Google Chrome Browser Detailed ReviewBy Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
The following is a detailed of Google Chrome browser. I have taken it through the paces, tested many features and even tried to run it on Linux.
Google’s Chrome browser packs a lot of punch under the covers like sandboxing each web application in a separate process, so even if one application behaves errantly, the other tabs and the overall browser will work fine. It is pretty responsive and sports a slick interface too.
Chrome looks pretty responsive in loading simple pages. However Google Chrome browser has serious memory & CPU issues as I have detailed elsewhere. While it is very stable across tabs because each tab runs in a separate process, the performance for big html pages is not stellar; Firefox performs much better and is more stable. Please refer to the linked article for details.
Search in page
The search box open in the top-right corner on pressing Ctrl-F. It shows the total number of matches along with your current match like 1 of 4. For a large file you can see the total count incrementing as Chrome finds more pages. The search terms are highlighted in yellow while the currently selected term is in reddish-brown. You can iterate through searches using Ctrl-G or F3 function key.
You can use the URL bar to perform web search in Google. The context-sensitive drop-down contains results from your recent searches and hence is pretty fast.
Application Shortcut & Google Gears
One of the coolest feature of Chrome is the ability to create shortcuts for any web page or web application. You can save any web page or web application as a shortcut in your Desktoop, Start menu or quick launch bar. The shortcut opens up in a new window which is designed to look like an application. It internally uses Google Gears.
Google Gears is integrated in Chrome. This add lots of capabilities to web application developer like locally saving web pages or resources like images so frequent visitors to your site experiences faster loading time, client side database, thread pool and more.
Chrome Developer Tools
You can navigate through the page structure, finding out how each elements are positioned in the page like Firebug.
It shows all the computed styles for an element as well as inherited styles. It also shows styles which are not applicable even though defined. In one word - amazing. I love it.
The Metrics tab shows you the overall layout of the page with pixel sizes where appropriate!
I found the Page inspector didn’t automatically change when I changed the web page. However on closing and re-opening, it worked fine.
It displays all the loaded resources (html, scripts, images…) and identifies errors associated with them.
The time graph shows how the resources were loaded in time.
Overall it is excellent.
Chrome DNS Pre-Fetching
Chrome provides DNS pre-fetching. It resolves the IP addresses of the pages you are likely to fetch using DNS looking before you actually ask for the pages. When you load the page, it scans the link in that pages and resolves their IP addresses ahead of time. What it means is slightly faster performance due to pre-fetching but some unnecessary network traffic too.
Chrome Task Manager
The task manager shows all the processes created by Chrome. You can access it by pressing Shift-ESA. It shows memory usage as well as network activity of each processes. Each tab has its own process. The browser itself runs in a separate process and also the plugins. You can end any process from the task manager. You also have detailed memory usage statistics which is displayed in a separate tab.
Chrome has a nice way of showing when a tab was killed for some reason. Check out the screenshot for a tab killed from the process manager.
Chrome Browser Porn Mode / Incognito Browsing
One of the most discussed features of Chrome browser is its Incognito mode or what is popularly known as porn mode. IE 9 is planning to introduce porn mode while Firefox has a third-party plugin to enable porn mode (nor yet available for Firefox 3). Incognito mode is useful to cover your tracks. It ensures that your browsing history is not logged, cookies created are deleted as soon as you leave incognito mode. This is useful when your computer may be used by multiple people. However don’t be under the illusion that you are anonymous. It doesn’t protect you from revealing your identity to a website owner or logging your actions.
Note: To cover your tracks online completely you need to use Tor with Privoxy (anonymizing proxy) in addition to porn mode..
What is missing in Chrome browser?
- I could use a keyboard shortcut to clear browsing data. As it stands you have to use the menu to clear your tracks or use Incognito mode browsing.
- It doesn’t allow you to control the size of your offline storage which can be useful in low resource environments.
- Cache size management. You cannot specify the maximum size of your cache. This can be an issue in resource constrained environment.
- You cannot delete an entry from most visited list. Deleting your entire history is the only workaround.
- Chrome doesn’t support Mac or Linux. I tried to run it with wine on Linux but it failed. Chrome uses two stage downloading. I suspect the final executable will be runnable under Apache. This aspect I will investigate further.
- It doesn’t support ActiveX (thanks God). It supports NPAPI (Netscaoe Plugin API).
- HTML5 database API isn’t supported in Google Chrome.
Few More Interesting Chrome Browser Features
- Chrome has built-in phishing and malware protection like Firefox.
- Adding a bookmark is as simple as clicking on the star in the navigation bar.
- It uses Internet Explorer / Windows proxy setup and configuration dialogs (same DLL I presume) unlike Firefox on Windows which uses it’s own settings, independent of Host OS settings. It however doesn’t recognize the proxy bypass setting in windows.
- Type about:in browser to see the Google Chrome version information. Currently it shows:
Copyright © 2006-2008 Google Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/525.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/0.2.149.27 Safari/525.13
Note: The last line appears to be the user agent string.
- about:plugins displays the list of Chrome plugins.
- A new tab opens with your most visited pages and your recent bookmarks. It also allows you to search your history.
- It supports open search format which allows you to include your site’s search in browser search engine.
- Like Firefox you can use Shift-Reload as well as Ctrl-Reload to reload the current page.
- Chrome browser is Safari compatible. If a website works in Safari, it is most likely to work in Chrome.
Overall Chrome is a nice addition to the browser family. Other than the memory & cpu issue reported above, I don’t have any major concerns with chrome. It has a nice architecture under the hood and is expected to improve browsing experience. I do have privacy concerns and sharing even more data with Google. Hopefully the open source code (when publicly available) will spur some developers to fork the codebase and address any potential data sharing issues. I know I would be willing to volunteer.
The browser is still in early beta so I don’t want to be too critical. However I am surprised they were not more careful with the memory consumption issue. I am hoping they will address it soon.
Will Chrome be a competitor to Firefox & Internet Explorer for ordinary users? It is hard to say at this time. It has superior architecture than either Firefox or Internet Explorer. It also some nice features built-in. However a lot depends on how much marketing dollar Google is going to spend behind chrome and the big deals they carve out to package chrome with hardware and / or software (like operating system). Chrome however can be a strong competitor as the required browser for enterprise web applications and services.
Tags: anonymous browsing, Chrome, Chrome Browser, Firefox 3, Google, google chrome, Google Chrome Browser, incognito browsing, Open Source, porn mode, privoxy, tor, Web application