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Google Chrome – first impressions are the most important

Google ChromeGoogle Chrome was officially released today and of course being the Geek that I am I had to download it at work and at home and yes I am writing this blog entry from Chrome. Although I have not spent a long time with it, so far I like it, and for a first beta launch it is remarkably polished. This of course is nothing new for Google — they have a reputation of releasing extremely polished beta products. I also fully expect Chrome to be in beta for at least two years, but by then everyone will long since forgotten that it is a beta. 

The first thing I have noticed about Chrome is that it feels very zippy. I will have to try some more intensive tasking, but so far the tabs seem very responsive. Right now I have over 15 tabs open including game trailers. Game trailers usually slows down Firefox a bit while loading or switching tabs, but in Chrome I rapidly clicked back and forth on the tabs and it was extremely responsive. I also find that pages seem to load faster. 

When you open a new tab with Ctrl T or the plus sign you are presented with a home page of your history with thumbnails of everywhere you have been recently. This is a different approach and I think I like it. You also have access to a search panel and you are asked the first time you install if you would like Google to be the default search engine. 

Chrome Home Page

Google suggest has also been incorporated into the search / URL bar which double up as the same field. There is no separate search field, which really does makes sense once you start playing around with it. The suggestion seems rock solid too. Page search is also very intuitive and has page highlighting as you skip through each occurrence of your word search. 

Developer tools

One of the big reasons a lot of people use Firefox, at least web developers and designers is the developer add-ons, namely Web Developer and Firebug. Chrome does have built in developer tools similar to Web Developer and Firebug and although not quite as full featured they are a far more powerful default tool set than I have seen in any browser to date. To access an inspector type dialog you can right click the page and select Inspect Element. This will give you a Firebug style interface. There’s also the typical view source and a JavaScript debug screen. 

Another interesting addition to the browser world is a task manager. This shows you exactly what is happening in your browser and what pages are being resource hogs. You can end any task here which consist of tabs, flash and other plugins. The browser is supposed to keep running even if something fails in one of the tabs. There is also a link at the bottom of the task manager called Stats for nerds which will give more details about what’s going on. You can also open dialogs and still use the browser at the same time.

Chrome Task Manager

Privacy

Of course I know what a lot of people are thinking when they see a page full of pages they have recently visited along with thumbnail screenshots. What about my privacy? Well aside from being able to clear your history there is also an interesting tab mode called “incognito” or “porn mode” as some of the blog sphere have started calling it. Google even adds some funny humour to the description when you go into incognito mode. 

Going incognito doesn’t affect the behavior of other people, servers, or software. Be wary of:

  • Websites that collect or share information about you
  • Internet service providers or employers that track the pages you visit
  • Malicious software that tracks your keystrokes in exchange for free smileys
  • Surveillance by secret agents
  • People standing behind you

So keep in mind it won’t work when people are standing behind you. 

Is there anything bad about it so far?

I would not go so far as to say there is anything bad, just some things that are missing. When I right click on an image I would like to see more options such as view image or a view background image similar to Firefox. There is however a copy image to new tab. I would also like to see a print preview, I could not find one. An advanced configuration screen like Firefox has would also be nice, maybe there is one, I have not dug very deep yet. Obviously it would also be nice to have my favourite FireFox plugins, but to be honest I can’t say too many bad things about Chrome so far. This may be my new surfing browser of choice. For now Firefox will remain my development browser of choice.

Final thoughts

This is a really polished first release. The interface is lightweight and clean. It does feel very Google like and I can’t wait to see what they will do with Chrome in the future. I’m sure there will be even more reason to use Chrome in the near future, like Gears enabled web sites that offer a lot more than non-gears enabled web sites. Google has created many duds in the past, but I really don’t think this is one of them. So far I am very impressed and I will continue to use the browser for a week or so and see how things work out. Why not give it a try yourself.

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