First Look at Google Chrome 8

An update to the Google Chrome browser was pushed out yesterday and so I was in download mode to check things out.  According to reports, there were 800 improvements to the browser.  That’s a lot of improvements!  I recall when version 7 came out and how much better it was than version 6.  Now, seemingly just over a month later, we’re at version 8.  Some of the details are available on the stable release blog.

If you check this link, there’s an invitation to Google next week for a media event.  Speculation is running overtime but news of the Chrome Operating System and the Chrome Application Store may well be behind the timing of this release.  Regardless, we end users benefit as the functionality of the browser reaches new heights.

When will I have time to check out all these improvements?  Hah!  Probably never but you rely on the great programmers behind the project to make for the improved browsing experience.  In this first kick at things, there were a few noticeable things that leap out at this end user.

PDF Support
This is very nice.  Unlike previous versions where a PDF document was downloaded and then you went the extra step to open the document in Acrobat Reader or the Preview application, PDF documents open natively right in Chrome.  This will save a great deal of time when you’re looking at documents.  It should keep the downloads directory a lot cleaner as I’ll only download the documents that I actually want rather than grab them all and then clean up afterwards.

Beyond the PDF Support, there are some user functionalities that hit be as exciting right from the outset.

Instant search was a feature turned on at the Google search website recently.  It’s now available right in the address bar.  Start typing a search and the resutls appear live as you type.  Very nice.  Since it’s live, the same caveat as using the website is appropriate for presenters.  Remember that your audience is watching….

Oddly, this and many other features are not on by default.  Instead, they’re listed as “Experiments” that need to be enabled by the end user.  Key “about:flags” to get access to these experiments.  The introductory message gets a smile.  It’s almost a warning that you shouldn’t get too attached to them because they might go away!  Instant search is one of them that needs to be enabled.  Interestingly, the set of options differs from the Macintosh and Windows.

Mac Flags



Living on the edge here, I turn them all on to play around with!

Tab Overview
Macintosh only, this is really nice.  If you’re like me and have multiple windows open, this makes navigating to the tab of your choice very quickly.  Three fingers opens a screen of thumbnails and you choose your destination.  This feature is a keeper.

On the Windows side of the house, there are many similar options.

Windows Flags



One of the promises that all browsers are working to deliver is to take advantage of the Graphics Processor in your computer for the rendering of images thereby speeding up the process.  Until now, you had to dig into the Chromium developer channel to play with it.  Now, flags allow you to toggle that.  How does it stack up to Internet Explorer’s aquarium?  Not terribly well.  Turning on 1000 fish shows a noticeable difference between Chrome and Internet Explorer.  It is, however, faster than without.

Side Tabs
Available on the Windows version of Chrome, this is a long sought after feature by me.  When I’m presenting web content, I like to honour my audience by having it all loaded in advance of the presentation.  I used to use a plug-in for that feature in Firefox and have looked for similar functionality in Chrome.  Now, it’s built-in.  Having a nice wide screen really makes you appreciate this feature.


Now, the open tabs appear in a list format.  Navigation to the next tab is a piece of cake, but more importantly, the real estate that was taken up from a horizontal alignment makes for more screen to read the actual content.

My first impressions of the new upgrade are extremely positive.  I look forward to continuing to play around with the new version and Google’s announcements next week.  Who knows what’s next?


links for 2010-12-03