Google Chrome: Top 5 Killer Features
1. The All-Knowing Location BarFirefox, Google owes you a debt of gratitude. Firefox 3's address bar is damned clever; start typing, and it'll recognise your bookmarks and your browsing history. Google obviously realised how cool this is, and so Chrome copies the behaviour. But while Firefox still has a traditional search box to accompany the address bar, Chrome just has the one input field that does it all. Although it may freak you out for a short while, you soon get used to hitting ctrl-L and typing away – try 'Stuff TV', hit return and there's your Google search results. And if you waited a second before hitting return, you'll have noticed two or three 'suggested' searches pop up in the location bar.
2. The DesignOpen Internet Explorer 8 or Firefox, then open Chrome. Load both with the same page (stuff.tv, for example), then switch between them. Chrome presents more page and less browser, largely thanks to the positioning of the tabs above the address bar. (see image below) Like so many of the great ideas, the move was simple; so simple that a few interface designers at Mozilla and Microsoft will have some awkward questions to answer in the coming weeks. Oh, and getting rid of the search box does wonders for cleaning up a browser's design.3. The SpeedChrome is snappy. In fact, you can almost hear the small 'whoosh' as pages load. And so you should; Chrome is based on WebKit, the same code framework that powers Apple's Safari, itself no slouch on the rendering front. But while it's fast (our half hour of testing suggests that it outpaces IE8, and is as quick as Firefox 3), it's not revolutionary (for the record, it uses a slightly older build of Webkit than that used by the latest official releases of Safari).
4. The TabsOK, so everyone has tabs – no big deal. But it's the way that Chrome uses tabs that elevates them to Killer Feature status. Open three tabs. Now swap them around: pretty, huh? Now grab one of those tabs and pull it down toward the page – hey presto, it opens in a new browser window. OK, so that's nothing new (Safari already does the latter party trick), but add the inspired tab positioning (why did no-one think of this before?), and you have a new standard successfully set. Plus there's the fact that when one tab crashes, it doesn't take down the application - although we haven't manged to put that one to the test yet...5. Speed DialThe truth is that Opera (that funny Scandinavian bunch) invented the Speed Dial, a page that opens to offer nine thumbnails of your favourite pages. The idea is to make the pages you use the most available most of the time. In Opera's case, you can hand-pick the sites to be included in the Speed Dial block of nine – in Chrome's 'homage' to Opera's invention, the nine sites are your 'most visited' (you can't change them). So a borrow rather than a breakthrough, but none the worse for it.... And Chrome's Top 5 Failings1. The Blue Peter LooksLoad the browser after the install, and for a few moments the words 'Early Learning Centre' will swoosh through your mind. Google's interface team is one of the best in the world (see Google Reader or Docs if you don't believe us), and Chrome is a model of Zen simplicity when compared to the nastiness of IE8. But those Chrome icons have a little too much of the Lego in them for our liking. 2. The all-pervading GooglenessThat multi-purpose address bar is a dream, and gives Firefox 3's Awesome bar a run for its cash. But try a few shortcuts. 'GR'? Google Reader. 'GM'? Google Mail. Now try 'YM'. Should take you to YMail, surely? But no; 'YMail' is a fifth in the list of suggested searches. Not that we'd accuse Google of feathering its own (quite comfortable) nest in any way.3. The UnexpandabilityFirefox grew into a global phenomenon for two reasons: it was a good browser, and you could pimp it with a 1001 useful (and not so useful) extensions. As it stands, Chrome offers no such facility; the browser you download in the browser you'll be using. This may prove the single biggest drawback in attracting the Firefox crowd; weaning them away from killer extensions such as Evernote, Scribefire and Firebug won't be easy. Especially when one of those Firefox extensions is called Google Gears (so bringing your copy of Firefox 3 as near-as-dammit to Chrome in spec).
5. The Bookmark ManagementChrome obviously thinks that the whizzy search-cum-location-bar is magical enough to make bookmark organisation obsolete – chuck your favourites into a big bucket, and let the smart address bar do the sweaty work. They may be right, of course. But for us, Firefox does a better job of covering all the bases - its address bar will find a 'dumped' favourite, but it also offers some pretty turbo-charged ways of organising your bookmarks. And there's something about Chrome's bookmark window that reminds us of the abomination from Internet Explorer 6.