The computer helper: What you need to know about Chrome


Washington : Google’s new Chrome Web browser is being hailed as a game-changer. It is fast, has a clean interface and some snazzy features that other browsers do not have.

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Does that mean you should download it right now and spend the time to learn it? If you like new technology, the answer is “sure”.

But if you need to be assured of some payoff in new technology before you invest time in it, you might rightly want some questions answered before you switch. Here are a few.

The company line is that today’s Web browsers – Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox chief among them – were built at a time when most of what people did on the Web were view static pages.

Now, Google says, folks want to do all sorts of things on the Web: play games, balance their cheque books, upload and watch elaborate multimedia presentations, even compose documents or create spreadsheets. The major Web browsers, Google’s management and developers say, have been slow to keep pace with what users are demanding of the Internet.

Google’s answer to this was to create a brand new Web browser built from the ground up using the latest technologies and technological innovations. And the goal was to build this new browser as an open source model.

This means that developers from around the world will have access to the inner workings of the code so that add-ons, extensions, and improvements can be made by the world-wide community of developers. Google believes that with this platform, developers will be able to build the next generation of Web applications.

Holding the reins of this initiative, of course, gives Google tremendous power should the browser come to dominate, and there’s clearly plenty of ways the company can exploit that for its own purposes.

Chrome, for example, was built in part to handle the JavaScript programming language better than current browsers do.

Google’s own online office programmes – dubbed Google docs – use JavaScript heavily, and these programmes may one day be in direct competition with Microsoft’s lucrative Office platform.

Chrome is different in quite a few ways. It looks different, first of all. The interface is virtually bereft of the clutter that accompanies other browsers. There’s no menu bar in Chrome, nor is there a tool bar or status bar.

The content area of the browser is larger than that of any other browser you’ve likely seen. Expand the browser to full screen, and Web sites essentially fill most of your desktop.

The area occupied by the address bar in other browsers – the place you can type or see the URL or Web address of the page you’re viewing – acts as a search field in Chrome. So you don’t specifically need to visit a search engine site to conduct a search.

Once you land on a Web page, however, the Web address is shown in the same area where you conducted the search.

To customise the browser, you click a wrench icon to the right of the address bar. A page icon appears just before the wrench icon. Click that, and you will see a drop-down menu with all of the page-level options, including launching a new tab, searching, zooming, and printing.

Chrome launches faster than IE or Firefox. Performance while you’re working with particular Web sites seems about the same.

On the downside, Chrome’s bookmark feature is not nearly as robust as either IE’s or Firefox’s – there doesn’t even appear to be a way to access the bookmarks using the keyboard alone.

Chrome, like Firefox, also allows Flash-heavy pages, such as those on YouTube, to consume a significant amount of processing power, slowing your overall system performance. The upcoming version of IE – version 8 – is much better in this regard.