Chrome Mac beta nearer; Win 7 features recede

Printing support on the Mac is arriving in Chrome, paving the way for the beta version, but some Windows 7 features have been moved off the front burner.

Programmers have mostly overcome a crucial hurdle to releasing a beta version of Chrome for the Mac, printing support, but several Windows 7 features won't make the cut for the present 4.x version of Chrome.

The Mac printing support is now added, according to the Google browser's issue-tracking system, though there are "minor remaining issues" and the new features aren't yet distributed with the software.

Google has cited Mac printing support as one holding back a Mac version of the browser. Mac support is important for the company's ambitions to spread the browser and its fast-Web philosophy to mainstream users. The Linux version, while less mainstream now, also is important since it's the foundation of Google's Chrome OS project to build a browser-based operating system for Netbooks.

But on the Windows side of the shop, a number of planned features to support Windows 7 were pushed back to the next version Chrome on Wednesday. That includes support for showing thumbnails of open tabs on the task bar, showing "jump lists" for quick actions such as links recently or frequently visited pages, pinning thumbnails to the task bar, and overlaying a download progress status bar on the Chrome icon.

The present beta and stable releases that Google issued Monday, Chrome version 3.0.195.27 (download for Windows only), are members of the 3.x family. The developer preview is in the 4.x family (download for Windows or Mac OS X). The Windows 7 features had been slated for the 4.x series, but now are planned for version 5, according to the issue-tracking system.

The change doesn't indicate the features have retreated into the distant future, though; Chrome version numbers change relatively rapidly, as evidenced by the move to version 4 in just over a year.

Also pushed back to the 5.x series is built-in support for discovering when Web pages have RSS feeds, one of Chrome's most-requested features. Its absence is ameliorated by a Chrome sample extension for RSS, though.

Extensions remain a work in progress. New ones are arriving steadily, and existing extensions such as Lastpass for filling in passwords and forms and AdSweep for blocking ads is progressing. But Google recently switched interfaces, dropping the use of a toolstrip across the bottom of the browser with pop-up "moles" in favor of browser actions, small icons along the top of the browser.

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