Google Chrome For Mac: First Look

The prerelease version of the popular browser is fast and lightweight, but it's missing features necessary for real-world browsing.
Google Chrome for Mac
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Google Chrome for Mac

Even in this very early prerelease version, Chrome for Mac already has some of my favorite features from the Windows version. The speed, of course, is my favorite feature. I also love the startup page, which gives you thumbnail images of your most frequently visited pages, as well as a search box, text links of recently closed tabs, and recent bookmarks.

I love the way the address bar works in Chrome. It does a good job of suggesting Web pages based on your bookmarks and Web history. It also suggests Google searches as you type, combining the address field and the search engine field into a single box. That makes a lot of sense; there's really no reason to have separate text fields for the address and for Web searches.

Google designed Chrome as a browser to run today's heavyweight, JavaScript-intensive Web 2.0 applications, many of which are, of course, from Google, such as Gmail and Google Maps. To enhance stability, each tab runs as a separate process, so if one tab slows down under the strain of running a heavy-duty Web app, the other tabs are less likely to be affected.

Chrome offers "incognito mode" – a.k.a. "porn mode" -- to hide your trail when you want to browse pages privately. In incognito mode, Chrome doesn't keep a history of the pages you visit, and your downloads and all cookies are deleted when you exit incognito mode. I tested incognito mode on the Mac, and it works, but Chrome for the Mac currently gives you no visual indication whether you're browsing in incognito mode or regular mode, which could get you in trouble if you type the wrong URL into the wrong window.

One of my favorite Chrome for Windows features has apparently yet to be implemented on the Mac: Application windows, which lets you create an application shortcut for individual Web pages and place that shortcut on your desktop, Start Menu or Quick Launch bar. Once you've created a Web application, Chrome for Windows displays that page in a window without an address bar, and it looks and behaves a lot like a desktop application. It's a great way to keep your frequently used Web applications, like Gmail and Google Reader, at your fingertips.

The recently released Prism for Firefox does the same thing, and it runs on the Mac as well as Windows.

All in all, Chrome for the Mac is a good first step. I like the speed, but the missing features make it not ready for most people to use as their primary browser. I'm looking forward the next versions.

Visit our Google Chrome Image Gallery for a good look at Chrome for Windows.

InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of Google's Chrome. Download the report here (registration required).

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