About 3 weeks ago I came in to work in the morning to find my computer was running like a turtle dipped in honey yet again and yet again I ctrl’ed+ alt + deleted to see which of the programs I had open were causing the issue.
Unfortunately it *seemed* Firefox and the 40 tabs I had open in it was the cause of the problem… Now I’m not saying that amount of open tabs is normal usage (in fact often I have multiple windows with that many tabs in each which definitely not what the average user does) but the frustration of this happening got me thinking about possible alternatives. My natural next choice was Google Chrome. I like many people tried it when it first came out but quickly went back to Firefox because of the lack of my favourite (mostly developer) extensions like firebug and the Web Developer toolbar being present, and due to the number of sites which didn’t work properly with it.
So about a year on from last touching Chrome I’ve now been using it for a few of weeks, here are the reasons why I’m currently enjoying it:
Crash Resistance / Memory Handling
I guess the first one is as stated above, I was just looking for a Firefox quality browser that didn’t cause my computer to crash when I left it open over night with lots of tabs open. The good news here is that in my personal opinion and from current experience Chrome’s handling of memory and resources is better than that of Firefox which has meant no crashes since the switch. To see this in action do ctrl+alt+del to see task manager with a handful of tabs when Chrome is open, then close Chrome and open the same tabs in Firefox and repeat.
Chrome runs each tab and extension as an individual process, so if the content of one tab causes a problem that process can be killed.
Firefox meanwhile runs everything in one big process, meaning if one of your tabs/extensions has a problem the entire browser has a problem.
In addition to the above task manager process comparison Chrome also detects if a tab has crashed and will allow that tab (and hence process) to be killed in isolation of the browser instead of having to kill the whole browser with all open tabs.
Another thing I quite like with regard to whole resource usage thing is the Chrome task manager. If you are curious as to which extensions are the biggest resource hogs you can easily see them by going to Tools > Task Manager in Chrome and kick anything that’s overly bloating your browser to the curb.
Speed & Auto Search (Chrome Instant)
Now this is quite subjective but in quite a few tests Chrome is faster than Firefox at page rendering and for me from my personal experience the browser just feels lighter and faster than Firefox. The webkit rendering engine is also considered to be a lighter more concise, and more neatly constructed (code wise) rendering engine in comparison to the gecko engine ( that Firefox uses) and this was one of the reasons Apple chose to use it for their Safari browser as well. An interesting article as to why Apple rejected Gecko in favour of the Webkit rendering engine for their Safari browser is here .
A second feature of Chrome I quite enjoy (and you’ll either love or hate this!) is the Chrome Instant feature. Remember when google added the feature to the google.com site where it starts searching as soon as you type? Well Chrome Instant is this, but for your browser address bar! For most sites as soon as you start typing the address Chrome will already be bringing up the page for you. To turn it on just go to Settings > Options > Basics > Search and check the Enable Instant for faster searching and browsing option you’ll be good to go. For me Chrome Instant and the faster page rendering experience means my daily web surfing experience is at least 3% more productive!
HTML 5, CSS 3 and pushing progress on the web
As a core part of what NuBlue does is web development I have a keen interest in the new and emerging web technologies and standards. The HTML 5 standard and CSS3 open fantastic possibilities for front end web development so for me any browser that is pushing forward adoption of these technologies on the web gets big kudos from me. Out of all browsers Chromes HTML 5’s support is some of the best out there. If you’re interested to know the current state of play with regard to HTML 5 and CSS 3 support in browsers go to this excellent reference .
To see what I’m talking about with regard to Chromes superior support for new HTML 5 try using the following new <meter> tag by pasting this code into a html file and then running it in both Chrome and Firefox.
<meter min="1" max="10" value="5">5</meter>
or you could try
<progress min="0" max="100" value="60"></progress>
or you could try
<p contenteditable="true">Test<br>Test <br>Test <br></p>
This is a copy of the file used in the above tests:
Chrome – All the above tags from the HTML 5 specification are supported.
Firefox – 2 of the tags listed above currently don’t work and content editable isn’t quite as nicely handled in my opinion.
Chrome extensions have come a long way since the launch of the browser in my opinion and there are now some really top class extensions out there to meet the needs of web developer users and just users in General. Some of my favourites include Lastpass, Pendule, Firebug Lite, Web Developer, Y Slow, Screen Capture, View Background Image, PageRank and AdBlock. In part 2 of this article I will go into detail as to why these extensions will make your Chrome experience better.
Again, another nice time saving feature which is intuitive to setup and easy to use. To enable auto fill go to the spanner icon and click options > personal stuff > auto-fill.
Click Manage Auto-Fill settings to add multiple address details which you can then quick select at will (as shown in the below video).
The below video shows the auto-fill mechanism in action on the NuBlue hosting order form.
This isn’t actually much of a feature yet as an app is pretty much just a standard web application in a browser tab at the moment. However, you can create desktop shortcuts to apps which is nice for loading specific apps in chrome from your desktop.
One app I’ve tried and probably one of the more impressive examples is the Tweetdeck Launcher app. If you open it from a desktop icon you get a separate ‘minimal’ chrome window with TweetDeck running within (not too dissimilar to the regular TweetDeck window) or alternatively you can launch it from the ‘Apps’ launcher you get in a new chrome tab. One quite nice combination is to use the ‘Pin Tab’ (right click on a tab for this) Feature in conjunction with and app so in this example you can have TweetDeck running in your browser in a tab which can’t accidentally be closed.
The not so good
Although I now find Chrome a very good browsing experience there are a couple of additions which I think would be beneficial to web developers. My main gripe (and this probably isn’t a problem for the majority of users) is when right clicking an image on a web page in Firefox you can ‘view’ an image, which is great for quickly seeing the path to an image file when developing a site. There is no option for this in chrome. The same also goes for CSS background images although I’ve got an extension to get round that with the View Background Image extension. ‘View Image’ should be a standard feature though in my opinion.
The second more minor thing is the default Chrome password manager. I found it to be a little flakey on some https forms so I use Lastpass for password management (which works well with everything from my experience so far) and I have found it to be excellent when coupled with Chrome’s nippy browsing (auto-login is a massive time saver!).
What do you think?
In my next article I’ll be showing a breakdown of the extensions mentioned above and some of the cool features they add to the browser. If you’ve started using Chrome recently or come back to it, it would be great to hear your experiences and experiences vs other browsers! Also it if anyone knows any ‘must have’ extensions I haven’t mentioned please leave a comment!