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2010/02/02 - Google Rolls Out Chrome 4 - Speed, Extensions, and Sync

posted Feb 2, 2010, 6:30 PM by Rick Anderson   [ updated Feb 2, 2010, 8:31 PM ]
Over the past week, Google has been rolling out the latest version of its Chrome browser to 4.0.249.78 (36714).  Speed improvements (400% faster than the initial release of Google Chrome), extensions to cool utilities and the ability to sync your bookmarks across multiple computers lead the list of what's new.

Go Fast

In store are major speed improvements to page load and javascript that takes what's already the fastest browser to new stratospheric levels (how about 42% faster than the previous version of Chrome!).  This is exciting news for Google Apps users as not only will your web pages load faster, but all applications within the Google Apps suite will benefit from the improvement in speed.

A couple of tests have been performed by Lifehacker - the first was back in September, 2009 (Chrome 4 has been in beta for a long time) and the second was released in January, 2010 (after the official release).  In both cases Chrome sped past everyone - particularly in javascript and anything in regards to processing (what Google Apps users care about).  The best part... Google's not resting - Chrome 5 is just around the corner with even more speed!

In addition to speed (do we really care about anything else?) is the release of extensions and bookmark sync.

Extensions

Extensions are... wait for it.... extensions to the Chrome browser.  Basically, think of these as an SDK or a third party development tool that puts additional features in your Chrome browser - that's pretty cool.   I've been using the beta version of Chrome 4 for a few months on a test computer.  A couple of useful extensions that I've found are:
  • Chrome Showcase - manage your tabs and tab preview.
  • Google Tasks - quick access to your Google tasks list
  • Secbrowsing - plugin version checker - great way to keep your extensions up to date
  • Tab menu - a vertical display of your open tabs
While those are helpful - my two favorites are Google Dictionary (by Google) and 1-ClickWeather for Chrome.


Google Dictionary (by Google)

Google Dictionary (by Google) is the ultimate partner to Google Chrome's native spell-checking ability.  By itself, Chrome will provide a squiggly red underline to misspelled words and the ability to right click on the misspelling for the suggestion list of possibly correct spellings.  While this is an outstanding feature - I found myself consistently going to a new tab and typing in define:word (with word being the word I was interested in defining) for Google's definition lookup.  Now, I no longer need to leave the page I'm working on - with the new Google Dictionary extension, the definition is simply a double-click on the word away and the definition presents itself in a pleasing to look at bubble box with basic information and a more link for the full dictionary.  Here's an example of double-clicking on the word computer:



1-ClickWeather for Chrome

1-ClickWeather for Chrome was developed by the folks at the Weather Channel - they've been making widgets, gadgets, and notification icons for years - so it comes as no surprise that they have one of the best Chrome Extensions to date.  The extension displays as an icon next to the browser page and customize/control icons in the upper right corner of the browser showing a weather picture and the current temperature.  One click on the icon drops down the current details, Doppler radar, and the current outlook for the remainder of the day/night as well as tomorrow.  In addition, it has various hyperlinks to detailed information and active alerts.



Syncing Bookmarks

Located within the Customize and Control Google Chrome icon (that's the wrench icon) is the ability to synchronize your bookmarks across all computers.  Selecting this option copies your bookmarks to your Google Gmail account.  Go to another computer running Chrome, select the synchronize option, log-in, and like magic... all your bookmarks are there!  This works great among a few different computers that I use for personal and business use.

The downside to this feature is that it currently only works with Google Gmail accounts and not Google Apps accounts.  At some point, someone at Google is going to wake up and get smart by figuring out how to link a Google Gmail account with a Google Apps account so that you have easy access to various files and global settings.

Cons

Did I mention how fast the new Google Chrome is compared to every other browser?  All that speed does come at a price - memory.  Yes, Google Chrome and all those extensions are memory hogs - but that's ok as users start to live in the browser with limited need to go outside of the browser.
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