Although repeated attempts to download Google Chrome met with failure earlier today, I have finally managed to download it and get it installed.
The verdict: Chrome is the fastest HTML browser I have ever used. It renders web pages almost instantly. Moreover, launching the browser takes no time at all, unlike non-IE browsers FireFox and Safari, both of which seem to take a little while to get going when you kick them into gear.
Chrome’s interface is also the least cluttered, with a super-minimal set of controls. Apart from the tabs at the top of the window (similar to IE 7 or Firefox) the default display show only the back and forward navigation buttons, reload, address bar (which doubles as a search field for your preferred search engine) plus two other buttons: page options and customize (which lets you control a very simple set of parameters for the browser like proxy settings).
Another feature of note is something Google calls Application Shortcuts. This feature lets you save your favourite web application like Hotmail as a shortcut on your desktop, start menu or quicklaunch icon. When you click on that shortcut, the application opens in a dedicated window, without any of the usual browser interface surrounding it. The result is more screen real estate to get your work done, and a separate window instead of a tab. I suppose Google figures that one instance of a browser is great for surfing multiple sites simultaneously through tabs, but that switching between a surfing experience and a website that offers application-like qualities has benefits. It’s probably also a good indication of what Google plans to do later with Chrome.
Lastly, I was delighted to note that Google has embedded spell check in Chrome, which means that the error-handling you’ve come to expect while using Word or Outlook (that little red squiggly underline to show you’ve mis-spelled) is now available to you in any web-based text entry situation – perfect for people who decide to use the Application Shortcuts feature (or for anyone who just hates spelling mistakes!)
So will I be dumping IE for Chrome? No, not yet anyway. Though I love Chrome’s speed, lack of support for ActiveX is still a deal-breaker for me. But you can bet I’ll be watching for some of Chrome’s influence to rub off on IE 8!