I just found a great Firefox extension while browsing Lifehacker, a small addon that will add a bar in place of the default, quite unuseful bar, and let you access features in other Google services right there.
iGoogleBar ads the favicons of many Google services like Gmail, Google Calendar, Reader, even Documents, Notebook and Web Albums. What makes it really cool though is that you can access features from the bar, via a drop down menu. Clicking the calendar will yield a list of event and things to do, found in your calendar.
The unread emails and unread Reader items count is especially useful, you now only need to visit these services when you know there's something to see. Yes, there are other ways to navigate easily other productive plugins and desktop applications that can show you unread mail for example, but this is unobtrusive, replaces something less useful, so even if you use it only now and again it may be worth the download.
Update: Please note that iGoogleBar is no longer compatible with recent versions of the Firefox webs browser. A complete alternative does not seem to be available for the browser right now. What you can install however are individual extension that add notification information for Google services to the browser.
Google Reader Watcher adds for instance information in Firefox's status bar that informs you about new unread articles on the site. It supports notifications and can display a notification window at times to inform you about the number of unread articles on Google Reader.
Then there is Gmail Notifier,a brand new restartless add-on that displays notifications and an unread email count as an icon in Firefox's main toolbar. A left-click on the icon takes you directly to Gmail, a middle-click checks for new mail on the site.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.