in the main image (above) that it is a very flexible device. You can lie it flat, stand it up, put it in the stand or hold it in your hand.

The decision to pick it up wasn’t easy, though. I spent months agonizing over which new computer to buy to meet what I thought were simple requirements:

  • 90-95% use as a desktop
  • 5-10% as a tablet

I was pretty excited about the Surface Pro 2, an amazing tablet that operates as a full desktop, but the price tag blew me away and the 10-inch screen was lacking, considering I would use it primarily at my desk. There were very few machines that were both portable and powerful with good screen real estate.

The XPS 18 is definitely the best of both worlds. It weighs 5 lbs so it is easy to grab off the stand and carry around, it’s quite fast and comes with ample storage (500GB). Complete with 8GB of RAM, it can run anything you throw at it easily, with the exception of intense games.

So if you’re looking for a new desktop with some versatility, try the Dell XPS 18. It does help that I got it on sale for $699 down from over $1,000.


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iPhone Users Listen Up: Keyboard Shortcuts (Autofill) are a Lifesaver!

If you have yet to discover the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts, you are about to have your mind blown. This function, tucked away in the settings, has two awesome functions: to create shortcuts for strings of text you frequently type, and to serve as a dictionary override. The second use is a best-kept secret, so be sure to read on.

Shortcuts function can be found in Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts

Create Shortcuts for Frequently Typed Items

iPhone Shortcuts — Autofill

The primary use of iPhone shortcuts is as their name implies — shortcuts. Simply press the “+” button in the top right and enter the text that you frequently type as the “Phrase” and the shortcut for the autofill as the “Shortcut”. For example, you can enter your address as the phrase and have your email automatically filled in when you type in “myemail” if you set “myemail” as the shortcut (see image). This is particularly useful for those with long emails or for longer phrases like full postal addresses.

Other great uses of shortcuts are:

  • Addresses (“myaddress”)
  • Phone numbers (“mynumber”)
  • Stop texting me, you’re crazy! (“crazyex”)

Create Dictionary Overrides (Particularly Useful for Swear Words)

Do you find it super annoying that Apple tries to strip you of the colourful language you like to use? Worry no more! Simply add a phrase for the word that you don’t want to have autocorrected and leave the shortcut field blank. Voilà! Steve Jobs will no longer try to correct your exclamations to “Duck!”

Of course, this isn’t limited to swearing. If there are any words that you type that are frequently “corrected”, incorrectly, simply add them to your list of shortcuts.

Have you been using the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts? If so, what are some of the shortcuts you have created?

Avast Antivirus Review — The Best Free Antivirus

Over the last 12 years or so, I have used many different antivirus software packages in search of the perfect one. I have tried Norton, McAfee, AVG and Avast. Based on the title of this post, you already know where I’m going to end up, so if you want to skip straight to installing Avast immediately, here’s the link:

Avast, The Best Free Antivirus:

First of all, I want to start by saying that Norton and McAfee are by far the worst. They are little more than bloatware that will absolutely ruin the performance of your PC. In fairness, I have not used them in years but they were certainly terrible pieces of software for many years. AVG on the other hand is great — it’s free and runs much more smoothly than Norton or McAfee. However, it is not quite as feature-rich or polished as Avast so after years of using AVG, I made the switch.

Avast is by far the best free antivirus software. It is snappy, easy to install and work with, completely free and has some very powerful features. Unfortunately, Avast has gotten slightly worse over time in trying to convert you to a premium user but for the most part it sits in the background and minds its own business. When you go to register or renew the software each year, just look out for the free option which is somewhat hidden but always there.

Another thing to keep in mind with Avast is that they continue to add new features each year, which should be great, however, many of the new features are unnecessary and may slow your PC down. I keep the bare minimum features on — typically just the anti-virus and anti-malware. I turn off their browser plugins as well.

One of Avast’s best features is the ability to do a pre-boot scan. You can select which harddrives you would like Avast to check, then restart your computer and Avast will run through all your data to look for viruses or malware. I have used pre-boot scans many times to salvage computers full of viruses that went undetected by regular scans with other antivirus software.

Another great thing about Avast is the interface, which is absolutely gorgeous. Navigating through features is painless and very intuitive and the overall suite has a well-polished feel. I am also a sucker for their great branding and colour scheme (and no, I was not paid to write this, just a big fan).

I highly recommend Avast as the best overall antivirus software on the market. I give it a 9/10 even though it deserves a perfect score. I do so only because they have been more pushy with their premium versions but it is still easy enough to take advantage of the free version and upgrade if you require one of their premium features.

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