Chrome Reaches Beta for Mac, Linux

December 10th, 2009 15 Comments

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 4.0.249.30, 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:

That’s all it took really.

I use Javascript-heavy apps like Reader and GMail all day long, and they are very fast to load in Chrome, natch. Chrome’s JS engine pwns Firefox, a gap I’m sure will close in the future.

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:

Task Manager window, wow Flash uses a lot

That stats for nerds link opens the URL about:memory, which shows not only Chrome’s memory usage, but that of other browser currently in use, a nifty feature.
about:memory Easter Egg

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.

The extensions site is live now, and I’ve installed one on Linux, Brizzly my favorite Twitter client.

Hey look, it's a Chrome extension, Brizzly

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?

Find the comments.



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15 Responses to “Chrome Reaches Beta for Mac, Linux”

  1. uvox Says:

    Actually Chrome reaches for Beta Mac OS 10.5 only, as I just found out…

  2. John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) Says:

    I have a hand-me down Windows XP laptop computer at home with limited RAM, and Chrome is my browser of choice when I'm using that laptop.

  3. Jake Says:

    Why are you still on Tiger?

  4. Jake Says:

    But not on other machines? So, you only use it for memory management? Hmm. Interesting.

  5. uvox Says:

    becuase it works for me…:)

  6. Jake Says:

    Yeah, but Leopard has a lot of new features in it. You must have some incompatible software or something.

  7. jpiwowar Says:

    I'm posting this comment from Chrome beta; we'll see how fast I can be. ;-) Will grab Chromium later to check out extensions. One thing I'm missing so far is using backslash for in-page search. Hadn't realized how often I used that for jumping to fields, following links, etc. until I started working w/ Chrome this evening.

    Too bad TaskManager isn't available for the Mac version; that's something I'd like to see.

  8. Jake Says:

    Pretty sure Chromium on Mac has the Task Manager. Not familiar with using backslash for in-page search; do you mean in the location bar? Maybe I'm not getting what you mean, but I always use Ctrl/Cmd+F for that.

  9. jpiwowar Says:

    Keen, I'll poke around w/ Chromium, then.
    Re: The backslash to search thing: You hit / and start typing, and FF jumps to the first string on the page that matches. ctrl/cmd-G takes you to the next matching string, etc. So far it's like Cmd-F, but there's a small difference: you can tab from the highlighted string to the next closest field. I use this all the time when a page doesn't start me on a login field: /log <tab> <type login>. Works for links, too: /linktext <enter> follows the link (though that's the same as using cmd-f).

    Basically, using vi has managed to creep into my browsing habits, and it's deeply ingrained. ;-)

  10. uvox Says:

    I'll get to it eventually. One of the joys of trying to work with 4 laptops simultaneously…

  11. Jake Says:

    Heh, I hear you. I finally got all my Macs up to 10.6 a few months ago, and boy was I worried my wife's MB would cough up a hairball going from 10.4 to 10.5 to 10.6. Luckily, it went smoothly.

  12. Jake Says:

    Interesting. I love keyboard shortcuts like that, another reason I really like the Omnibox. Generally speaking, Chromium has been moving more quickly than Chrome, mostly b/c they release nightly builds. Also, someone at TechCrunch wrote a nightly build script for Chromium (Mac), if you want to keep it updated.

  13. uvox Says:

    I'll get to it eventually. One of the joys of trying to work with 4 laptops simultaneously…

  14. Jake Says:

    Heh, I hear you. I finally got all my Macs up to 10.6 a few months ago, and boy was I worried my wife's MB would cough up a hairball going from 10.4 to 10.5 to 10.6. Luckily, it went smoothly.

  15. Jake Says:

    Interesting. I love keyboard shortcuts like that, another reason I really like the Omnibox. Generally speaking, Chromium has been moving more quickly than Chrome, mostly b/c they release nightly builds. Also, someone at TechCrunch wrote a nightly build script for Chromium (Mac), if you want to keep it updated.

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