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Google Chrome for Mac Review

Google’s Browser Enters Public Beta for Apple Users Everywhere

Since September 2008, Microsoft Windows users have been able to take advantage of Google’s speedy and efficient Chrome Browser. With a vast library of extensions to increase functionality and the ability to isolate each tab as if it were a separate browser session, Google Chrome became the dark horse of the Windows browser race. Now, Apple users have their chance to enjoy Google’s browser with the recently-released public beta of Chrome for Mac.

Chrome for Mac Speeds Right Out of the Gate

Google’s Chrome browser is not hampered down by superfluous code and can handle almost anything the user throws at it. In unofficial testing on a Macbook Pro with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 4 GB DDR2 SDRAM, the Chrome browser took an average of 19.8 seconds to start up and load its default home page. This was compared to Safari’s average startup time of 23.4 seconds and Mozilla Firefox’s 21.3 seconds.

Google Chrome not only starts up faster than Safari and Firefox, it loads pages faster, as well. Process-heavy web sites, such as YouTube and Facebook, load seconds faster in Chrome than they do in Apple’s or Mozilla’s browsers. Seconds may not mean much at first, but seconds add up to minutes and the little time that is saved is definitely noticed after several hours of use.

Stability is Chrome’s Middle Name

One of Google Chrome’s most intriguing features is “process isolation,” or, a way to prevent tasks and processes occurring on separate tabs from interfering with one another. Process isolation is enabled by default and as such, Google Chrome is more secure and stable upon launch. If a process within a specific tab crashes (i.e. YouTube stalls and fails completely), only the tab where YouTube was launched is affected while the other tabs are left untouched.

Google Chrome has the Little Things That Count

Chrome, named after the user interface frame present on all web browsers, ironically lacks much of its namesake. Chrome is a very minimalist browser. The lack of extraneous toolbars and menus mean more content is visible onscreen and less scrolling is required.

In addition, a current download’s progress can be viewed in a status bar that appears on the bottom of the screen, eliminating the separate “Downloads” window found in other browsers.

If the user clicks the “Show all downloads…” link within the status bar, a new tab is opened with a searchable list of all previous downloads. Once a desired download is located, the user can opt to have Chrome reveal the location of the file in the Finder, ending the hunt for lost files deep in the bowels of one’s computer.

No Search Bar Necessary

Noticeably absent is a search bar in the top right corner of the frame. Rather than squeeze in a search bar, Google made Chrome’s address bar perform double duty. When a search word or phrase is typed into the URL bar, it renders a standard Google search results page. If the user types in a URL, the desired page is loaded instead.

Once the user gets used to using Chrome in this fashion, it makes it difficult to go back to other browsers. The minimal amount of clicks needed to perform a task is definitely noticed in Google Chrome and makes Safari and Firefox seem clunky.

Google Chrome Goes Incognito

Privacy mode is a feature available on most current web browsers, including Internet Explorer 8, Safari and Firefox 3.5. Google calls it’s version “Incognito” mode. While the user is in Incognito mode, the Chrome browser will not store any history or cookie information from visited websites, providing the utmost security should prying eyes decide to walk through the browser’s history at a later time.

Chrome’s Missing Features

Since it is still technically in beta, Google Chrome is missing some features found in other browsers. Chrome for Windows allows users to install extensions – little applications that boost the functionality of the browser. At the time of this article’s publication, extensions have not yet been made available for Chrome for Mac. While it’s not a heart-breaking loss, it does mean Chrome for Mac contains less functionality than Chrome for Windows or Mozilla Firefox, which also provides installable extensions.

Google’s browser also lacks alerts when closing multiple tabs. One mis-click of the red “X” in the top left corner of the screen and an entire browser session is lost. Additionally, the most noticeable (and missed) feature absent from Google Chrome for Mac is the ability to save open tabs for later use. Those who have used Firefox 3.0 and later will certainly miss closing a browser session of 10+ tabs and reopening them like nothing ever happened.

Should Chrome crash (which doesn’t happen often), it will offer to restore the previously open tabs to their former glory, but there’s no way to enable that feature in case the user closes the browser on purpose. This will hopefully be fixed once Google releases the final version of the application.

The Final Word on Google Chrome

Google’s Chrome browser definitely wins in the speed department and is quite stable for the first public beta release. Those who choose to replace Safari with Chrome as their default browser will not be disappointed. However, people who have grown used to the extensions, customizability and saved browsing sessions of Firefox will most likely be switching back after a week or two of constant use.

It takes some getting used to, but once Chrome for Mac is officially released and the above features are added in, its speed and security will make Google Chrome a serious contender against Safari and Firefox. You can get Chrome for Mac at http://chrome.google.com

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