Google has just released a new web browser called Chrome. We already have leaders like IE8 and FireFox 3 out, with Opera and Safari leading the pack of others making attempts to be larger players in this space.
IE 8 is out in Beta 2 and makes up a lot of ground from IE 7 and promises new features and new experiences to make this your #1 browser. FireFox 3 was recently released and has made some fantastic improvements to the popular FireFox 2 browser. For whatever reason Google has chosen to release their own browser, it is worth discussing. At this stage, Google is likely starting to vet out some of its developments for the impending next generation of Operating Systems as we know them.
Politics aside, my limited testing already has me giddy for some of its new features…
You can go here to download Google Chrome for yourself.
Aside from usual new features like safer browser, better download managers, and the ability to import settings from other browsers (thus easing your transition from a competitor 🙂 ), Chrome offers some truly great new technologies that make the browsing experience more efficient, enjoyable, and help blur the line between desktop and cloud applications.
My absolute favorite feature by far is what is known as “Application Shortcuts”. Application shortcuts allow you to launch your favorite sites without launching a browser. Realistically, you are launching an instance of Chrome without any of the browsing controls. If you click on a link, Chrome will launch that link in a new Chrome browser session complete with tabs and other controls. This feature is similar to creating a shortcut on your desktop to a web site but without firing up a full instance of your browser each time you want it. I like Chrome’s application of desktop shortcuts because it gives you just what you need without any distractions – for example, I have created a Google Calendar Desktop Application on my desktop:
- Within in Chrome, I browse to Google Calendar…
- I then click the “Control the current page” button to give me some options and I choose, “Create Application Shortcuts…”:
- You have the option of creating the shortcut in any/all of the Start menu, Desktop, or Quick Launch Bar.
- Choose what you’d like, and behold you have dedicated Google Calendar application!
I’ve been having a lot of fun with this since I discovered it. Only time will tell if it changes my computing habits. I understand that this may be just a cleaner implementation of shortcuts, but it feels and acts differently thus I am drinking the kool-aid.
Dynamic tabs allow you to drag a given tab out of its current Chrome instance to create another instance. This actually moves the tab from instance A to instance B. This allows you to move one or more tabs to wherever you would like. Perhaps you are like me and have 20 different tabs going at once before you realize it. With Dynamic tabs, you can pull out the 5 or so that are related and arrange them to your liking in a new browser window. Not that it is a new concept, but you can easily drag and drop to rearrange the order of your tabs within an instance.
Architectually, Chrome separates each tab into its own memory space. This is nice because one jacked up tab will not affect the rest of the sites you are using within a single Chrome instamce (with multiple tabs open). I believe that IE 8 will be designed like this, but I am not aware that FireFox 3 is built this way. Memory leaking has always been a sort of achilies heel for FireFox. I suspect that it won’t be long before Mozilla takes the one process per tab approach.
Tabs and Miscellaneous
Chrome thankfully continues the trend of tabbed browsing. It’s funny to look back on the progression of browsers and wonder how we used to manage with all of those different IE windows open before tabs! At any rate, you’ll notice that you are in a new browser the moment you fire it up:
Each new tab opens by presenting you with data representative of your custom browsing experiences thumbnails of your most visited pages, your search engines of choice, and pages that you have recently bookmarked. I find this to be a helpful summary page of what I’ve recently been working on with teh ability to click and go.
You will notice a fairly minimalistic approach to Chrome’s application window:
You will see tabs, a “+” that is used to open a new tab (yep, CTRL-T works in Chrome!), a bookmark panel, two interactive icons on the far right, and one lonely little address bar with some controls. This single box is all you need to interact with the Internet! It handles URL’s that you type; it is your search bar; it brings up your browsing history; it even offers suggestions as you type. FireFox also allows you to search within the address bar, but you may not be aware of that due o the dedicated search bar. Chrome just whacked that extra bar and made us just that more efficient.
Rounding out the less exciting features are one-click bookmarks and “incognito mode”. To bookmark a page in Chrome, all you do is click the star that lives to left of the address bar. If you choose to browse in Incognito mode , none of the pages you visit will be stored in your browsing history.
I didn’t think I had any room in my digital toolkit for another browser, but so far Chrome has been fun to play with and some of the features distinguish it from all the rest.
Chrome currently will only run onWindows XP SP2+ and Windows Vista. Support for Linux and Mac platforms is currently under development.
You can go here to download Google Chrome for yourself.