Mar 152013
 

Thumbnails are a handy way to view lots of images in one go – sites like Amazon, Imgur, Reddit, Twitter and Google Images make heavy use of thumbnails. To view a full image you would click the thumbnail (which may load in its own tab) then have to click Back to return to the original page (or perhaps click on a close ‘x’ icon).

This is all very fine if you only need to zoom into a couple of thumbnails per page but what if you want to view lots of full size images? That’s an awful lot of clicking back and forth…

Earlier we looked at Thumbnail Zoom Plus (TZP) for Firefox – a powerful image zoom add-on that does a great job of displaying a full-size image popup as you hover over a thumbnail. There is no Chrome version of TZP but there is a very close, and equally useful, equivalent – Hover Free for Chrome.

Important: there is a good reason to use Hover Free and not Hover Zoom (the extension upon which it is based). Hover Zoom was recently caught introducing unethical features (injecting adverts and affiliate links into webpages you view, tracking your browsing activity) ‘by the backdoor’ – see the warning here.

Hover Free is a forked (identical but with these bad bits removed) free and open source alternative. Existing users of Hover Zoom could show their disapproval of unethical practices by removing the extension and switching to Hover Free instead.

Hover Free lets you just hover your mouse over a thumbnail and it will display a full-size image popup – you can configure the delay i.e. time you need to hover over the thumbnail before the full-size image is displayed (0.1 seconds by default).

This full-size image remains visible until you move the mouse outside of the thumbnail. The example below shows a full-size image popup of an Imgur thumbnail:

thumbzoom1

Full size image popup

It also let you quickly save a full-size image, without the need to open it first, via a Hotkey – just hover over a thumbnail and press ‘s’ to save the full-size image to your Chrome Download folder (the standard right click and ‘Save image as’ option would only save the thumbnail).

Download – download from Chrome Web Store here. The extension works straight away – just hover over a thumbnail to see it in action. It supports any site which links directly to image files e.g. Imgur, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Amazon, Tumblr etc.

The Options page for this extension (see below) contains several options including whitelisting or blacklisting – if you don’t want to use it with a particular site, add the domain to the blacklist on the Sites tab.

hoverfree1

(says ‘Zoom’ but this is for Hover Free)

A quicker way to blacklist a site is to click the Hover Free icon in the Omnibox (address bar) then tick the ‘Disable for xyz’ box to blacklist it – you could also use this icon to tick the ‘Disable for all sites’ box – useful if you just need to disable it for a while:

hoverfree2

Note that this icon only appears in the Omnibox if there are any thumbnails/images on the current webpage that can be zoomed – you can permanently hide the icon via the General tab in Options if required.

The rest of the Options let you configure the delay until the popup appears and how large the image is zoomed etc. The Action Keys tab offers a number of Action keys (hotkeys) which can save time and allow more granular control of the full-size image popup. We covered the ‘s’ Save hotkey earlier but another useful one is ‘t’ which opens the pop-up image in a new tab – useful when the image is larger than fits in the current window.

Conclusion

Hover Free is an excellent image zoom add-on for Chrome and a worthy rival to TZP in Firefox – it supports a huge variety of sites, has a lot of options and hotkeys to help save time and has worked really well with every site I have thrown at it. It also doesn’t suffer from the privacy concerns that sadly now afflict Hover Zoom.