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Google Chrome Review

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Unless you’ve been on a remote island (without your iPhone!) for the last week you’re probably aware that Google have just released a beta version of their web browser, Google Chrome.

Being the the geeks that we are, most of the Sign-Up.to team had downloaded Google Chrome within a few minutes of it becoming publicly available. Seriously. Some would say we need to get out more. To justify ourselves, we’ve put together a quick Google Chrome review.

There are a lot of fundamental differences under the hood of Chrome, which Google outline here, the technicalities of these won’t mean much to most users, but the implications do. They boil down to:

  • Load and run web pages and web apps faster
  • Crash less
  • When a window does crash, it doesn’t take all your other windows with it (less swearing)
  • Lots of small, but useful, tweaks that make things more intuitive

Essentially, Google have rebuilt the web browser and designed it for running web apps (like the tools that we build) rather than just static web pages, which is what web browsers were originally designed for, all that time ago when animated gifs were state of the art.

A smart move, given the huge number of web apps that Google now offer, and their goal to replace many desktop apps with these. Google Docs is good, but in normal browsers it wasn’t slick enough to replace Office for most users, taking control of the browser platform gives Google a much better shot.

So, how does it work in reality? First, it’s a Beta, so it’s not finished and has a few rough edges, but in general I’ve found it more than sufficient for many tasks.

Google Chrome Pro’s:

  • It’s very, very quick. Loading the application and accessing web pages feels almost instant. It handles large image downloads very well.
  • It runs Google Apps (analytics, gmail etc.) exceptionally well (surprise!) Seriously, running Gmail in Google Chrome feels like using a desktop email client.
  • The most visited screen that loads into new tabs is a great time saver. It shows your commonly accessed sites and their thumbnails along with letting you search your browsing history. I love it.
  • There are lots of little features that add up for a really great experience. One I particularly love is the way that URL’s are coloured so that the domain is shown prominently in black with the rest of the URL in grey, it makes it much easier to identify the site you’re on. Placing the tabs at the top of the screen rather than below the URL bar is also a great move that anyone who works with a lot of tabs will really appreciate.
  • Great developer tools (like the Inspector) are built in.
Google Chrome Cons:
  • It has some issues with Flash Player, particularly on CPU heavy sites. I’ve managed to crash tabs on several flash sites. Hopefully this will be sorted in the next release, the same problems appear in Firefox but not to the same degree.
  • Bookmark management is lacking at the moment.
  • I’ve found in some cases, when loading lots of pages, it’s not clear when a tab has finished loading.
  • As it’s so new there’s not the wealth of extensions that are available for Firefox (of course this will change over time).
  • No Mac version yet :(
  • Breaks some javascript based objects, like our WYSIWYG email campaign editor used in Sign-Up.to (which works in everything else but Safari). We haven’t explored how easy this is going to be to fix yet. It also does some strange things with WordPress’ post editor.

Overall, this is a huge leap forward for the browser. It’s a really important step forward for web applications, bringing them closer to the realm of desktop applications. As soon as a Mac version is available, this will be my browser of choice.


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