Software Review: Google Chrome

I’ve been using Google Chrome as my primary web browser for several months now.  I switched to it to give it a try when it was still very new because I’ve always been a fan of Google’s products in the past (though they are fast becoming the next evil empire).  It was my hope that they’d bring the same blend of innovation, simplicity, and functionality to the web browser that they’d previously brought to search, email, and pretty much everything else they’ve gotten their hands on.

I’ve been very pleased with it so far, using it almost exclusively — the only times I run Firefox or IE anymore are if I find something on the web that blocks Google Chrome or if I’m working on web design and want to make sure my site works properly in other browsers.  Chrome is built for speed, starting up MUCH faster on my system than Firefox 3.  Tabs can be quickly and easily moved between browser windows, split off into new windows, and merged back into other windows quickly and easily.  Each tab is a separate process independent from the others, so if a web page in one of your tabs causes a crash, only that tab dies — the rest of Chrome is unaffected.  And if a plugin (such as Flash) crashes, it doesn’t kill your browser, and can easily be restarted.  The interface is full of little optimizations and has very few menus — not even a menu bar, just two little buttons to the right of the address bar that drop down menus when you click on them.  But the most noticeable feature of Google Chrome is also the least noticeable.  Without ever realizing it, I became so accustomed to Chrome’s quick, streamlined performance and usability that when I went back to use Firefox 3 for something, it felt amazingly slow and clunky.  The same Firefox that felt so much slicker and cleaner than its predecessor felt like it was obsolete and constantly in my way!  Google Chrome truly has the lead over FF in this user experience.  And for web developers, there’s a good document inspector that lets you see what’s going on under the hood.

All this speed, performance, and usability comes at a cost, however — you may find that you miss some of the more advanced features of your old browser.  If you’re a fan of Firefox extensions, you may be disappointed at having to leave Firebug, Greasemonkey, and your favorite session manager behind.  Rumor has it they’re working on extensibility for a future version, but it’s not quite there yet.  And those of you on Linux will have to wait unless you’re willing to use a development version (and accept the extra work and risks that are inherent in doing so).

Overall, I’m a big fan of Chrome.  I’m very happy with the feature set, speed, usability, and stability.  I expect it to be my browser of choice for a long time to come, although I understand why some FF power-users may not want to give up their browser customizations.  But when extensibility is added to Chrome, I don’t think there will be any reason not to switch.  I give Chrome 4.5 stars out of five.  Check it out and see if you don’t like it better than the browser you’re using today!  🙂

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