First look at Google Chrome

Standard

Most of you must have heard about the new Google browser – Chrome. Some of you might have used it as well. We were looking for some good reviews about Google Chrome but didn’t find anything much useful. Most of them were very basic reviews and that information is already available on Google Chrome site itself. Hence we decided to come up with a thorough review of Google Chrome covering all technical and usability aspects. Here we go…

The First Look

The very first thing that catches your eyes about Google Chrome is the neat, icy and lightweight look of Google Chrome. It has been designed in such a way that it’s not only lightweight in physical means(Memory, CPU consumption etc) but looks also will give you a very strong feeling that it’s a feather light application. Another thing which you’ll realize is that the browser is not clogged on top with stuff like other browsers, i.e. MS IE or Mozilla Firefox. By default, without full screen mode it shows the web pages to the maximum possible size and very little place is occupied at top by menus, tabs etc. There is nothing at bottom and status bar pops up only when needed and takes very little space.

Features

One thing which I found very interesting in Google Chrome is the tabs functionality. You can move the tabs around within browser like in Firefox and IE7 (and possible IE8 beta) but the feature which makes it different from IE and Firefox is that, you can take out the tabs from browser and create a new window just by dragging any tab out of current browser. Now that’s super cool… Isn’t it?

You’ll notice that the address bar in Google Chrome does all the jobs at same time. Be it opening a URL, web search, history search, suggestions or anything else, you just need to type in what you are looking for and Google Chrome will display all possible options which are possible for the words you have typed in. Press “Tab” after entering the URL and see the magic yourself.

Another ultra cool feature in Google Chrome is the way in which it treats the home page. What happens when you open your Firefox, IE, Opera or Safari? When you open your browser, your default home page will open; some of you might have set it to blank page because you are not sure if you always want to browse the same page. Google Chrome handles this situation in an excellent way. When you open Google Chrome or even a new tab, it displays nine most visited website with thumbnails. All you need to do is to click on the one you want to access. There is a very high probability that you were planning to go to one of those nine websites which you access/visit the most.

Sometimes while browsing sites through a multi-tab browser like Firefox, Opera or IE7, we come across a site which uses scripts (JavaScript, Flash ActionScript etc) extensively. These scripts consume high system resources like CPU and memory. Often, due to unavailability of resources your browser hangs and you need to kill it and restart. Even though the problem could have been caused by just one site, your browser need to be stopped and all other sites get closed as well. I am sure you all must have encountered these kinds of issues with your browsers. Now, let’s see how Google Chrome handles these situations. Google Chrome has a feature called Crash Control. Google Chrome is a multi process browser unlike Firefox or IE which are single threaded. This means that each tab in Google Chrome runs a separate process and in case of any issues like the one we mentioned above, only that tab will get closed and rest of the tabs will keep working. How cool is that?

Then there is one click bookmark option in Google Chrome, which is available in Firefox latest release 3.0 as well. You just need to click the star icon, just left to your address bar and the page is bookmarked. Also, Google Chrome allows you to create desktop shortcuts of you favorite pages. Just go to page menu on top right and select “Create Application Shortcut”, it’ll create a desktop shortcut for selected page. When you’ll double click on the shortcut, it’ll open the browser and open the page.

Another very good feature in Google Chrome is the Incognito mode. In short, incognito mode allows you to surf websites privately. You can open the tabs in incognito mode, as soon as you are done with your work on the site and you close it. After closing, Google Chrome takes care of cleaning up the browse history and cookies data. This feature is very useful when you are accessing Internet from outside home of office and you don’t want to leave any traces behind of what you did.

We are not covering all features of Google Chrome since most of them are already available in other browsers. Our intention is to cover only new and unique features. Apart from the features mentioned above, Google Chrome comes with other standard features like files download from within browser.

Design

Google Chrome has been built on top on WebKit and many features have been adopted from Mozilla Firefox. Most of you will be aware of Mozilla Firefox; As for WebKit, it’s an open source web browser engine. Safari is also built on top of WebKit. You can visit webkit.org to know more about WebKit.

Good part is, Google decided to keep Chrome open source like Firefox and WebKit which open doors to open source development community and soon you’ll start seeing various groups and communities working on development of extensions and plug-ins for Google Chrome. Google could have started with scratch for development of Google Chrome but eventually they decided to use WebKit due to its highly optimized code base. And this clearly reflects in Google Chrome performance when you open a page. It loads very quickly and much faster as compared to other browsers.

Another very good design decision was to make Google Chrome a multi process (note, its not multi-threaded but multi-process) browser unlike other browsers. Each tab is a separate process in itself. Have you ever seen in your task manager how much memory your Firefox is eating up? You’ll be surprised to see that at times it might be using 300+ MB. You might think that closing the tabs which you are not using might release this memory but that doesn’t happen. Why? The reason is that, Firefox and most other browser are single threaded and runs as a single process. Even if you close some tabs, memory is still kept by the process for future allocations and is re-used when you open new tabs. Over time, due to fragmentation, that memory becomes unusable and as the life span of browser extends, chances of crash becomes inevitable. In case of Google Chrome, as soon as a tab is closed, memory used by the tab is fully released to operating system since each tab is a process in itself and whole process is killed. On opening a new tab, a new process starts from scratch. There is a built-in task manager in Google Chrome which shows all details about the running tabs like, which tab is using how much to CPU and memory. You can access the task manager from page menu under developer option.

Since most of the sites are dynamic in nature nowadays due to extensive use to JavaScript, Google decided to build a dedicated virtual JavaScript engine which is platform independent.

Some “not so good” things about Google Chrome

It was really hard to find any issues with a nearly perfect browser but I managed to find a few. First, I noticed issues with menus like extensive flickering in some of the popular sites which runs absolutely find in other browsers like Firefox and IE.

Secondly, I found issues in Google Chrome while working with Joomla based sites. In administration panel, if you’ll try to add new contents and try to save it, nothing happens at all and nothing is saved.

Conclusion

Google Chrome is just released and despite some of excellent unique features, it has a long way to go. It took a while for Windows users of switch from IE to Firefox and users may not be willing to switch to new browser so soon when they are used to some very good browsers, especially Mozilla Firefox. At the same time – Change is inevitable and is for good.

One thing is for sure, it’s going the make the life of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer more difficult. First Firefox and now Google Chrome, it’ll be interesting to see what strategy MS adopts now to compete with Chrome and Firefox.

If you haven’t downloaded and started using Chrome then do it. It’s worth giving it a try and who knows you may never look back to any other browser. Download.

P.S. – This is a very old post I made on another site. Finally, managed to move the post from the original site to my blog.