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Google Chrome Update Adds Speed, Themes, HTML 5

Browser Themes, faster JavaScript performance, and HTML 5 support can be found in the new stable release of Google Chrome.

Google on Tuesday announced a new stable release of Google Chrome, the company's Web browser.

Google releases Chrome on three "channels": a buggy version for developers, a more usable version for beta testers, and a stable version for users who don't want to worry about unexplained browser behavior.

Chrome, the fifteenth stable update in the past year, is faster than its predecessor. Google claims that the new version makes JavaScript code run 25% faster than the previous stable version and that JavaScript execution speed has increased 150% since the first Chrome beta.

A beta version with these new features was released in early August.

Google has redesigned the New Tab page, the page that Chrome uses to display thumbnail images of previously visited Web sites, recently closed tabs, and a link to keyboard shortcuts. The new design allows users to rearrange thumbnail images of frequently visited Web sites by clicking on them and dragging them to a new position. The thumbnails can also be pinned, so they remain fixed in a designated spot.

Chrome also offers an improved Omnibox, the address bar text box that can be used for both search keyword entry and Web address entry. The changes make the Omnibox drop-down menu, which provides search keyword and Web site suggestions as you type, more readable: It adds small icons to clarify the difference between suggested sites, searches, bookmarks and sites culled from the user's browsing history.

The new Chrome adds support for HTML 5 features, like the audio and video tags. These allow audio and video playback without a plug-in. Firefox 3.5 added HMTL 5 support when it was released the end of June.

Chrome also brings appearance customization to users, in the form of the Chrome Theme Gallery. Themes allow users to alter the colors, patterns, and images displayed on the browser frame -- know as the browser chrome -- and on the New Tab page background.

Finally, the Chrome update also fixes two JavaScript injection vulnerabilities.

Google Chrome users should receive this update automatically, unless firewall settings block Google's automatic update mechanism.

As of August, Google Chrome reached a global market share of 2.84%, according to NetApplications. That number is likely to climb due to Google's recently announced browser distribution deal with Sony. Google is also pursuing similar arrangements with other PC makers, though no further deals have been disclosed.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on why businesses shouldn't shrug off Google's upcoming Chrome OS. Download the report here (registration required).

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