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Google gives translation help with Chrome 4.1

The beta update, for Windows only, can automatically translate Web pages it detects are in a different language. Also: new extensions work.

I've been enjoying a Chrome feature that shows a pop-up bar suggesting translations of foreign Web pages into English--except for a single error yesterday when it erroneously thought a page was in Polish--so Windows users who visit pages not in their native tongues should note the arrival of the new 4.1 beta of Google's new browser.

Chrome 4.1.249.1021, for Windows only, adds the translation feature that already was in the developer-preview version of the browser I use.

It's particularly notable given Google's desire to lower the barriers to information access. Web pages already could be translated, but as with providing translated Web pages in search results, the automation makes other languages that much less an issue.

Also new is an updated privacy control panel that permits finer controls. "From these settings, you can control how browser cookies, images, JavaScript, plug-ins, and pop-ups are handled on a site-by-site basis. For example, you can set up cookie rules to allow cookies specifically only for sites that you trust, and block cookies from untrusted sites," said Wieland Holfelder, engineering director of Google Munich, in a blog post Monday.

Chrome programming efforts diverged for Windows on the one hand and Mac OS X and Linux on the other. In January, the Google released Chrome 4 in final form Windows only, with the notable feature being a framework for customizing the browser through extensions, and since then the team has been working on the 4.1 update.

The Mac OS X and Linux work, on the other hand, reached beta with a beta version released in February based on the 5.0 version of the code base. Much of the recent Windows development has also on the 5.0 branch of the Chrome code, though, so the teams are now more in sync.

One development direction are new abilities for Chrome extensions beyond the interfaces allowed in Chrome 4.0 and 4.1. But some new experimental Chrome extension interfaces are coming that programmers can test now, said Google programmer Erik Kay said in a Monday blog post.

One experimental interface lets programmers get access to a users' browsing history and modify the information. It also eventually will let programmers create their own browser history pages, rather requiring browser users to use the one built into Chrome. Another lets programmers get access to information about Chrome computing processes, such as how much memory each tab is using.

Chrome's biggest competitive target is Internet Explorer, which lacks some high-performance features such as speedy execution of JavaScript programs that Google desires in its effort to speed up the Web overall. But in practical terms, its greatest competition is likely Firefox, which like Chrome is an open-source project with cachet among technophiles and early adopters.

According to Net Applications' new market February statistics, Chrome edged up from 5.2 percent usage to 5.6 percent from January, while IE slipped from 62.1 percent to 61.6 percent and Firefox dropped from 24.4 percent to 24.2 percent.

However, Mozilla is working to keep Firefox relevant with new features. One is the new Jetpack extensions framework, which is conceptually similar to Chrome's in that both employ Web technologies such as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).