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Annette Fowler

Google Chrome – OR – can you REALLY teach an old dog new tricks

I’ll start off by saying that I’m a “lifelong” Internet Explorer user… We may as well get that out there right at the start.   In fact, I usually have to blush when I admit to my coworkers that I’m still using “old” Internet Explorer– and have been for at least 10 years!  They sigh and roll their eyes when I report an “IE only” issue– being far more impressed with the flexibility and sexiness of FireFox, Mozilla, Opera, Safari or countless other browsers.

I do have a somewhat justifiable reason for this treachery (other than being “stuck” in my old ways!)… I spend a lot of my time testing our software products and– though you Microsoft haters don’t want to admit it!– if 70% of the public is still using IE, I need to make that my main focal point for testing.  Don’t get me wrong– we test in the other browsers too– but IE is still king with the public.

So, with all that being said, I forced myself to see what all the hype is about with the launch of the new browser “Google Chrome.”  Why?  Because I really like Google.  iGoogle is my home page and I have three fully customized tabs worth of content that I review multiple times a day– News, Weather, Web Development, Career, Family/Kids, you name it… I thought that if I was so committed to Google to maintain this content for me, maybe the browser would sway me as well.  So, with some trepidation, I decided to poke my toe in the water…

What I liked

  • The interface feels “clean” and well organized.  The toolbars are smaller, so more of the web page itself fits “above the fold”.
  • My Favorites and link menus were successfully imported, which has been a problem when I’ve tried other browser installations (FireFox, you know who you are!)
  • The “Recently closed tabs” on the home page and/or New Tab page is cool– easy to get back to closed pages/tabs
  • For now, the Auto-suggest in the search bar is nice, but I can see getting sick of that.  At least it doesn’t pop up right in the same field where you are typing, but in the space below.  Time will tell…
  • Chrome has a built-in spell-checker to automatically check web forms and text fields!  Hurray!  Apparently, you can also choose the language for the dictionary under Tools, Options, Minor Tweaks, Change font and language settings.
  • Under the Page menu : Page menu
    • Under the “Developer” menu, the “Task Manager” feature shows stats like memory and CPU usage for each application open.  The “Stats for Nerds” was more of the same, but a fun touch of humor
    • “Application shortcuts” allow you to quickly create shortcuts to the desktop, quicklaunch bar and start menu
    • The “incognito” window has a funny little graphic  Incognito mode.  I suppose the idea of an incognito window– “For times when you want to browse in stealth mode… Webpages that you open and files downloaded while you are incognito won’t be logged in your browsing and download histories; all new cookies are deleted after you close the incognito window”–  is a good idea too, but I’m all about the fun graphics, to be honest :).
  • Under the Tools menu:  Tools menu
    • The “History” feature is kinda creepy– it shows the date and time of all webpages visited recently– even in another browser!  However, I can see this being useful if I was trying to track down a URL that I didn’t bookmark.
    • Clear Browsing Data– Sooooo much easier to clear your cache (check “Empty the cache”).  LOVE that!

What I didn’t like

  • Since iGoogle is my IE homepage, it seems odd that Chrome didn’t at least offer that as my default home page upon install
  • I miss the File menu!  I know all those things must be buried somewhere else or have buttons, but I like knowing the things that will be in the File menu across all programs– Open, Close, Save, Print, etc.  You may commence eye-roll at this point if you must.
  • When I click on links to files in the web page (Word, Excel, audio, etc.), they open in the task bar at the bottom of the page.  Then I have to go down to that task bar and click again to get them to open.  I’m sure there is some kind of method to this madness, but I don’t like it.

What was just weird

  • The initial screen that you see on install is a preview of recent websites visited, but my home page was not one of those, which was odd
  • Colors on some websites didn’t exactly match between browsers
  • Typing my search words directly into the address bar is going to take some getting used to.  I don’t hate it; I just can’t get my head around it quite yet.

So, my over-all take on Google Chrome?  I’m really torn between a personal and professional point of view…

For my own personal Internet browsing habits, I like the browser quite a lot.  I like that it is clean, simple and efficient.  I LOVE the spell check and empty cache features.  Is it enough to make me change my default browser?  Probably not yet, but if they build in a couple of more features, I just might make the switch.

From a professional point of view, I strongly question the need for yet another browser on the market.  Currently, today’s web pages must look and function identically in at least three other standard browsers (as well as multiple versions of each!)– Internet Explorer 6 and 7 (with 8 on the near horizon!), FireFox 2 and 3, Netscape Navigator 7 and 8 and Safari.  All of these programs (and versions!) behave slightly differently when rendering web content.  I have seen first-hand the pain a web developer goes through to make the same content look and work exactly the same way across all of these diverse programs and I can’t stand the thought of yet another.

If the idea of the web is that content and applications become more ubiquitous, why is it that we are continually adding to the browser market (using vastly different programming platforms, I might add)?  This increases the programming and testing time to make sure that all apps are compliant to all browsers, when we could be using that time to add more functionality and features to the applications!  Hey Google, Microsoft, etc.– We’re begging– please, stop the madness…  Give us a common browser platform to develop upon and then step back and be amazed by the results!

References

Here are some good references that I used as research for this article.  Please enjoy!

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