Google Chrome: The five best new features

Google Chrome: The five best new features

Summary: Google launched the first beta version of its Chrome Web browser on Tuesday after two years of development. We immediately started kicking the tires and put together a photo gallery and a quick list of the five best new features you'll find in Google Chrome.

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TOPICS: Browser, Google
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Google launched the first beta version of its Chrome Web browser on Tuesday after two years of development. Only the Microsoft Windows version has been released, but Google promised Mac and Linux versions would soon follow. We immediately started kicking the tires and put together a photo gallery and a quick list of the five best new features you'll find in Google Chrome.

See the full screen shot gallery First look: Google Chrome

When I heard that Google was officially going to launch its own Web browser my first thought was, "Great, that's just what we need, another Web browser." After seeing Google's press conference and getting a first look at Chrome, I'm starting to warm up to the idea. I will at least give Google credit for not doing a "me too" release. They have legitimately tried to innovate and bring some new features to the Web browser -- and they've open sourced the whole thing.

Whether or not these new features will entice Internet users to give up Internet Explorer or Firefox is still up in the air, but here are the five best new features that I see in Chrome:

1. Task manager

Chrome has its own Task Manager that shows you how much memory and CPU usage each tab and plug-in is using. You can open it by clicking Shift-Esc from within Chrome. You can get more details by clicking the "Stats for nerds" link on the Task Manager and it will open a page with a full breakdown of memory and CPU usage for each process within the browser.

I also like that Chrome makes each tab a separate process in Windows, so you can also go into the Windows Task Manager and shut down one of them if it's locked up. It also means that a bad process in one tab won't kill your whole browser session.

2. One box for search, address, and history

Instead of having separate input boxes for the search bar and the address bar, Google has united the two in Chrome. Google also added history to the equation. So you can type something like "techrepublic" in the box and it will suggest the techrepublic.com home page as well as other recently visited TechRepublic pages. This is similar to the new "Awesome bar" in Firefox 3 but Google's "One box" includes search as well. If you type "techrepublic" in the box and hit return then it will simply open it in Google.com (or your default search engine).

3. Upgraded tabs

The Chrome development team views tabs as one of the best new innovations to Web browsing in recent years and so they wanted to expand the functionality of tabs since users . In Chrome you can drag a tab into its own window, and drag it back to the main window. This is called "Dynamic Tabs." Also, by default, the "New Tab" page in Chrome features a page that shows thumbnails of your most visited Web sites, a list of your recent bookmarks, and a search box that allows you to search your history.

4. New support for Web applications

Naturally, Google believes in Web-based applications and is invested in a future that includes applications running from the cloud and running in a Web browser. Current Web applications include Google Docs, Salesforce.com, and Outlook Web Access. Chrome makes it easier to make those applications feel more like desktop apps.

From the start page of your Web application you simply click the Chrome controls icon and then click "Create applications shortcuts" and you can create Desktop, Start Menu, and/or Quick Launch icons. Then when you launch those apps they open in a streamlined window without the address bar and separate from the Chrome Web browser window. If the apps integrate with Google Gears then you can even open them when you're offline.

5. Incognito browsing

Chrome includes an Incognito mode in which users can go to sites but nothing from that session -- history, form fields, or cookies -- will be saved in Chrome. This can be useful on shared computers and when viewing sensitive data through the Web browser. The beta version of Internet Explorer 8 includes a similar feature.

Other notes

So far, I've also been impressed with the speed of Chrome. Google stated that performance was a big consideration when building the browser, which is why they chose Webkit (the same open source engine that powers Safari) as the engine for Chrome. Chrome's downloads bar and downloads tracking window makes it much easier to gauge and monitor downloads, too.

I also liked the fact that you can mouse over a link and see the URL in a translucent status bar in the lower left-hand corner (which fades out once you move the mouse away from a link). I tend to turn on the status bar in IE and Firefox because I like to view URLs before I click them, but this takes up real estate at the bottom of the screen when I'm not previewing URLs. Chrome solves that problem by making it appear and disappear automatically. Combined with the lack of a menu bar at the top of the screen this can give Chrome more vertical space for viewing Web pages on the screen.

Topics: Browser, Google

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40 comments
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  • Google is wanting your material.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/03/google_chrome_eula_sucks/
    bjbrock
    • They are covering their ass

      Similar to whats happening with the YouTube suits. That way, if people use Chrome to upload material that is not theirs, Google cannot be charged with giving them the ability to do it.

      Now thats not to say that I like or agree with it. Just stating as to why they put that in there.
      Stuka
    • Suggest you use your own link to go back to the Register story,

      bjrock, and note that Google has amended the formerly offensive paragraph 11, so that it now reads as follows :

      11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services.

      The [b][i]Register[/i][/b]'s comment :

      There are now no other sub-sections in section 11. What you see is what you get. Terrific. Google acted with alacrity. Great stuff. No worries. The points below no longer apply.

      So can it go ! I must confess to be somewhat disappointed - but hardly surprised - to note that bjrock has not chosen to return to this issue and update his posting....

      Henri

      PS : Nice to see ?Axe ground to the nub through overuse? plugging [b]Firefox[/b] (?I say stay with FireFox?) - never thought I'd live to see the day !...
      mhenriday
  • So far impressed

    I am quite impressed by Google chrome and i am testing
    it as my only browser for all this week and probably
    next week too.
    I will always have to use IE at job because of our
    intranet but i am seriously replacing both Firefox and
    Opera by this one.
    I hope that the version 1.0 will be at least as good
    or even better than this beta.
    timiteh
    • opening pdf a-ok?

      w/ xphome, sp3, ie7 & opera resident in a toshiba the pdfs' seem to hang up and lock my trial run of chrome-
      & so far that is the only hitch in my limited run to date !
      T Mike
  • More Google crap. Use at your own risk!

    http://www.microsoft-watch.com/content/web_services_browser/chrome_privacy_is_full_of_dents.html
    bjbrock
    • The biggest crap is IE, which STILL ships with ActiveX, is slower than

      molasses in January, STILL includes old obsolete proprietary rendering, and is years behind in standards.
      DonnieBoy
      • OK, according to you both are crap, Google Chrome and

        IE, but IE is a bigger crap. I see.
        markbn
    • The article you linked is stupid.

      It actually tries to make the utterly bone-headed claim that sending addresses typed in the address bar to Google constitutes a keylogger.

      Moronic.

      Another completely idiotic complaint is that the "incognito" mode does not completely block all cookies, but merely makes them temporary in memory only, and does not store them. First, completely blocking all cookies is not the point of incognito mode. Secondly, if one DOES want to block all cookies in Chrome, one simply does exactly the same thing one does in every other browser. Just change the cookies setting to block them, and you're done.

      This article is so full of stupidity and failure it's a joke. I'm not a huge fan of Chrome so far myself, but it really pisses me off to see such blatantly stupid and outrageous BS being passed off as journalism. The author is a twit.
      bmerc
  • Tried it yesterday.

    Yawn... I say stay with FireFox.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Still Better Than IE8

      From what I've read that thing is a monster resource hog.
      itanalyst2
      • Remains to be seen.

        Hearsay is the realm of the uninformed.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Of course it's a resource hog

          It's a Microsoft product.
          fr0thy2
          • Funny how IE7

            uses less resources than FF3. Speed aside, it uses
            less.
            LiquidLearner
          • So?

            IE7 is comparable to FF2.

            IE8 is comparable to FF3.

            Stupid troll is stupid.
            Tynach
  • RE: Google Chrome: The five best new features

    You left out the feature where it doesn't go back on pages but instead refreshes them. Shoddy work by Google but I'm not surprised.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Best 5: Not MS, Not MS, Not MS, Not MS, Not MS.

      ;-)
      fr0thy2
      • So we can ignore you then

        As it appears that all that's necessary to reject a product is to have MS printed on it.

        Is it lonely in your strange world?
        tonymcs1
        • Perhaps more accurate then?

          Not IE! Not IE! Not IE! Not IE!

          IE8 is looking good, generally speaking. i'm definitely a fan of adhering to the standards (and don't even start on Intranet promise-breaking, it's a worthless dispute). However, one SIGNIFICANT fault i've found is the developer tools are determined to completely lock IE8, making them useless. i've found references to this, but no solutions. Hard to debug Javascript in IE when the debugger is crippling the browser.
          thookerov
    • No Back?

      Don't know what pages you're using, but when I saw
      your post I tried it. Both the Back button on my mouse
      and the Back arrow at the top of the page work just
      fine. Then Forward worked to get back here. Yes, I'm
      in Chrome right now.

      Now, if the previous page for you included an auto-
      redirect, then it won't work so well. But it won't
      work in other browsers either, except that other
      browsers might be so slow in loading that you can just
      click Back twice and go to the one before that. Chrome
      is too fast - you'll be redirected before you get the
      second click in.
      MWPollard