Google Chrome 10
Previous of these many releases have brought new major features, such as bookmark syncing, a bookmark manager, a built-in PDF reader, and extensions, though others have just added speed, stability, and new standards support. Version 9 took a page from Google search, with the remarkable Chrome Instant, as well as from IE9 beta, by including graphics hardware acceleration. Its fine design, compatibility, and especially the speed have impressed the Web community enough to make Chrome the fastest growing browser in terms of market share, recently passing ten percent. Let's take a look at what makes this browser so special.
Even the setup process shows Chrome's commitment to speed: Just click the Install button on the Chrome Web page, and you'll have the new browser up and running in less than a minute, with no wizard to go through and no system restart. The browser's now available for Mac OS X and Linux, as well as Windows. In each platform the browser's up and running before you realize it, and it updates itself automatically in the background.
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Built-in Flash and PDF Support
Chrome is the only browser to come with Adobe Flash built in, rather than requiring a separate (and annoying) installation. And not having to perform the frequent required updates of the Flash plugin separately is another boon—it updates automatically with the browser. With version 10, many of the security issues with Flash (famously bemoaned by Apple's Steve Jobs) go away, thanks to running the plugin in an isolated sandbox so that it doesn't have access to critical system areas. But note that this sandboxing only applies to the Windows 7 and Vista versions of Chrome at this point.
Chrome boasts a PDF reader as well, so you don't have to worry about installing any Adobe plugins for viewing specialized Web content. When you load a PDF, an intuitive toolbar shows when your mouse cursor is in the southeast vicinity of the browser window. From this, you can have the document fill the width of the window, show a full page, or zoom in and out. By default, you can select text for cutting and pasting, but I couldn't copy and paste images. You can print the PDF as you would any Web page.
Minimalism has been a hallmark of Chrome since its first beta release. Tabs are above everything, and the only row below them holds the combined search/address bar, or "Omnibar." Optionally you can display bookmark links in a row below this. And the control buttons on the top-right of the browser window have been reduced to the absolute minimum—just one. Google has removed the Page icon and placed some of its functions under the Wrench choice. Some Page options have been combined into buttons on one line in the new menu, such as Cut, Copy, and Paste. I like what Google's done with the Zoom choice on the menu, adding plus and minus buttons that save you from having to fly out another submenu.
Another theme in the Chrome interface is that everything looks like a Web page, displaying in the main browser window, rather than in separate dialog boxes. This includes the interfaces for History, Extensions, and Bookmarks. With version 10, now the Settings page gets this same treatment.
This is one of the niftiest things to be added to Chrome in a while. Start typing a Web address in the Omnibar, and before you're even done, a page from your history or a search result page is displayed below in the main browser window. I just type "PC," and PCMag.com is already loaded. The idea was first implemented in Google search's Instant feature, but I think it's even more useful in the browser than in search, where I usually ignore it and finish typing my query anyway: Most sites we visit, we've visited before, so having them ready to go before you even finish typing is a big speeder-upper.
Chrome also still sports excellent tab implementation. Tabs are prominent at the top of the browser window, and you can drag them out to the desktop to create independent windows (and drag them back in later) or split them side by side à la Windows 7 Aero Snap.
Google has put considerable thought into its browser's new tab page, which shows links to your most-visited pages, Web apps, and recently closed tabs. All but the last can be expanded to large thumbnails, which you can move around and pin in place, or remove if you don't want them to appear.
In version 9 Google added the Apps section to the new tab page, showing any Web apps you've installed, along with a link to the Chrome Web Store, but as with any section of the page, you can click an X to its right to turn it off. If you've synced Chrome on different computers (see below), the Apps section with be the same on all. For more on the store, check out the Chrome App Store section of my Hands On with Chrome OS. Any apps you've added on a Chrome OS machine will also appear in the browser on any other computer you log into Chrome on, and vice versa. But you're not likely to have a Chrome OS machine at this point.