September 26, 2008

Good Start for Google’s Browser


"You may delay, but time will not."

-- Benjamin Franklin

Has yet another summer come and gone?

I hope yours was a great one, and that you spent your time -- as Ben would have wanted you to -- wisely.

I've been thinking of time in the days leading up to my return from summer hiatus. The relocation of my column to the Business section brings back memories: It was 13 summers ago that my column, then called "The Computer Tutor," debuted as an experiment in Business to kick off The Record's earliest coverage of computing. It's hard to believe that my observations became a fixture for a few hundred more columns since that first one, sometimes at other addresses in the paper, and in more recent years under the newer moniker, "The PC Guy."

The return is bittersweet, however. I will not have the pleasure of sharing space among these pages with a friend and colleague who was funny, witty and always tremendously informative as she tackled the world of computing and technology. Record Business Staff Writer Martha McKay lost her battle with cancer July 1, and I know I, our staff and readers of her columns miss her dearly.


Let's begin our new season with a look at the latest entry from the ever-busy folks at Google. It seems they are releasing new utilities almost daily, doesn't it?

Its most recent creation is Chrome, the Web search giant's first foray into browsing.

Chrome is a solid, if a stark and simple, browser. It will not replace Firefox on my desktop, nor should it be a substitute for those using Internet Explorer. But it is worth having on hand for occasional use.

Here's what I like about it:

* Speed: No doubt, Chrome glides. There are no bells or whistles to drain valuable resources. Google wanted a fast engine and this one delivers. Pages display almost instantaneously.

* Stability: Those who do intensive browsing or keep multiple screens open at a time have likely stumbled upon situations in which either too many pages or the presence of a single, troublesome page caused the entire browser to freeze or close.

Chrome tabs are different. Each tab is an independent entity, isolated from the others. That means if you ever encounter a wayward Flash animation or a poorly designed Web page that normally could crash your browser, in Chrome, the damage will be limited to that single tab; the browser will not crash.

* Privacy: Chrome offers an "incognito" mode, in which visited pages leave no trace on your computer for others to uncover. No cached pages, no visited sites history, no cookies, no residue, nothing. That means if you check out a five-minute video excerpt from last night's "Colbert Report" instead of finishing that annual report your boss wants, no one will ever know.

* "Intelligent" auto-complete: Most browsers have auto-complete functions that fill out Web addresses as you begin typing. In Chrome, the "omnibox" doubles as an address field and search engine. As you start typing a Web address or search term, Chrome immediately displays suggested terms or addresses, largely based on entries you've previously made, along with sites Google calculates contain material you'll be interested in.

Chrome sports other nifty features. Its opening screen displays clickable thumbnail images of the sites you visit most often and it allows you to "tear" off Web pages that can be used independently in separate screens or stored as shortcuts on your desktop.

So why not toss your old browser and go Chrome? Both Firefox and Explorer are greatly enhanced by hundreds of plug-ins and add-ons that make browsing more fruitful. They include such services as automatic updating of bookmarks, automated downloading of multiple files, movie capture and RSS readers.

Some of these features may be forthcoming -- Chrome is an open source browser, and third-party developers have been encouraged to devise utilities that improve the browsing experience.

But right now, Chrome lacks that luster; the advantages of my huge stable of Firefox add-ons are too great to abandon.

But Chrome, down the line, will prove a formidable challenger to Firefox and Explorer.

Download your free copy of Chrome at

Pete's picks

Why send a plain old e-mail to your friends when you can send voicemail just as easily?

JD VoiceMail is as simple as it gets. Just connect your microphone to the input on your soundcard, fire up JD VoiceMail, record a message, and with one click, it'll open up your e-mail program, insert the voicemail and fire it off.

This program is cool and easy to use. And it's free.

For a copy, send me an e-mail with the word PCGUYJD in the subject field; please include your name and town in the body of your message.


PC Guy appears Fridays. Contact The PC Guy at [email protected] The PC Guy cannot personally respond to all inquiries. Portions of e-mail from readers may be used in columns.

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