Google offers better-tested Chrome version

There's now a middle path for Chrome users who want a browser that's neither too old nor too raw. Also, Google shares new details on Chrome extensions.

Google released a new beta version of Chrome Tuesday, offering a better balance between software that's stable but out of date on the one hand and cutting-edge but crash-prone on the other.

The new version offers a number of new features, including zooming that increases or decreases the graphics as well as text; autofill to ease the chore of re-entering information in Web site forms; and new tab-dragging features that let you dock browser windows to the sides of the screen. The new beta version is essentially the same as Chrome 2.0.169.1 that was released last week to the Chrome developer preview channel for less-tested versions of the browser, Google said.

The feature Google chose to spotlight in a blog post announcing the new Chrome beta, though, is better JavaScript performance from a new version of the browser's V8 engine. "It's 25 percent faster on our V8 benchmark and 35 percent faster on the Sunspider benchmark than the current stable channel version and almost twice as fast when compared to our original beta version," Chrome product manager Brian Rakowski said in the blog post.

JavaScript is used to power elaborate Web applications such as Google Docs and refinements on countless more ordinary Web sites, and Google, Mozilla, Apple, and Opera all are racing to improve how well their browsers handle it.

Since releasing Chrome 1.0 in December , Google has essentially offered only two of the three promised versions of its browser: that stable version, which has received only minor tweaks, and the very rough-around-the-edges developer preview version where Google tries out new features. The beta version just tracked the stable version.

I've been using the developer preview version for the most part, despite the fact that several earlier incarnations were prone to becoming unresponsive and the latest one triggers an objection from Flickr's Organizr tool. Recent Chrome developer preview bug fixes have helped, but it's still not for most folks.

The better-tested beta, though, means many of the new features will be available to those with a lower tolerance for flakiness.

New how-to document for extensions
One big advantage Firefox has over Chrome is its ability to accommodate extensions that endow the browser with new features. Google is working on the extensions for Chrome, though, and on Monday Google programmer Aaron Boodman published a how-to document for writing Chrome extensions.

"Right now extensions can only really contain content scripts, so that is all this doc covers. But we'll be expanding it over time as more features develop," Boodman said in an e-mail announcement of the how-to document.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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