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Third Chrome beta due in days, Google says

After a hiatus of nearly two months, Google rids its open-source Web browser of a few bugs while improving performance and fixing some security issues.

Updated 2 p.m. PDT to clarify details about indexing secure pages.

Google will soon begin distributing a third beta version of its Chrome Web browser, a release that takes on bugs, performance, and security weaknesses.

"You will automatically get updated in the next few days," Chrome program manager Mark Larson said in a mailing list post Wednesday night announcing the new version. People can check if a new version is available by clicking the wrench menu and selecting "About Google Chrome."

On the security front, Google Chrome version stomps a security problem in which a site--if it convinces a user to open a pop-up window--could show a different Web address than the one that actually supplied the information.

"This flaw could be used to mislead people about the origin of a Web site in order to get them to divulge sensitive information," Larson said.

Found in the new beta: better performance and reliability for plug-ins such as Flash and Silverlight; support for scrolling with a touchpad; and better performance and reliability for people who browse the Web through a proxy intermediary. More details are expected to become available in the Chrome release notes page, though at present that page hasn't been updated.

Also, although Google aggressively promotes search technology to make people's lives more convenient, the company concluded it's not a good idea to index the contents of secure Web pages. "You can still search your history for the site's address, but not the contents on the page," Google said in a Chrome release notes blog post Wednesday. (To clarify, Chrome doesn't index secure pages, such as a bank's site, but does index openly accessible pages even if they're accessed over a secure connection, such as a password-protected wireless network.)

Other changes:

• The spell-checker underlines misspelled words in text-input boxes now, and users can right-click words to add them to a dictionary.

• Google, with some outside help, tidied up the process for launching regular and incognito windows, moving the option from the "control the current page" menu to the "control Chrome" among other changes.

• When users download executable programs, such as those ending with .exe or .dll extensions, Chrome now gives them dummy filenames until users confirm they really want to download the files. Unconfirmed downloads are deleted when Chrome exits.

Google released the first Chrome beta in early September and quickly followed up with a second release to fix serious security problems.

Google also offers a faster moving but less-well-tested developer release of Chrome. The newest beta version is the same as the most recent developer version except for one new feature: translation of text such as dialog boxes and menu commands into 42 languages.

I've been testing the Chrome developer releases, and one thing Google didn't mention in its release notes is better JavaScript performance over the earlier Chrome releases. Fast JavaScript is a key part of Google's ambition to use Chrome to spur faster Web application development.

Chrome is an open-source project, and Google maintains a Chrome issues list for those curious about new priorities. It's still only available on Windows, but Google is working on Mac OS X and Linux versions.