Some months ago I published a Chrome extension I had developed for myself to save time on HN; it allowed you to “mark as read” the news items that you already read or scanned.
The Chrome store tells me that 770 users are using it weekly, so I decided to take the time to update it with some more features that I’ve been experimenting with lately and found very useful.
Mark comments as read
The new feature I found most useful is the ability to also mark comments as read.
Using the orange button, you can mark all comments in the page as read. If you do so, those comments will appear with a slightly darker background, so when you reload the page you can easily spot the new ones – I found this a real time saver!
If you want to find the new comments even faster, you can check the “Hide read comments” option. This mode can be a little confusing, as you lose the context for the comment, but sometimes I found it useful anyway.
Follow comments for a news item
Sometimes, even if you already read an item and its comments, you want to follow the discussion as it develops, or be notified if a discussion starts at all. Instead of just leaving the comments page open, you can now tick the “Follow comments” checkbox (see picture above); when you do so, the news item will be shown in the home page even if it was marked as read and you are hiding read items.
Most importantly, if there are new comments since you marked all comments as read for that item, that will be shown with a green text in the home page. This can also be a good time saver – if you resist the urge to follow too many discussions, at least.
Collapse comment threads
This is a pretty obvious feature, but it helped me save time when, for example, the first comment for an item is something contentious that generated a long thread I’m not interested in. Just click the little “-” symbol to the left of the root of the thread, and the thread will collapse.
You can also collapse all thread with the “‐‐” to the left of the “Follow comments” checkbox. “+” and “++”, of course, will respectively expand one thread and all threads.
Show parent comment
I left the fanciest feature last; I don’t use it very often, but when I do I find it incredibly useful.
I like threaded comments, but sometimes you just get lost in them: You read a long sub-thread, then you find a comment answering something, but you can’t understand what it’s answering to. How can you find that out? Enters “show parent”.
With this feature, when a comment is part of a thread, but not the first answer to its parent, a “show parent” link appears. You can hover your mouse pointer on that link, and the mysterious parent is shown right above it. I really like this solution because it is non-intrusive and (in my opinion) solves a real pain of threaded comments. The only serious limitation I see is that it wouldn’t work well on touch screens, but if somebody wants to adopt it for that use case, it could become a touch-to-toggle.
Wow! How much do I need to pay for all this?
Nothing! You can get the extension for free from the Chrome store.
Other browsers? It’s open source
I packaged this as a Chrome extension because it’s just too convenient. If you want to use it on some other browsers, though, you’re free to get the source code on github and adapt it any way you want. Happy hacking!
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