Google Chrome: the first true Web 2.0 browser

Google Chrome: the first true Web 2.0 browser

Computerworld takes an in-depth look at Google's new browser.

Google's Chrome Web browser

Google's Chrome Web browser

A look at the interface

All that being said, Chrome is, above all, a browser, and nothing would make Google happier than if the entire world switched to it. So the company has given a great deal of thought into rethinking the entire browser interface.

The Chrome interface looks different than any other browser you've seen. Tabs sit above the address bar instead of beneath it. There's no menu, no title bar, and very few icons. In fact, there's not even a home page icon; look for it in vain. By default it's turned off -- to get one, you have to click the Tools icon, then choose Options --> Basics and check the box next to "Show Home button on the toolbar." Overall, it's as stripped-down a browser interface as you'll find.

To get to most browser functions and options, you use menus that drop down from two icons at the right-most portion of the browser -- a page icon and a tools icon. But even there, this browser is stripped-down. For example, the Options menu is where you often find many hidden features, buried beneath multiple tabs. In Chrome, the Options menu (found under the Tools icon) offers only three tabs, none of which includes an overload of choices. You'll mainly find basics such as whether to display the home page icon, where to store your downloads, and so on.

The Address Bar -- what Google calls the Omnibox -- is one of Chrome's nicer features. It doubles as a search bar: Type in your search terms, and it uses the search engine of your choice to do a search. When you instead type in a URL, it works much like the Address Bar in Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3, and lists suggested Web pages as you type, which it gathers from previously visited sites and your bookmarks, as well as making suggestions of its own, based on Web site popularity.

When you visit a site, the Address Bar, as with Internet Explorer 8, highlights the domain (such as, while the rest of the URL is lighter, so that it's easy for you to know at a glance on which domain you are currently, even if you're visiting a long URL.

A different type of tab

As with any modern browser, Chrome offers tabbed browsing. In some basic ways, the way it handles tabs is superior to Internet Explorer and Firefox, but in other ways, it's not as sophisticated.

The biggest break with other browsers is that each tab in Chrome is, in essence, its own browser. That's why the tabs are above the Address bar, rather than below it. You can detach any tab by dragging it away from the browser, and it becomes a separate browser window. You can combine separate browser instances into a unified one by dragging it back again, but you have to be careful to drag the tab itself back, rather than trying to drag the whole window, or it won't work.

Because each tab is in essence its own browser, if that tab crashes, it should not crash the entire browser. Microsoft makes the same claim for Internet Explorer 8. I haven't had any tabs crash on me yet in Chrome, so can't verify if this tab-crash feature works.

When you open a new tab, it opens just to the right of the tab from which you've opened it, so to a certain extent Chrome keeps related tabs together. You can drag tabs from place to place within the tab bar, and when they you do that, they slide in place in a smooth animation.

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