10 days of Google Chrome

I’ve been using Google Chrome for a ten days or so, and it’s become my primary browser. It’s just so fast. It opens in half a second, renders at lightspeed, and I’ve never even noticed it struggle. It’s basically like Opera, but without the occasional weirdness and with a Google-compatible rendering engine. That’s a compliment, as I tried for a long, long time to adopt Opera, butt the extra functionality of Firefox eventually won me over. Chrome is a decent mixture of the two.

Firefox, for all its power, is ugly as hell, while the Chrome GUI is so unobstrusive as to be barely noticeable. The fading status bar, combined search/address bar, and top-row tab layout are tidy and maximize browsing-space without my having to spend ages customising things. But it also has the extra features you’d expect from a modern browser. It’s the little details I like: ‘paste and go’ in the address bar, the back arrow that lists all pages when right-clicked, tabs that can be dragged out into their own window, and the search button that highlights all found terms, rather than going through them one-by-one. I keep finding these nice touches.

Like Opera, Chrome is just smooth. The tabs neatly rearrange their sizes when one is closed; new tabs fold open; pages glide into place. It’s somehow less…jarring than Firefox. Obviously this isn’t and shouldn’t be a major thing, but it makes the program that much more pleasant to use.

Rendering is almost flawless, too. Facebook had issues for a few days, but I assume they fixed that themselves. The only site I’ve struggled with is Google Docs, of all things, which stalls/jumps on my enormous bookselling spreadsheet. This happens in Firefox too, but only with Gears enabled. In Chrome it happens all the time. I expect Docs compatibility is a high priority for them, though, so hopefully this won’t last. Other than that, I haven’t had any problems.

Chrome has also been ridiculously stable, for a beta. I’ve had one crash, which – as promised – took out only one tab. It was, and this will come as a shock, caused by the flash plugin.

The only bug I found was with the ‘application’ mode. I’ve taken to opening Gmail in its own, almost GUI-less window. When I open links, Chrome cleverly switches to my main tabbed window, which keeps things tidy. But if I open a link before I have a tabbed window, Chrome opens a fresh one and forgets to bring back all the tabs from my last session. That’s happened once, and I’ll make sure to have the main window open from now on. Given that it opens almost instantly – unlike Firefox where I’m regularly waiting for up to a minute – this isn’t a big issue.

I tend to have Firefox open too, mainly for the delicious integration and for Google Docs. But it feels sluggish and old next to Chrome, and I’m much happier once I’ve switched back. Of the 24 Firefox plugins, I only miss a couple. If Chrome were being developed especially for me, I’d request the following:

  • delicious integration. I use delicious as my primary bookmark manager, and this is the only firefox plugin I miss daily.
  • printing options – I can’t see a way to remove the page title / url atm.
  • multiple rows of tabs, as they get quite small quite quickly.
  • a right-click ‘undo close tab’.
  • I’d like to be able to shrink tabs to just their favicons. This is hardly a major priority, though.

It’s interesting that I’m happy to drop functionality for speed and a generally pleasing demeanour. I’m not sure what that says. But, nevertheless: I like. Firefox has some catching up to do.