Google Chrome: My first impressions

Molly Wood records her first impressions of Google's Chrome browser.

This should, in no way, be considered an official review--see CNET and CNET News for the proper shebang. I've just been using Chrome for a few hours and thought I'd dash off some quick thoughts.

First: It is fast as you-know-what. It feels super-responsive, so much so that I first thought it must be a trick. The tabs almost seem to click themselves; the autocomplete is so speedy that I thought it was reading my mind. After download and launch, it pulled in not only my bookmarks but, apparently, also my Awesome Bar history. Once I loaded it up and typed "T," Twitter.com was almost already loaded in the tab. It was slightly terrifying, actually. One note: Chrome did not import my Firefox Live Bookmarks--the RSS feeds that appear in a drop-down from the menu bar, and it sadly doesn't have this as a feature at all.

The "tabs-on-top" interface is actually a tiny bit off-putting at first. I'm so used to tabs being below the URL bar that I initially felt confused about which ones I had opened. Also, there are no traditional menus for...well, anything. There's almost no text whatsoever at the top of the browser window. No File, Edit, View, Tools, etc. You've got a wrench for the very minimal selection of customization settings and a button to the left of that where you access the menu items you normally find in "File," "Edit," and "Tools," along with a Developer option where you'll find Chrome's Windows-style Task manager (and a JavaScript debugger and console, which I think I might really need...see below).

There's not even a separate search bar; you conduct everything from the URL bar. I did discover that the Ctrl-K keyboard shortcut that normally puts your cursor in the search bar in Firefox adds a little question mark to the Chrome URL bar, so the browser knows for sure that you're conducting a search. But it's not really necessary. If you type anything but a URL into the URL bar, Chrome does a search. I like it, but it takes a little getting used to.

Now for the negatives. In my short use, I found that Chrome's got some problems playing nice with JavaScript--or at least, I'm assuming that's the problem. A Safari user told me he's encountered some of the same issues I had, so I suspect it's related to the open-source WebKit on which both browsers are based (and some quick searching seems to bear that out).

Among the issues I ran into today: I attempted to sign up for Hallmark.com to send an e-card. The site launches its sign-in window as a JavaScript pop-up. Once I'd registered and tried to sign in via the pop-up, the window got caught in an infinite refresh loop. I couldn't keep my cursor in the text field or type. Sorry, Hallmark! On Facebook, as I attempted to page through an album, I got about eight photos in, and then, as I clicked Next, the page would display the next photo, then immediately jump back to the previous one, and it wouldn't progress any more than that. Finally, as I attempted to sign in to Hipster Cards (I need to send an e-card today!), that site's online form failed me at the Captcha field: every time I tried to click in it, the cursor leaped out and plopped itself back in the "First name" field. Firefox to the rescue.

I thought maybe Chrome was trying to tell me something about the e-card sites, but then, as I searched for an answer to the WebKit/JavaScript problem, I got this error on a result page:

Chrome_warning

So, that's pretty terrifying, and I guess as security features go, it's hard to miss. Hopefully it's not a false positive. In any case, like I said, I haven't done exhaustive testing on Chrome, and I haven't yet tested it with Google Docs or other Web-based Google apps. But at first blush, I like the speed, but it's certainly not ready to be my daily browser. At least not if my mom ever hopes to get an anniversary e-card.

Click here for full coverage of the Google Chrome launch.

 

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