I have been feverishly playing with Google Chrome for about six weeks now. One of those weeks I dedicated exclusively to Chrome, where I didn’t use any other browser. In that one week, I not only found out more about Chrome, but now, Chrome and I are BFFs! The only time I use the other browsers is to test web pages Iam developing. Well, and to play on Facebook, since Facebook and Chrome don’t play nice yet (more on that later). So here is a simple, watered down, not-so-short, preview of Chrome and Chromium (it’s open source counterpart). Some of this content may be a bit biased because I’ve been pro-Google since GMail was introduced, and I’m voting for Google 2008.
Okay, on with the review. After each feature review, I will also rate that feature on a scale of 1 to 10…
First, I would like to talk about the elegant New Tab Page. Although Chrome is not the first to use a thumbnailed ‘quicklink’ page, it IS the first to populate it with the sites you use the most, and it is kind enough to auto-sort them as well by the number of times you visit that site. For instance, at least four times a day I visit the ADP site that my company uses to track employee time sheets. The thumbnail link for that site is the very first link on the page. Next on the page is the link to this site, then a link to the faux-stock market page I play with, then the next six are always being switched up depending on what projects I have going on for that week. On the dark side, I wish it was more customizable. Or at least be able to show more than just nine links. I would like to see perhaps a tab system where I could have business sites separated from personal sites. I would like the ability to ‘pin’ a link to the page, so if it’s a site you don’t visit a lot, but you always want quick access to it when you do, there you go. I could go on about more cool features that could be on the page, but it may be their point to keep it simple. We may need to rely on future third-party plugins for this type of customization. (5/10, for lack of customization)
Also included on the New Tab page is a collection of custom search fields on the right sidebar for sites that you search regularly. The way the search bars are added is a method that is interlaced with the usage of the Omnibar, and can be added deliberately, although it apparently can only have three at a time plus the “Search your history” bar. Almost any site with a search bar (Stolen Droids, e.g.) can appear here. After you have searched on the site a few times, you can use the omnibar to quickly search the site. So, for instance, to search in Stolen Droids, I would start typing “sto” in the omnibar, and it autofills to the full name of the site. I then hit the [TAB] key, and then type the keyword I want to search for. If it is a site you search a lot, it will eventually show up in the New Tab Page. On the dark side, I wish there were more than just three search bars on the New Tab Page. (8/10, for having only three)
The Omnibar has become my best friend for quick searches. Since I am always quick to search for things in a heated debate, or for how to solve a computer issue, the omnibar is probably the Chrome feature that I use the most. It’s as easy as: Ctrl+T, start typing, ENTER. The only way to make that easier would be to make a neural link from my brain so I don’t have to type anything at all. And with the custom searches, I never have to browse to a site manually before searching it! You can even create shortcut keywords to search even faster. For instance, if I want to search Google Images for sharks, I could type “images.google.com shark”. Or, after searching on Google Images a few times, you could even start typing images until it auto populates the url for Google Images, then hit [TAB], then type “shark”. OR, you can right-click on the Omnibar, select “Edit Search Engines…”, select the entry for images.google.com, click “Edit”, then change the Keyword to something really short like “i”. Then all you need to type is “i shark” and VOILA! On the dark side… no dark side to the omnibar. (10/10)
The Tab Manipulation is pretty neat. I have only used this feature a few times, but each of those times it was needed. Moving a tab is as easy as click and drag. And if you drag it out of the current Chrome window, it puts it in a new Chrome window. It really bugged me out the first time it happened, and it changed the way I thought about tabs. The context menu that appears upon right-clicking on a tab is also very useful. There have been times where I have been researching a subject in Wikipedia, and sub-pages of related articles I was opening in new tabs, each one opening to the right of my current tab. After reading bits from each one I didn’t need them any more. Right-click on the main article tab, and select “Close tabs to the right”. At first when I saw that option I thought “That’s weird. Why don’t they also have a ‘Close tabs to the left’ option?” But it turns out it that it has been very useful. (Hint: In the previous example, you could also use “Close tabs opened by this tab” if there are other tabs to the right that you don’t want to close). No Dark Side. (10/10)
Task Manager: COOL! Since when did you have a software program that had its own Task Manager! This feature has wowed me from the start. Now, for the first time in browser history, I can see not only how much memory each tab is taking up, but also how much Bandwidth it is using! And, as if that weren’t enough to appeal to the inner-nerd in me, they have a “Stats for nerds” link in the bottom left-hand corner of the Task Manager. Click on that, and you’ll see an even more detailed breakdown of how much Memory and Virtual memory each tab is using. Then it subtotals it all up for you in a nice, easy-to-read format. If you have other web browsers open, it will also show you how much memory they are using. This is useful if you want to compare the memory usage of one web site in different browsers. Another neat feature of the Task Manger is, if a tab has crashed (or a plug-ing: e.g. Flash), you can kill it in the Task Manager without affecting other tabs. Then you get to see the Sad Tab in the tab you killed in place of the site that used to be there, or in place of the flash application in the case that you kill the Flash process (More on Flash Later). On the Dark Side, There is no way to set priorities to certain Chrome processes from its own Task Manager. You have to match up the Memory usage size to one of the Chrome.exe processes in Windows’ Task Manager to do that. (9/10)
So far, the running score for Google Chrome is 42/50. Check back next week for Part 2 of the Google Chrome Review.