Web browser users have it good early in the 21st century. There are a dozen excellent browser choices for both Mac and Windows PC users.
The latest browser to catch on with a small minority is Google’s Chrome, not yet out of beta for Mac users, somehow already at version 4.x. Is the latest version of Chrome ready for prime time? It’s the best ever, but Google’s tradition of Beta Forever™ means this Chrome is good, if not quite ready for prime time. Why add another browser to your Mac?
Why A Google Browser?
This is a good question. It’s not as if the browser market, Mac or Windows, is lacking fast, high quality browsers.
What does Google want to do with Chrome, a browser based on Firefox and Safari? It’s a long story, but suffice it to say it’s all about control. Google sells ads.
What better way to sell more advertisements than creating a controlled community for cloud applications than within a browser window? Think of the advantages.
Google applications and documents can be customized to perform better within Chrome than other browsers. Chrome arguably is more secure than Firefox or Safari, certainly more than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
What Does Chrome Do For Mac Users?
In fact, Chrome on the Mac, while fast, is anything but attractive. Web pages will render about the same as in Safari (and Firefox). Tabs are decidedly Windowesque. Folder icons for bookmarks appear stolen from Windows Explorer.
Features? Not much. There’s no bookmark manager. The application mode and task manager are absent. Gears is not supported. User interface glitches abound.
While the Windows version of Chrome has garnered nearly 3-percent of web users, surpassing Safari for Windows, the Mac version has lagged behind in features, and has even less polish. If you can call anything about Chrome as polished.
Are you asking yourself the question, “Why?” I feel your pain. Chrome is a work in progress (isn’t everything at Google that way?) that holds far more promise for a superior browsing experience than what it delivers today.
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Installing Google Chrome On A Mac
Downloading is simple and direct from Google. Double-click the disk image and drag and drop Chrome to your Applications folder. Double-click Chrome to start up.
Chrome Preferences are few and far between, even when compared to Safari. There’s a few startup options, Home Page selector, settings to show the Home Page in the toolbar.
Chrome ships with Google as the default search engine, but it’s easily switched to Yahoo!, Bing, AOL or Ask. There’s also a setting to make Google Chrome the default browser.
Personal Stuff settings include passwords, form autofill, and browsing data. There’s an unimplemented button to changes themes. Under The Hood offers some privacy settings, Cookies, and download location.
In other words, there’s not much to worry about when it comes to Chrome’s preferences.
Bookmarks And Printing And Saving
The Mac version of Chrome will import bookmarks from Safari or Firefox upon installation, but does not come with a bookmarks manager, so you’re stuck with whatever goes in the first time.
You can create additional ugly bookmark folders in the bookmarks bar, but saving and managing bookmarks elsewhere isn’t supported yet.
Printing and Saving web pages in Chrome is straightforward. You can save as a PDF (a nice OS X feature), and save a web page as an archive. Big whoop, right?
Downloads And Tabs And Speed
Similar to Safari, Chrome lets you choose where to download files, though the progress bar is different. In Safari and Firefox you get a bar which tells you how much longer until the download is complete.
In Chrome you get a wheel and a download button in a different browser window. Visually, it’s unfamiliar, obviously an attempt by Google to be innovative with the user interface.
Tabs are the strong point in Chrome. Each tab can be customized and closed tabs can be recovered. A New Tab page results in a thumbnail view of recently opened web pages, as well as links to History.
Again, all this effort takes place within tabs, rather that a special window. Notably, the bar above the tabs in Chrome is rather thin, which means pointing, clicking, grabbing gets slippery. Safari gives users twice the space above the Toolbar items.
Miscellaneous, Misgivings And Verdict
Chrome is decidedly unfinished, yet decidedly Googlesque in nature (which also means unfinished).
There’s a WebKit Web Inspector, just like in Safari. The Full Screen Mode is very nice and could have plenty of uses to hide Windows and Mac OS X and let Chrome users bask inside a wholly owned and developed Google community of apps, ads, and files.
Privacy Mode in Chrome is on a per window basis, rather than taking over the whole browser. Google calls it the Icognito Window, so you can mix normal mode windows with private mode.
The claim to fame in Firefox is Add Ons; extensions. Chrome has extensions, too, but are only available in the nightly builds and you need to dink around in the terminal command line interface to install. I haven’t tried any extensions yet. Firefox owns the extensions world in browsers.
Chrome for Mac feels like a work in progress because it is. Assuming you understand that it’s not ready for prime time, about all you get is a very anemic feature set in a very fast browser. There may come a day where Chrome has more to offer, but that day is not here yet, and I’m betting that both Mozilla and Apple are hard at work on updating Firefox and Safari to compete with whatever plans Google has.