Random Access   chris, kp & rob
Geek Candy
Chrome: Google's Shiny, New Web Browser
by rob

On September 2, 2008 Google released a beta of Chrome, a free web browser. Chrome is the newest big-name browser to come out since Apple's Safari in 2003. Will Chrome be able to convert users to become a real threat to Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Mozilla's Firefox? I'll walk you through Chrome's features and explain why Google may have another hit on its hands.

First Impressions
The first thing I noticed was the minimalist design. The only things at the top of the screen are a row for tabs, basic navigation buttons, an address bar and two dropdown menus (I'll cover these in a minute). This layout allows for more of the screen to be used by the page you're viewing instead of rows and rows of buttons, menus and input boxes. Don't let the basic design fool you. Chrome is a full featured web browser.

Simple layout
The simplest of layouts

The other obvious benefit, after using Chrome for a few minutes, is speed. It's just plain fast. Pages load and render quickly. Even complex sites that use JavaScript and AJAX for dynamic content like Gmail and Facebook appear quicker than IE or Firefox.

One Bar to Rule Them All
The address bar is used not only to navigate the web but also to search. As you start typing in the address box, a dropdown will appear with suggested popular sites, searches and pages from your browsing history just like the search box on Google's home page. The suggestion functionality is possible because Chrome is in constant contact with Google's servers and their repository of popular sites and searches. If you just type words and hit Enter, this will run a search in your favorite search engine. Chrome defaults to using Google search but this can be changed.

Smart Address Bar
The address bar doubles as a search box

Tabbed browsing is nothing new to browsers. We've had tabs for almost 20 years, believe it or not. However, Chrome's tabs are all separate instances of the browser engine, so you can not only change their order but you can drag them out of the window to create a new window. And you can gather tabs from one window to another.

Dragging a Tab
Dragging a tab out of the window will create a new window with that tab

Creating a new tab doesn't just bring up a blank screen. It shows a wealth of information to show you where you might want to go. Bookmarks are listed across the top. Screenshots of your most visited pages are the most prominent. The right column shows recent searches as well asrecent bookmarks. The list of recently closed tabs is handy when you've just closed a tab by accident. The new tab page is Chrome's default start page for good reason.

New Tab Page
The informational new tab page

Private browsing is as easy as right-clicking a link or the page menu and selecting "Open link in incognito window." The window will sport a dark title bar and a spy graphic in the upper left.

Browse any link privately

Incognito mode title bar

While in incognito mode, pages you view and searches you perform won't be saved (or sent to Google's repository). Cookies that are used while in this mode are removed when you close the window. The only things that persist from incognito mode are bookmarks and files you download. If you want to erase your data when not in incognito mode, you can still go to the tools menu and select "Clear browsing data."

Bookmarks are created instantly by clicking on the star button next to the address bar. A popup will give you the option to rename the bookmark and add it to a folder. The bookmarks bar isn't shown by default so you'll need to turn it on in the tools menu. Managing bookmarks is as easy as dragging the bookmarks to where you want in the bookmark bar.

Making bookmarks are simple

Turning on the bookmarks bar

Room for Improvement
Not all of Chrome is shiny. There are privacy issues that crop up from the fact that Google still keeps track of the sites you visit if you're not in incognito mode. Also, because each tab is a separate instance of the browser, each one has memory overhead that is not shared with the others. With the same five tabs open, Chrome's memory usage is a combined 217MB while Firefox uses 130MB and IE uses 138MB. One feature that would be nice is to be able to remove sites from your history right from the new tab page where the screenshots appear.

Drawbacks aside, Chrome is a simple, yet deceptively powerful web browser with all the features of modern browsers. Google's latest attempt to extend their domination to all things internet may lure users into making Chrome their default browser.

Get Random Access

Understanding Tech

Print this article

Shop Online


Your Name:

Your Email:

Your Friend's Name:

Your Friend's Email:

 © Micro Center