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7 days with Google Chrome

Harrison Hoffman spent 7 days with Google's new Chrome browser. Does it make the grade?

When Google Chrome was released a week ago, I bravely volunteered to use the browser exclusively for the next seven days. That means no Firefox, no IE, no Opera, only Chrome, with no exceptions. I was fully expecting a week of frustrations, incompatibilities, and annoyances. I was ready to criticize all of the fatal flaws that were sure to turn up. I am happy to say that I was wrong. Google Chrome passes the full-time use test with flying colors.

(You can get Chrome from CNET

One of the first things that people notice when they load up Google Chrome is the gigantic viewing window. Chrome's presentation is very elegant, with the larger than usual viewing window, beautiful animations, browser bar that searches, suggests, and shows history, and a good-looking and highly functional start page. Page searches also show the locations in which your search terms appear in the scroll bar. Surfing has been way easier on my eyes in the past week.

Chrome shows the locations of search terms in the scroll bar.

As everyone else has mentioned, Chrome is really snappy when using Google apps. Gmail and Google Reader work like a dream. Loading each tab in its own process also makes a difference. If you are in the middle of something important, a balky page or Flash element in a different tab doesn't crash everything. During my entire test of Chrome, there was only one instance when the whole browser started choking, but it was able to pull itself out of it. Chrome certainly showed nothing like the crashing issues that pop up with Firefox (although they have been made better with Firefox 3).

Windows Live Mail is incompatible with Google Chrome, suggesting that you "Upgrade your web browser."

The most serious issue I ran into was incompatibility with Windows Live Hotmail (seen above), which is a showstopper if you are a Hotmail user. It seems like this is an easily correctable issue and probably not the fault of Google. Chrome also suffers from the same insanely annoying bug as Firefox, where Flash videos sometimes stop after two seconds.

The thing I missed the most by switching from Firefox to Chrome for the week is the absence of my Remember The Milk todo list in Gmail. Google is promising extensions for Chrome, but doesn't support them yet, so you lose a lot of the functionality that Firefox's extensions provide.

All in all, my experience with Chrome was very positive and it really did not give me any major difficulties. I see Google Chrome potentially winning over some of Firefox's users, especially if they add extensions and get support from the developer community.

Chrome is more than a bright and shiny Google lab experiment. It's a useful browser that is going to steal share from the existing products.