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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 the Chrome and is it the next Firefox? Let’s find out. We’re shining the big old product spotlight on Google Chrome.
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 marketer charts so with that 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 are probably used to by now, but the tabs are up above the URL bar and they’re not really stocked to the page like Firefox tabs. So you can just drag one off like this and 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 homepage by default, Chrome opens up with a page with thumbnails of the nine pages you visit most. It also shows you recent searches and recent bookmarks. Now again, it takes some getting used to but is 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 a little wrench button and standard file choices like copy and paste start 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 it URL bar the omni bar. It’s where you search, type in URLs or just kind of type whatever you want. The omni bar remembers the places you’ve been, it suggests possible sites to go to and it access 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 let you create desktop, start menu or quick launch shortcuts for webpages or for web only applications like Gmail or Google Docs or Yahoo mail. Now, that’s actually pretty handy and its part of Google Gears. So if you created a shortcut to Gmail or Google Docs where you’re also getting its offline access to all that Google stuff, not bad. Chrome also gives you a private surfing which is called stealth mode and it erases your entire history once you’ve closed the stealth mode tab, nice. And it keeps pop-ups and downloads contained to no relevant tab, so you can choose whether you want to see them.
Under the hood, Chrome is also very different 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 can 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 reopen recently closed tabs like you can in Firefox and that’s a bomber. But one good thing about the multi-threading is that you get this cool task manager. It’s kind of buried than the developer options or you can hit shift plus escape to bring it up. Like the windows task manager, it let you see how each tab is doing, how much memory it’s using and if you’re wondering, whether it’s the one that crash. This to me is one of the best things about Chrome, tab level controls.
And finally, at least right now, there’s no Mac version. So that stinks, especially since Chrome is built partly on the open source web kit platform that also powers Safari. Google says, the Mac version is coming. So what’s the bottom line, like all data products, install at your own risk. But if you're looking for some slim 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.
CNET shows you the exciting possibilities of how technology can enhance and enrich your life. We provide you with information, tools, and advice that help you decide what to buy and how to get the most out of your tech.