Google Chrome for Mac: First Impressions

Beta version of the browser is lacking some features and it suffers from a few hiccups. Still, it's a good start.

Google finally released the beta version of its Chrome browser for Mac on Tuesday. As expected, the new browser is lacking some features that its Windows counterpart has, such as bookmark sync, a bookmark manager, and offline capability.

I've been using the developer version of Chrome for Mac for several weeks, and have been fairly impressed with how the browser has performed. This first beta version fixes some annoying bugs that had plagued earlier versions of the browser, and overall stability is much better. However, this is still a beta version of Chrome so be prepared for a few unexpected hiccups and snags along the way.

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Here are a few observations about Google's new beta version.

No Extra Goodies

Although there have been rumors for several weeks saying Chrome for Mac would lack features like bookmark sync, I was hoping those reports would be proven wrong. Unfortunately the rumors were dead on, and all that fun stuff like Chrome extensions, bookmark sync, and offline capabilities for Google applications like Gmail and Google Docs are not available for Mac users.

Google has said that HTML 5 specifications will be replacing its offline features that currently use the Google Gears browser add-on, so offline access should be coming to Google Chrome's Mac users in the future. As for the other extras like bookmark sync and extensions, I would bet they'll be coming sooner rather than later.

Bookmark Tricks

Chrome for Mac allows you to import and export your bookmarks from Safari and Firefox, but the browser lacks a bookmark manager, which makes it very difficult to keep new bookmarks organized. However, there are a few tricks you can use to get at least some control over your pages.

If you want to delete a particular bookmark, you just open that Web page, and then click on 'Bookmark This Page' or press 'command + D'. This will open a small pop-up window where you can click on "remove" to erase the page from your bookmarks.

You can also use this trick to create a new folder on your bookmarks bar. When the pop-up window appears click on 'Edit' and that will take you to another window where you can create a now folder. However, every folder you create will be pinned to your bookmarks bar, you don't have the option to create a folder that appears only in the bookmarks menu.

Tip: If you don't want to see your bookmarks bar while you're browsing, open a new tab and click 'command+shift+B.' This will remove your bookmarks from the browsing window, and pin the bar to the start screen that you see when you open an empty tab.

Loopy Tabs

I found that, from time to time, a new tab can get stuck and won't render the Web page you've asked for. If this happens, you can try to refresh the tab or just close the tab down and try again. In my tests, I also found that Gmail was sometimes slow to open. If that happens to you, wait until you can click on Gmail's "try reloading this page" link, and that should clear it up.

Video is good, but not great

While Chrome doesn't usually have a problem with video, you might run into a snag from time to time. For example, I wasn't able to see CBS News videos with Chrome, but had no problem viewing those same videos with Firefox. Chrome also had a problem with an online premium video service I subscribe to, so be prepared for the odd snag like this from time to time.

Stuff to Love

Chrome is pretty fast, although I wasn't particularly blown away with its speed as some others are reporting. In fact, Chrome is a little bit slower than Safari but twice as fast as Firefox, according to Computerworld.

One of the top features of Chrome is that you never have to worry about waiting for your browser to install an update. Chrome handles all updates in the background and these changes never once interrupted my Web browsing. In fact, you will probably never notice when the browser updates unless some new features suddenly appear. But if you ever want to check that your version of Chrome is up to date just click on the 'Chrome' menu item and click on 'About Chrome.'

Chrome is all about search

If you're new to Chrome, a great little feature you might like is the ability to quickly search select sites and use any search engine you want without adjusting your preferences. Just start typing the URL for the desired search engine or Website into the address bar (Google calls it the Omnibox), and, once auto complete fills in the complete address, press the tab button. This will bring up a prompt to let you know you are using the alternate search engine instead of Google. You can use this function to search Amazon, Ask, Bing, eBay, YouTube, Wikipedia (to trigger Wikipedia I had to type in en.wikipedia.com), and more. If the search trick doesn't work, watch the auto complete bar below the Omnibox, Chrome should give you an option to search the specific site you're looking for.

Although it's is missing some key features, overall, Chrome is a great browser and well worth checking out.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

This story, "Google Chrome for Mac: First Impressions" was originally published by PCWorld.

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