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Google Chrome for Mac

Google Chrome for Mac

Back in my PC days, I played around with Google Chrome a little bit. I liked it well enough, but it clearly wasn’t (and in my opinion, still isn’t) "ready for prime-time." The main reason for my decision to uninstall it was the lack of usability I’ve come to depend on with Firefox and its myriad add-ons.1

While doing a web search for something completely unrelated, I came across an article at Webworker Daily, entitled "3 Efficiency Tips for Using Dual Monitors."  The first of these discussed having Firefox open on one monitor, to take advantage of its installed addons (for example, in my situation, using Firebug to analyze website coding), while having web apps (e.g., Google Documents) open in Chrome tabs, to take advantage of Chrome’s design to prevent a single tab crash from crashing the entire browser (one of my very serious criticisms of Firefox). This sounded pretty reasonable to me, and a way to play around with and monitor Chrome’s development, without an all-out commitment to the browser.Google Chrome Logo

It was at this point I hit the brick wall that is Chrome for Mac development: There is no beta version of Chrome for OS X! Since I haven’t really been paying a lot of attention to Chrome, I wasn’t aware of this fact. However, I’m nothing if not persistent: I kept seeing references to "the latest build" of Chrome for Mac. A few more links clicked and I was at the Developer Release page for Chrome (OS X) (there’s also one for Linux, I believe). The download was quick, installation was (as usual for Mac software) a drag-and-drop.

I launched the browser, and it asked if I wanted to import my bookmarks. There was a dropdown list of bookmark sources, with Safari being the default. I elected instead to import from Firefox. This, my friends, is why it’s called a "developer version." A nice little window popped up (and unfortunately I closed it before I could get a screen shot of it) to inform me that a whole bunch of stuff was being imported. Only it wasn’t, really. That window stayed up until I did close it (thinking I would see it again when I restarted Chrome). That’s a one-time good deal, though: Apparently in the innards of Chrome, a flag is set saying I’ve done the import, so I can’t do it again (at least, not easily). Of course, not a thing was imported. Not a huge setback, but rather disappointing that the FIRST thing that happens is the import flag is set to True, even if nothing actually happens after that.

So I reopened Chrome, set a few preferences for home pages (GMail, Google Reader, and the Aerie). One thing I will echo from reviews of Chrome for Windows: It is fast. I realize Chrome is not feature-complete by any means, so a lot of code isn’t there yet. On the other hand, a lot of debugging and developer code is still there. And pages still opened a lot faster than they do in Firefox. No, I haven’t measured how fast, but a full page rendering of the Aerie, the first time it was loaded, was a LOT faster than opening a cached copy in Firefox.

I should mention, as far as I can tell, the Aerie renders exactly the same in Chrome as it does in Firefox. This is, of course, a Good Thing: It means, at a minimum, both Chrome and Firefox are adhering to the same XHTML standards.

One thing missing from Chrome (at least in the Mac version) is the "status bar." That’s the information bar at the bottom of the browser (in Firefox and IE8, at least) that tells you when a page is done loading and also contains information from plugins. For example, here’s my Firefox status bar (usually wider than this, but I narrowed the window to cut out a lot of empty real estate):

Firefox Status Bar 

 In Firefox and IE, displaying the status bar is optional, but in Chrome, the option doesn’t exist. Yet. I expect it will show up at some point in development.

One visual element I really do like (and I know other people are put off by it) is the appearance of Chrome’s tabs. They really are tabs, as you’d see in a set of file folders:

Tabs in Google Chrome for Mac 

For me, this is simply a more visually appealing, even intuitive, design. However, if you look at the shot above, you might think that typing in the address bar will open the new site in the current tab. In fact, that’s exactly what happens, and is a major gripe I have with Chrome. After all, the whole reason for tabbed browsing is to…use tabs! In order to open a new site in a new tab in Chrome, I need to click the New Tab button, click the address bar, then type the new address. Firefox cuts out that first step: If you type in the address bar, your new site opens in a new tab. What a concept!

Speaking of the New Tab button, one feature of Chrome that many reviewers discuss is one that doesn’t do a lot for me: the thumbnail display you get when you click that button: 

 

Eventually, this page will populate with thumbnails of the sites you visit most often. Okay…so? If I visit a site so often that I’d want to click a thumbnail of it, I would… (wait for it) …bookmark it! So while the "gee whiz" factor is present, the usefulness escapes me. (Feel free to enlighten me in the comments!)

Will I keep Chrome installed? Yes, I will. I can definitely see the utility in having pages I’m working in open in a browser that won’t crash if that page crashes. This is especially true if I have multiple web apps open, which is often the case when I’m actually "doing work" in my browser. And, what I see of Chrome, and can use in Chrome, I like a lot (for the most part). And of course on the Mac, it’s simply not robust enough yet to replace Firefox (or Safari, for that matter).2

There are still a lot of things I can do in Firefox that I can’t do in Chrome, even on the PC side. But I do have faith that the Google team will get there. Some day. (After all, how many years was GMail in beta?) ;)

Have you used Chrome? What do you like, or dislike, about the browser? Have you made it your primary or default browser yet? Is anyone else playing with the Mac developer release?

 

Notes:
  1. Curiously, as enamored of/dependent on add-ons for WoW and WordPress, I don’t use nearly as many for Firefox; however, the ones I do have, I couldn’t do without.
  2. And yes, I have used Opera; it’s okay, but just doesn’t feel comfortable to me.
 

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Finally (saving the best for last), the Aerie would still be gathering dust if not for the occasional poke from my dear friend, Tami Moore. Her good-natured wheedling culminated in an offer to host a guest article from me, and was the spark that reignited my blogging fires. Even embiggened virtual hugs aren’t enough to express what Tami’s friendship means to me.