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Many people who own a Windows computer will no doubt start browsing the web with Internet Explorer. It comes free with most copies of Windows and it means you can start your computer, click the icon and start browsing the web. Great. But if you want to browse a little faster and use a browser that feels more fluid in it's use then you should try installing Google Chrome.
Chrome has many features for developers, in depth users and your every day user. This review looks at every day users.
First of all you'll need to install Chrome because it's not a default Windows browser. But don't worry, even if you're not massively computer literate, installation is dead easy and takes a matter of minutes. Those minutes by the way will mostly be taken up by the automatic installation process, your user input will take around 30 seconds to answer a couple of questions before it starts to install. To get started just look at the Google home page, it's normally floating around at the top right corner to try Googling 'chrome'.
So we have ease of install covered. But once it's installed you're only just starting. You now have one of the fastest web browsers on Windows, but what does that mean exactly? For me I don't think it's a great deal faster at rendering webpages, so when your page is loading I think there may be a millisecond or two in difference between browsers but we average users who don't live our lives by an atomic clock aren't going to notice or care about that. Instead the increase in speed for me is in the interface.
Chrome's interface, the bit that you interact with, is simple. It's clean, modern looking, compliments your transparent Windows theme nicely and gives you more space to view a whole webpage by default. But it doesn't end there. The address bar, the part where you type www.whatever.com is a little different to what you may be used to on Internet Explorer,
but it's a change that after a couple of days you won't want to be without. You can use this bar to enter a web address, as you do with any browser, or you can use it to search the web. So you can enter www.ebay.co.uk or you can type online auction and hit enter. The first will of course take you to eBay, the second however will produce a list of search engine results for online auction websites. So instead of loading up a search engine page and then typing in your search phrase you've just gone straight in for the search. Ok, it's only a saving of a few seconds, but in terms of ease of use for the user it's certainly an improvement as the one bar does both features.
Another neat feature about the address bar is that it also improves on the previous address feature that many other browsers offer. On Internet Explorer if you've visited http://www.google.com in the past it will show up in a list under the current address that you're typing when you start typing 'goo' so you can press the down cursor button or click it with the mouse / laptop pad to select it and head to it. Chrome goes one better here, simply press G while typing in the address bar and you'll see in the background, exactly where you're typing, a faint complete URL or http://www.google.com. You can type the rest of the URL or you can simply hit enter at this point to go straight to that website. Other sites that start with G will also appear that you've recently visited and search results for other popular sites beginning with G will also appear under there too, all selectable to quickly jump to if you wish. Again, only a minor time saving feature, but all these little extras just add to the slick and smooth feel that is Chrome. Before long you do all this without thinking about it and you're web browsing becomes that little bit easier. If you're a regular visitor to Facebook for example, simply typing FA and hitting enter will normally end up with you being there.
Other features are there such as the Bookmark Bar which can be set up to sit under the address bar. Simply click your bookmarks here to jump straight to a website. A pretty basic and standard feature, but even with the bookmarks under the address bar the whole window is still uncluttered and nice and modern and clean looking. At the same time you won't be pestered with File, Edit and other menu nonsense which takes up valuable webpage space, that's all hidden behind the spanner icon at the right hand side of the address bar to keep the main window free for your pages and browsing experience.
Speaking of bookmarks, do you have all your favourite websites stored on Internet Explorer or another browser? Don't worry, you can still move to Chrome without loosing them or having to re-enter them. Just tell Chrome which browser to import your user data from when you run it and it will copy everything across making the transition quick and painless.
Another nice feature comes with the tabs. Nearly every modern browser these days uses tabs which are basically a separate window within the web browser to keep many web pages open at the same time. Chrome allows you to drag and drop these in any order or in to a new window. So if you're like me and you often have several websites open at the same time you can keep them in any order you want and you can change it at any time. While on the subject of tabs, clicking the 'new tab' button or pressing CTRL+T to open a new tab can be set to open any page of your choice or open a blank tab that shows your most visited websites and recently visited pages underneath that. Again nothing ground breaking, but if you're a creature of habit it's a great little feature to add to the others.
And of course no modern day browser would be complete without private browsing. This is basically where the browser creates another session, another window, which looks pretty similar to the normal window and acts in the same way except for one detail. Whatever website you visit in the private mode doesn't get saved in your history, cookies are saved and generally people sharing the browser with you won't know what you've been up to unlike a normal web session. This is actually quite useful. Obviously there's the first thought which comes to many people's mind, you can hide a visit to a naughty site without issue, but on top of that there are other uses too. If you're planning a getaway for you and your family that you want to keep secret or you're doing a bit of Christmas shopping this feature can be a good start to hiding the secret. (Obviously private browsing only works for the browser, if someone's monitoring your computer with other software or logs addresses on the router for example then they'll know where you've been, but for average use it's sufficient)
So you've read that Chrome is a pretty decent browser. It does pretty much whatever the others do but it does it with a little more polish and a little more ease of use. The features it adds aren't ground breaking on their own, but when added together in the whole package it's amazing how much of a difference they make.
The downside for Chrome is that on rare occasions it can slow down or crash, but in all truth it's not that often this happens and the same could be said for any web browser. The pro points seriously outweigh the negatives. And Chrome comes with it's own task manager if you ever have a problem with a tab or session crashing or slowing.
There's a lot more to Chrome and you can customise the browser to your individual likings with things like skins to change it's appearance and plugins to add new features to it. It's all there on Google and very simple to add, normally with just a couple of click of the mouse / touch pad.
I was a huge Firefox fan until I tried Chrome.
The earlier releases were unreliable at times, but the more recent releases are much better. It may be worth trying the newer release to see if it's your thing or not.
Either way, Firefox is also a good browser and I think browser choice is a personal thing. What's right for one isn't always right for another.
LadyValkyrie 15.10.2011 14:41
When I've tried Chrome, it's crashed far more than on the odd occasion and been an absolute pain, so I'll be sticking to Firefox. Informative review though.