Product Spotlight: Google Chrome

Culture
>> Just when you thought there were plenty of browser options out there, along comes Google. That's right Google has a new browser. It's called Chrome and is it the next Firefox? Let's find out. We're shinin' the big ol' Product Spotlight on Google Chrome. ^M00:00:14 [ Music ] ^M00:00:19 >> Now at the time we taped this, Chrome was still in Beta so we haven't given it an official review yet and some of our complaints might be answered in the next release, but last we heard Chrome was already climbing the browser market share charts so we thought we'd let you know what's on the inside. Now, right up front and under the hood Chrome is actually a big change from other browsers you know. Let's start with the interface. Chrome uses tabs, which you're probably used to by now, but the tabs are up above the URL bar and they're not really stuck to the page like Firefox tabs. See, you can just drag one off like this and -- boom -- it becomes its own window. Drag it back and it's a tab again. I've actually been dying for this feature in Firefox so -- big plus for me. Now, instead of a Home page by default, Chrome opens up with a page with thumbnails of the 9 pages you visit most. It also shows you recent searches and recent bookmarks. Now, again, it takes some getting used to but it's handy. Also, there's no Home button on the toolbar by default but you can add it in the Options menu. Other than that the interface is very minimal. Options are hidden in the little Wrench button and standard file choices like Copy and Paste are here under this Page button, and for a browser made by Google you might be surprised to see that there's no Search box. Instead, Google calls its URL bar the Omnibar. It's where you search, type in URL's, or just kind of type whatever you want. The Omnibar remembers the places you've been, it suggests possible sites to go to, and it acts as a Google search. It can even remember searches you made on other pages like Amazon. It's cool but it's kind of scary how much it knows. Now, other features in Chrome include this Application Shortcuts menu, which lets you create, Desktop, Start menu, or quick launch shortcuts for web pages, or for web only applications like Gmail, Google Docs, or Yahoo Mail. Now, that's actually pretty handy and it's part of GoogleGears so if you created a shortcut to Gmail or Google Docs, what you're also getting is off-line access to all that Google stuff, not bad. Chrome also gives you private surfing which is called Stealth Mode and it erases your entire history once you close the Stealth Mode tab -- nice. And it keeps pop-ups and downloads contained in their relevant tab so you can choose whether you want to see them. Under the hood Chrome is also very different from standard browsers. Each tab is its own process, totally separate from the other one. Now, Google says this makes Chrome faster and also more stable. If one tab goes down you could just end that process without closing the whole browser. It also means though that when you close the tab you end its entire process, which means you won't be able to re-open recently closed tabs like you can in Firefox or IE and that is a bummer. But one good thing about the multi-threading is that you get this cool task manager. It's kind of buried in the Developer options or you can hit Shift plus Esc to bring it up. Like the Windows Task Manager it lets you see how each tab is doing, how much memory it's using, and if you're wondering whether it's the one that crashed. This to me is one of the best things about Chrome, tab level controls. Another best thing, the speed. In totally anecdotal testing Chrome is extremely fast in loading both itself and pages, and once you get used to the Omnibar it's pretty cool to just type whatever you want into just one box. And its Auto-complete? -- Scary fast. Now to the downsides. First, there are no plug-ins for Chrome, so if you want a certain feature like one-click delicious tagging you're pretty much out of luck. Second, like most new browsers it can't render everything right out of the gate. In particular, I encountered problems with Web Forms and sites that use a lot of JavaScript like Facebook photo albums. And, finally, at least right now, there's no MAC version, so that stinks. Especially since Chrome is built partly on the open source WebKit platform that also powers Safari. Google says the MAC version is coming. So, what's the bottom line? Like all Beta products install at your own risk, but if you're looking for some slimmed down, super fast, plug-in free browsing -- Google Chrome is definitely worth the download. For cnet.com I'm Molly Wood and you're welcome. ^M00:04:21 [ Music ]

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