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I'm interested in some Google Chrome extensions, namely Minimalist for Gmail and Minimalist for Google Reader, but I would like to view their source before I install them.

  1. Is viewing plugin source code possible?
  2. Does someone know what exactly are they accessing? Or is that there more pro forma?

I don't like that those are somehow able to access my bookmarks, browsing history and Google data as it says in the right bar.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Is viewing plugin source code possible?

Yes.

Both Minimalist for Gmail and Minimalist for Google Reader are open source projects with GPLv3 licenses. You can browser their source code trees, download the full source code repositories and more at their respective Google Code home pages:

Minimalist for Gmail

Minimalist for Google Reader

Does someone know what exactly are they accessing? Or is that there more pro forma?

Slightly tongue-in-cheek: yes, the developers know what they're accessing. Which is really to say, you should ask them in their forums. Or read the source code. I'm sure they'll happily discuss their data access routines with you. Open source software also has lots of open forum discussion around it and that's A Good Thing(tm).

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Actually, they're hosted on GitHub (there is a link on the pages you linked), I see that now. Okey, to put long story short - since you obviously find your way in here better than most - are they safe to use? –  Rook Mar 9 '11 at 18:59
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Another option is to download the CRX file (right-click the Install button and select Save-As), then open it in a ZIP compatible archiver like 7-Zip.

The extension should have a manifest file which is essentially just a JavaScript text file. The extension's code itself is also a JavaScript file which you can view.

Some extensions don't do any work locally and simply pass off the work to an external server to do which of course means you cannot see the code or what happens to your data there. However for simpler extensions, you can see the code and vet it yourself before installing (assuming a decent knowledge of JavaScript of course).

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As georgiecasey comments, the original answer is totally wrong. In short, yes, it's very easy to view source code of Google Chrome extensions, it's just ZIP file with different file extension.

You can't see source code of plugins, except for open source plugins. That's proprietary information.

Knowing exactly what those are accessing: that's tricky. You can start with sysinternals tools for Windows, or for example strace for Linux. However, it's not really easy task to do, as there is huge number of system calls.

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Thank you. With that in mind, I think I'll give up on then them. Don't like anonymous software messing with my private data. –  Rook Mar 9 '11 at 18:46
    
@Rook: Both the plugins you're asking about are open source. So you can see their source code if you like. –  Ian C. Mar 9 '11 at 18:58
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This answer is 100% incorrect. You can view the source code for all Chrome extensions. A chrome extension is basically just HTML,CSS and Javascript wrapped in a CRX file which is just a ZIP file. Here's a direct link to download the Minimalist CRX, rename to .ZIP to open: clients2.google.com/service/update2/… –  georgiecasey May 1 '12 at 9:28
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