Favourite Google Chrome Features

As a front-end developer, a new Web browser on the market brings mixed feelings. I’m always keen to see new technology, especially anything that promises to improve user experience on the Web, but I’m also uninterested in yet another platform to test our Web applications against (as if Internet Explorer 6/7/8, Opera, Safari and Firefox on both Windows and Mac isn’t enough!).

My experiences with early versions of Chrome were not particularly positive, so I installed the latest version more out of duty at work than personal interest. I didn’t expect to find a browser that would rival Firefox’s place on my taskbar.

User interface

The UI is what I really love about Google Chrome. In typical Google fashion, it’s minimal and intuitive with only subtle branding. The tabs are unobtrusive and can be dragged around – even between multiple instances of Chrome. I even really like the sliding animations.

Tabs in Chrome Browser

There is a theme gallery which contains sombre colour variations on the default theme, artistic designs and migraine-inducing patterns for the masochists out there.

Home page

The home page is another big winner. Since Google is often my first port of call, I have google.co.uk set as my browser home page. Typing keywords into Chrome’s address bar (or “omnibox”) will perform a Google search, which makes having Google as your home page redundant. The Chrome homepage contains eight thumbnails of your most visited sites, with the ability to drag, remove or pin each one. I’ve seen this in other browsers such as Safari and Opera, but never done this well.

Chrome default homepage

Bookmark Sync

There are Firefox extensions to handle this, but it’s nice to see bookmark sync so seamlessly integrated into Chrome. A facility for multiple profiles would be nice (home and work, for instance)

Chrome bookmark sync

Extensions

Extension icons

Finding mature extensions in Chrome was a real surprise. I’ve kept it light so far, installing only Google Wave, Mail and Reader notifiers, but there are a few already available to download and try, including an ad blocker and site performance analyser. The three I have installed are in a handy and unobtrusive position in the browser window. I wonder how it would look with ten or more extensions, though.

Incognito

Chrome incognito mode

By pressing Ctrl + Alt + N, you open a new Chrome window in Incongnito mode. This allows you to surf the net without leaving a trace – no temporary files, cookies or history remain once you close the window. This is handy when accessing personal sites on a public computer, at work or on someone else’s computer.

Plus…

Chromium, the open-source basis of Chrome is very fast in Linux. On Ubuntu 9.10, Chrome is my choice over Firefox for speed and stability. Chrome also has its own task manager, accessed by pressing Ctrl + Esc, which is handy for seeing a breakdown of memory, CPU and network usage (it even displays memory usage of each extension you have installed). Finally, I had such a good experience because Chrome shares many Firefox shortcuts (CTRL+W to close a tab, CTRL+T to open a tab, CTRL+ALT+T to resurrect a closed tab, etc).

[update] Google posted an interesting article containing video interviews about why Chrome is so fast. Enjoy.

What’s missing?

As I use Chrome more, I’m sure I’ll find more things I miss from Firefox, but initially the short list includes a lack of print preview, I still prefer Firebug over the Chrome Web inspector, and that many extensions are yet to be developed.