Going Chrome

Like the rest of the nerdosphere I’ve been giving Google’s new browser Chrome a try. For the record, I’m running Chrome on my Windows XP laptop at work; I’m not about to run a VM session just to test it out on the iMac at home. My initial reaction? I think Chrome presents some interesting ideas, but it’s probably not going to be my default XP browser, and almost certainly won’t be my default browser in OS X. Details after the fold.

The Good:

There are a few things that I really like in Chrome.

Separate Process Per Tab:

This is a wonderful idea. We’ve all experienced the frustration of having one tab crash an entire session worth of work; or, at the very least, bog down the entire browser to the point of un-usability. Most modern browsers attempt to ameliorate this by offering some sort of “resume last session” functionality; but many modern AJAX based web apps make this functionality less than useful.

The Omnibar:

So far, I prefer the behaviour of the Omnibar to FireFox 3’s “Awesomebar.” Although, I admit that I’m not exactly a heavy FireFox user. Regardless, integrating search, history, bookmarks and url navigation is a brilliant idea.

Pared Down User Interface:

To an extent (see below), I’m liking the more lightweight interface.

The Bad:

Sadly, there is also much that I don’t care for in Chrome.

Asstastic Bookmark Management:

Bookmark management is essentially non-existent. I think that NCSA Mosaic had a better interface for managing bookmarks. I’m sure the thought in Googletown is that people will just use the “star” button to dump their bookmarks into a soup (the first idiot that calls it a “cloud” gets punched in the junk) and use the Omnibar to search them out later. Sorry, that doesn’t cut it for me. I use hierarchical bookmarks to help me organize future lines of inquiry; if I have to search for a term then the process has failed me. As an aside, try clicking the star button to, say, bring up the edit bookmarks function and not add a bookmark. It’s not at all intuitive.

Overly Simplistic Interface:

This is the flip side to the point above. I applaud the Chrome team for having the balls to radically re-think the browser interface. Unfortunately, I think that they went too far. A good interface should be discoverable and Chrome’s interface is far from that. Another point of annoyance on the interface front is the Options dialog. After you pull up said dialog you get three tabs, “Basics,” “Minor Tweaks” and “Under the Hood.” That’s what I like from a browser, condescension.

I think it’s fairly obvious that the Chrome team had rich Internet applications in mind when “re-thinking” the browser interface. Applications that provide a large measure of the features that are either missing or buried in Chrome’s interface via their own. Unfortunately, at least in my usage, such applications are the minority of my browser usage.

Lack of Integration With OS Services:

This is a provisional point, as Windows XP provides precious little in the way of OS wide services for the browser to integrate with; but let’s just say that if Chrome on OS X doesn’t integrate with Keychain, the system wide spell checker and Sync Services, it will be a non-starter for me.

The bottom line is that, Chrome provides some interesting new takes on the web browser; and I hope Safari 4 steals those ideas and runs with them.