Shortly after Chrome was released about 15 months ago, I remember Rich saying he had switched his wife over to it and was using it exclusively on Windows.
I was skeptical. After all, I love Firefox and have used it happily for years, but Rich was also a Firefox guy. So, something must have sold him on Chrome.
I used it bit on VMs, but not enough to convince me to switch. Plus, Chrome was Windows only, and as you probably know by now, I don’t do Windows anymore.
The Chromium open source project ramped up right after Chrome was released, but the early Linux builds were lacking core browser functionality, making them unusable for everyday browsing. Mac users were, oddly, out in the cold.
That is until, the Chrome developer release builds came out earlier this year for Mac and Linux. Like many, I was curious (because I like shiny objects) to give them a whirl, and I’ve been amazed at how stable and functional they have been and how quickly they have advanced.
Earlier in the week, Chrome officially went into beta on for Mac and Linux. The official version for the beta is 18.104.22.168, in case, like me, you’ve been running the developer releases.Based on about six months of running the developer versions, I wouldn’t let the beta tag scare you away from trying Chrome. Chrome (and Chromium) rarely crash and are feature complete now.
Flash is the only piece that sometimes crashes, but because of the way Chrome handles memory, you won’t lose your browser session if Flash takes a header. On Linux, I have noticed a resource-intensive process called “Exe”, which is the Flash plugin process.
If it gets out of control, using too much of your system resources, you can kill it without taking down Chrome.
Why I Switched
So, why did a guy who loves Firefox and open source switch to Chrome?
The reasons I switched:
- It manages system resources better.
That’s all it took really.
Let’s face it. When it comes to intertubes, faster is always better.
I’ve heard Safari is even faster than Chrome, but back in the Safari 4 beta versions, it was stashing multiple copies of web history in weird places, unbeknownst to the user, causing extreme harddrive bloat. I don’t know if that was ever identified as a bug or not.
Chrome’s memory usage is also a useful feature. Chrome allocates separate memory for each tab, rather than a large chunk for the entire browser instance, which allows it to crash a single tab without crashing the entire browser.
If you’ve used Firefox, you’ll know that it tends to swell in memory use the more tabs you open and the longer you keep it running.
Not that Chrome doesn’t soak up resources, but its framework makes it easier to release them when necessary.
Case in point, the task manager, which is not in the Mac Chrome beta, but is in the Chromium for Mac builds. Check it out on Linux:
Other Features I Dig
One feature of Chrome that I really like is Omnibox. Rather than have both a location and a search bar, Chrome combines them into one.
Entering “google” into the bar will resolve to google.com, instead of hitting enter to go there, hitting tab allows you to send a keyword search to the site (Google, in this case), taking you to a results page and removing a step.
This feature works on any site that defines OpenSearch in its header, and I’ve tried it with Amazon and Wikipedia. Omnibox kind of works here because we have an OpenSearch definition in the header, but it points to oracleappslab.com, which hasn’t been updated since our ISP move.
I love this feature, and it might do other things I haven’t found yet. Check out a demo here.
I also like a little feature called “paste and go”, which is available via the right-click menu. It saves a step, which may not seem like much, but I end up using this at least twenty times a day. Your mileage may vary.
Finally, Chrome keeps itself updated without any work on my part, which is very handy. On Mac, it’s a bit jarring. You’ll see a Chrome disk image attached briefly, and a Finder window open as it applies a new version.
On Linux, you’ll still need to run an update on the Google repository, which is automatically added when you install Chrome. This is probably more inline with what Linux types want.
Stuff You Might Dig
There are other features of Chrome you might want like extensions, especially if you’re a Firefox user. Personally, I’ve cut way down on extensions in Firefox to keep it as fast and light as possible.
Pretty nice. There are already quite a few extensions for Chrome; developers have been building them for a while on Chromium builds, and apparently, the process is much easier than building Firefox extensions.
One noteworthy item is that the Mac beta of Chrome is lacking a few features that you might want, namely extensions and Task Manager.
However, if you really need those, the Chromium builds have them. Extensions were unavailable for Chromium builds earlier in the week, but Google says they will return shortly, and if you must run Chrome and you must have extensions, there’s a hack for that.
So, do you plan to try Chrome? Why or why not? Have you been using it? What do you think?
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