Chrome on the ranch

Since its introduction last September I have found myself adopting Google Chrome as my primary web browser. 5 or so months on, I thought I’d have a go at explaining why this is and summarising some of the reasons I like and dislike this new addition to the web browsing arsenal.

feeling the need for speed

Since discovering firefox I was impressed with its wide array of extensions, its tabbed browsing and good support for CSS. It quickly became my first (and pretty much only) port of call when it came to perusing the web and building things for it (except for the obligatory browser testing).

But the one thing that really pisses me off about Firefox is that it is a memory hungry beast. If you leave more than a few tabs open your web browser will soon savagely be devouring any spare processing power on your computer. If you even think about opening up a graphics package at the same time as you have an open browsing session you’ll soon be wishing that some limey hadn’t even bothered inventing the internet in the first place.

So, the first thing I noticed about Chrome was how blazingly fast it is, even with our poxy rural broadband connection. With so many AJAXy rich internet applications on the web in this day and age I hadn’t really realised how slow Firefox was becoming as a casual web browsing tool and this, for me, is where Chrome really stands out.

tab clear

Chrome makes some nice enhancements to tabbed browsing, such as the ability to drag tabs out of their container to create a new browsing window. Clicking on a new tab will bring you to one of the nicest features of Chrome which is its default home page – showing your most visited sites (with screengrabs), recently bookmarked sites and – during your browser session – your most recently closed tabs. There are also options to search or browse your browsing history, with visits outlined chronologically using favicons for swift perusal.

I think the real clincher for Chrome – and this is not as a web designer but as a web user – is this holistic approach to web browsing that it takes. In stark contrast to many recent browsers which have scrambled to add features and functionality as the web expands in its remit and potential, Chrome takes one function – web browsing – and strips the fluff and distractions away to do that and do it well. It resonates with the same simplicity that characterises the Google search page and the interface for Chrome is intuitive and effective, focusing on the web page itself rather than countless toolbars. One potential criticism is the loss of a separate search bar but as the majority of people would be using this to search Google anyway this isn’t really a problem.

inspecteur gadget

For the web developers amongst you, it has to be said that Chrome has a pretty nice HTML and CSS inspector built in, with nested viewing of the DOM and CSS attributes and a handy option to examine the speed and size of any resources used on a page. All available in Firefox I hear you cry but it’s pretty impressive that this bit of geekery is part of the core build for this browser. Chrome also has some other useful resources for web developers and designers with a javascript console and debugger and tab manager.

apply yourself

Clearly a preempt to Google’s ultimate aim to take over your desktop as well as your web experience is the ability to create application icons for any website and save these to your desktop or start bar to initiate a minimal version of Chrome for that website. A nice feature that will only increase in potential as people move more to web applications from traditional software and whilst this ability already exists in other browsers/operating systems Google have taken it and made it simple and intuitive.

account ability

The main down sides to Chrome for me has to be the inability to tie the browser into a Google account.
It would be great to integrate the burgeoning array of Google tools (mail, documents, calendar, analytics, reader) into the browser for ease of use and to also be able to transfer and synchronise your settings (bookmarks, history, etc) across multiple devices. I find it impossible to imagine that this won’t be taking place in the future but for me it is an opportunity missed by Google to make a useful browser invaluable (for Google account users at least).

aRSSe off

Having said that a strong asset of Chrome is its near sole focus on web browsing it would still be nice to have a bit more RSS integration into the browser, particularly with Google having their own RSS reader and having taken over Feedburner. But after even IE adopted RSS feeds in its address bar, Chrome won’t event let you know if there is a feed associated with the page you are browsing. Poor show Google!

So, that’s about it. Hope it’s not too gushing but as you can probably tell I am profoundly in love with the new browser on the block. Its definitely not time for Firefox to hang up its horseshoes just yet. FireFox will remain the browser of choice for web designers and developers in the foreseeable future due to its versatility, effectiveness and superior power. However, there is a new filly in town. It may be too young to fight with the big contenders and has a logo resembling a cross between simple simon and a pokeball but so far it has impressed this particular web jockey.

Comments

Please add your thoughts …

You can use Textile

hi cole. i’m a chrome fan too, but have gotten into an odd bind. at the school where i teach, the proxy has been changed, and is no longer accessible to staff. this means i cannot change it back when i am working at home. i went to the tech and asked what the deal was, and he said that chrome must be getting the proxy from IE, and that I would need to tell it to stop doing that (uh huh, and tonight my cat will do the dishes). since when does teaching end at 5 pm? i do a LOT of work from home, most of it internet based, and do not want to give up my igoogle by having to d/l a 3rd browser. not to mention how pissed my husband is going to be when he can’t access his hotmail via IE! do you have any words of wisdom or advice for this? cheers,
kelly

Hi Kelly

It sounds like you are using a proxy setting at your school to bypass the firewall and get access to the outside world/interweb. You’ll need to disable this to access the internet when outside your school firewall/network.

As there is nowhere obvious in Chrome to configure your connections I would assume that this information is garnered through the IE settings.

A quick google reveals you’re not alone so check out the suggestion at http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Chrome/thread?tid=143b88cae937fc8c&hl=en#fid_143b88cae937fc8c00045ad15b32011d

Hope this helps you get interwebs at home!

Cole

thanks cole! read through the page you sent – it appears they still have access to options in both chrome and IE, so i posted a Q of my own and will patiently (now that i’ve got firefox running) wait for a reply. thank goodness i didn’t ring the principal at home in a fit of rage last night! whew