Sunday, September 14, 2008

A first look at Google's Chrome

Hmmm, looking at my stats I see a number of visitors are using Google's new browser, Chrome.


I've been playing around with Chrome for a couple of days. Usually a new product from Google seriously impresses me. Chrome? Meh, it's
okay, but it isn't going to be replacing Firefox as my default browser any time soon.

Compared to the bloated Microsoft Internet Explorer or even Mozilla's latest version of Firefox, Chrome is incredibly minimalist. Now, by minimalist I don't mean first generation
Mosaic or anything, but the browser doesn't exactly have a lot in the way of bells and whistles. True, that minimalist approach has a certain attraction, particularly because it's fast - much faster than either IE7 or FF3. Chrome has the basic stuff you'd expect in a modern broswer, tabs and image zooming and stealth mode (called an 'incognito page' in Chrome) and its full screen view (which is how I normally run a browser) isn't too bad, not as good as IE7, but better than FF3.

Chrome does have one cool feature that I really like - it keeps track of the sites you visit and puts them up as thumbnails, sorted by order of use, on any new tab. That's a neat and useful feature most of the time. Note that any pages viewed in an incognito window aren't recorded and so don't add to the indexing that drives this feature. So, you know, as long as you're using the incognito function, that Republican airport fetish site you visit on a regular basis won't appear on the top of your 'Most Visited' list. Probably a good thing, just saying.

Other than that though, there's not a lot to Chrome. There's no third-party add-on, or plug-in support - no first party either for that matter. I've seen a couple of geek tech sites that give you a methodology for adding Firefox add-ons using Chrome's bookmark function. Bah, this is a kludge at best and not real add-on functionality. And until I can add-in PicLens, colored tabs, IE tab (for Microsoft specific sites), and the like - Chrome is going to be more of a novelty than a useful tool to me.

There's no integrated spell check function - so if you notice a number of spelling errors in this post, it's because I'm using Chrome at the moment and flying solo without spell checking. Yeah, nobody want's that. No integrated spell checking? Seriously, it's 2008, Google, what the hell are you thinking?

I'd hoped that Google would at least provide specialized integration to their other products, Blogger, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Earth Plus, and etc. Nope. Chrome gives me no additional functionality with those service that I don't already get with Firefox.

Chrome's bookmark function? Sucky. It did import my Firefox bookmarks, but there isn't even sorting capability. There's minimalist, and then there's just plain primitive.

There's no download manager.

Now, knowing Google, and the kind of innovation and the just plain cool way they usually approach information technology, I suspect that Chrome will grow and rapidly evolve into a serious and advanced piece of internet software.

But the key word here is 'evolve' - because at the moment Chrome is somewhere in the Proterozoic era.


Note: Chrome and blogger's editor don't exactly get along. Hence the weird mix of fonts in this post. I could fix it, but, you know, I think it just adds to the charm of this place.


  1. Possibly I'm one of those Chrome users in your stats. Because of the way Windows is set up on my work computer, Chrome is actually a lot better than every other browser. It's faster, and there isn't a gigantic header at the top filled with buttons, which means more space for the actual web pages. This is important especially after Firefox's latest upgrade where that top section tripled in size.

    I'm not seeing Google's assertion that each tab is separate and will only lag by itself - but then again, it's probably my bizarre work setup. Everything lags on it all the time.

    The one thing it doesn't do (yet?) that still makes Opera edge it out a bit, is full zoom. It'll do text zoom but not image zoom. Unfortunately, Opera is probably the laggiest on my work computer, so I can't really use it there.

    Other things I like about Chrome: tabs can be dragged out to separate windows, and dragged into existing other windows. This is something that Pidgin (formerly Gaim) has been able to do for years, and something I was hoping a browser would get around to doing. Opera was the first to allow re-ordering of the tabs, but still doesn't allow dragging them into new windows.

    Also, that thumbnail navigation thing has been in Opera (in a more primitive form) for a while now. Opera doesn't auto-update as you browse, however - you manually fill in the little boxes with whatever you'd like. On the other hand, I haven't found a way in Chrome to delete thumbnails I don't want there.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how Chrome will run on the home Mac, once they release a Mac version.

    Everything else, I can chalk up to differences in how we use browsers. I don't need a spellcheck so that doesn't bother me. I don't use tons of add-ons (in fact I think I only have one, and that's a rot13 widget that I downloaded back when Michelle was being cute...). Chrome works well for what I use a browser for (when I'm using a browser through Windows at work, anyhow).

  2. I'm not overly impressed. It's essentially and earlier version of Safari, and as yoiu noted, without the plug-in ability and a lot of other features I rely on in FF3 I won't be using it.

    For me to change browsers, it would have to offer something significant over Firefox besides speed. Speed is nice, speed is good, but functionality will (almost) always require sacrificing speed and will (almost) always trump it.

  3. Yeah, I'd forgotten about the pull tab thing - truthfully though I have very little use for ripping a tab off to it's own window. It's a cool trick, but truthfully I used a tabbed browser because I want all of my windows in one place, though I admit that being able to drag the tabs into another instance of the browser might be extremely useful if you're organizing online research. Other than that, I don't particularly need it.

    And like Vince said, it's going to take more than speed to pull me away from Firefox. However, if speed and a minimalist interface is what you need for your particular job - Chrome is it.

    But, it needs a spell checker.

  4. I like having separate windows for separate types of websites. For example, Pandora can pretty much just go in a minimized window by itself. Email/forums/etc. sometimes end up with multiple tabs that go together. RPoL generates a ton of individual tabs when I'm posting (one showing the main page, one showing the thread I'm replying to, one for the actual compose window, usually one or two others showing related things like my character sheet or the dice roller; this gets much worse if it's my game I'm updating, as I tend to look at multiple threads and multiple character sheets at the same time). Dragcave can also generate a lot of tabs while I'm clicking through the dragon farm. As does eHow if I'm writing a new article in one window and researching for it in others. Etc.

    Grouped tabs. They're handy. :)

    And I'm one of those mutants that always spells everything correctly all the time...

  5. MWT, I meant to follow up on something you said earlier regarding Firefox and the banner bars on top.

    You can hit F11, which causes FF to zoom to full view, hiding the bars top and bottom. If you need access to the bar, simply move your mouse to the top of the screen and it reappears. Don't know if you knew about that feature, but I thought I'd mention it.

    Hitting F11 again causes the view to return to standard.

  6. MWT,

    I still use rot13. Just mostly in my book reviews. :)

  7. rot13 makes sense in book reviews. :)

    Jim: Thanks for the info - I didn't know that about Firefox. So far I'm still liking Chrome, but will keep it in mind when the IT dept notices that I've stopped using Firefox and make me change back.


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