Google Chrome - Do We Need Another Shiny New Browser?

By Curtis Dicken

What is Goodle Chrome?

Simply put, it's a browser from Google based primarily on the Chromium open source project which incorporates several other open source initiatives such as WebKit and V8 assembler. As open source projects such as these go, Google Chrome is still in its infancy. At the time this article was written version 1.0 was available for download at http://www.google.com/ chrome and the next version (2.0) was in beta which was available from the same location.

What's the big deal?

There are a few reasons why this is an interesting project to follow. If you were to ask Google you would get the progressive we want to "help build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web" and "create a powerful platform for developing a new generation of web applications" responses.

What I find most interesting are the developer tools that are included in the browser and the simplified redesign of the layout. With today's browsers you have a generally similar layout scheme, toolbars with as many buttons as you want to include and some sort of tab system. As for development tools, the big 3 (Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari) are generally lacking in tools that are truly useful.

What's cool…

Chrome has all the basic browser components that you need, an address bar to type in URL addresses, forward, back, home page and refresh buttons, a tab system and bookmarks. Of these standard components a few stand out.

First, the address bar now also doubles as your search bar. To execute a search just type in your keywords into the address bar and watch your search results pop up. You can even select a different default engine other than Google if you like by clicking on the Tools button and selecting Options. This is hands down my favorite feature.

The tab system is also nicely designed. The tabs appear at the very top of the browser window and opening a tab is as simple as clicking the little plus icon next to the last open tab. This may not seem like a big deal but I think the tabs at the top and a simple plus symbol next to the tabs are infinitely more intuitive than other browser implementations. For example, the Firefox method of double clicking on the tab bar or using the drop down button at the end of the tab bar to open a new tab is not at all intuitive. I have a little bitty brain and I appreciate obvious single click icons.

Another curious feature of the tab system is the Incognito option. The basic purpose of this is to limit the footprint you leave behind when browsing. Here is Google's explanation of the Incognito browser:

"Pages you view in this window won't appear in your browser history or search history, and they won't leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close the incognito window. Any files you download or bookmarks you create will be preserved, however."

Another impressive set of features are the development tools which include:

  • View Source - Alright, I know every browser has this one. Nothing innovative, just necessary.
  • Debug JavaScript - If you have done any website design and development you have probably had to use JavaScript at some point and inevitably come across a bug in your code. With many browsers you know that the best you can expect in assistance for finding your bug is maybe a line number and some cryptic error message. Kudos to Google for putting a JavaScript debugger into the browser. Now, I know you can find browser add-ons and stand-alone applications that do the same thing but wouldn't it be nice to have all of that built in to your browser and have it all automatically update when the browser updates? Before you get too excited, though, this feature too is still in its infancy and will need some time to develop into a truly useful and robust tool but it's a giant step in the right direction.
  • JavaScript Console - Like the JavaScript debugger this console helps the developer break down the code and find not just bugs but design issues as well. Like its counterpart the JavaScript debugger, this too is still a work in progress even though it is more advanced than the debugger at this point.
  • Task Manager - This is not a feature that I would have dreamed up for a browser but it does make sense. The Task Manager works similarly to the Windows Task Manager. It displays statistics each open tab and the browser as a whole with information on Memory, CPU and Network usage. From here you can review each tab's activity and even close tabs that are "hung".

Now, two of the most important and best features of Chrome are that it's the fastest and probably most secure browser available. Both are huge pluses in my book.




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