A month of Chrome on the Mac

It’s been around a month since I pulled the trigger and made the Google Chrome beta channel (which I’ve since upgraded to the dev channel for extension support) the default browser on my Mac. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to where I can’t go back to Firefox now as my daily driver.

The three big reasons why Chrome reigns supreme? Speed, more speed, and WebKit. And now that extensions have come over to the Mac, there’s not too terribly many reasons to stick with Firefox anymore.

How I Beat Browser Inertia

I don’t change browsers easily. It took a popup blocker and Microsoft’s neglect of the platform to pull me away from Internet Explorer in early 2002 toward Mozilla 1.0, which I came to really enjoy as a solid, customizable browser that made the Web look quite a bit better than Internet Explorer could show me. I used the Mozilla Suite for several months until the Phoenix project started; this project broke the browser out of the suite as a standalone application, and was very speed-focused. This project, of course, became what was eventually released as Firefox. As I didn’t need the rest of the cruft of the Mozilla Suite (indeed, before Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox came around, I would install just the browser component), Firefox was a perfect fit, and has been until very recently.

Then, Chrome for Mac started to really ramp up and take shape, and I knew it was worth another look. I installed it and was immediately taken by its speed and reliability. Chrome launches quickly, is a Mac-native application (Firefox actually fakes a great deal of the Mac OS X user experience which leads to many different penalties, including performance), and can handle the load of 15 to 20 tabs incredibly efficiently — something I absolutely rely on in my work. JavaScript is very speedy — Google Wave is almost usable! — and Chrome seems to be a bit ahead of Firefox in terms of CSS 3 and HTML 5 support. The WebKit rendering engine Chrome uses is the same as the one in Safari, but Chrome is a much more stable application than Safari and will probably have a much greater reach as a result. WebKit is important, as it’s suddenly poised to be the dominant rendering engine of this decade, primarily because of its impact on the mobile market — the iPhone and Android OS both use a WebKit-powered browser. The proliferation of Google Chrome and the Google Chrome Frame for Internet Explorer suggest that Mozilla’s Gecko engine could be in trouble. So, Web developers: ignore WebKit-based browsers at your peril.

Caveats for Developers

WebKit also comes with an extensive set of developer tools, but the version in Google Chrome still seems buggy to me. I also don’t like that the developer tools pop open in a new window — when working on the road without an extra monitor, it becomes somewhat inconvenient to flip windows back and forth (especially on a small 13″ screen). A pane view — like Firebug, or even Safari’s developer tools — would be more effective. Occasionally, I do find myself starting Firefox in development sessions for the express purpose of using Firebug on troublesome pieces of code. Firebug still works the best of all the debuggers out there.

Extensions

I didn’t start gathering extensions until a few days ago, as Chrome for Mac only very recently got extension support. The two must-haves that I’ve identified so far:

  • Type-Ahead Find, an implementation of Firefox’s find-as-you-type feature for Chrome. This lets you simply start typing in a Web page to find phrases — really a great feature, and something I missed initially coming over from Firefox.
  • RSS Subscription Extension, which fixes the startling omission of a lack of any RSS discovery/reading features in Chrome. I’m not quite sure why this wasn’t included by default, but I’m glad Google’s developed an extension to remedy this for those who use this feature (such as myself).

Other extensions I’ve installed include a handler to open mailto: links in Gmail and a window resizer — a critical tool for any Web developer’s toolkit. Other than that, though, the core feature set of Chrome is serving me well. Will it serve me for the next several years? Time will tell, but I know one thing: I would have a very tough time switching back to Firefox if I had to.

10 thoughts on “A month of Chrome on the Mac

  1. vinnie

    In all seriousness, Chrome has been my most-used browser on Windows for a year or so now. I have it installed on the Mac at home but I haven’t used it much; it’s hard to switch away like you said.

    As for extensions, I have a GMail and GCal checker and a screenshot utility. I’ve tried a few of the twitter clients but none of them is as good and stable as the Echofon extension for Firefox; maybe the Echofon guys will port their extension to Chrome now.

  2. vinnie

    In all seriousness, Chrome has been my most-used browser on Windows for a year or so now. I have it installed on the Mac at home but I haven’t used it much; it’s hard to switch away like you said.

    As for extensions, I have a GMail and GCal checker and a screenshot utility. I’ve tried a few of the twitter clients but none of them is as good and stable as the Echofon extension for Firefox; maybe the Echofon guys will port their extension to Chrome now.

  3. Michael Critz

    I use 1Password which makes Chrome a no-go for me. Though, they do a great job with browser support.

    In case you were curious: I enjoyed Chrome on PC, but switched to Opera as my PC browser-of-choice. On Mac I prefer Safari, though I also like Firefox for Mac.

  4. Michael Critz

    I use 1Password which makes Chrome a no-go for me. Though, they do a great job with browser support.

    In case you were curious: I enjoyed Chrome on PC, but switched to Opera as my PC browser-of-choice. On Mac I prefer Safari, though I also like Firefox for Mac.

  5. Calvin Webster

    I couldn’t agree with you more about Chrome, it’s v8 javascript engine is so snappy…i can’t go back to any other broswer.

    I can attest to multiple tabs as I also regularly have at least 10/15 open most days…and absolutely love the ‘tab/task manager for it’ SHIFT+ESC.

    Using the dev channel for a while also made chrome really slow on occasion, especially when i made my shortcut contain all the flags to enable extensions (before they rolled out in to stable).

    One of the things I’ve been using more and more lately in development is the development tools…which seems so much like firebug. By default when you ‘Inspect element’ you get a little popup, but you can dock the pop up in the lower left corner, so i sits within your browser screen.

    I also like all of the real estate given for actually looking at web pages….instead of having all of the buttons/toolbars and the like.

    Thanks for the post, its cool to hear about it on the mac. All of my experience has mostly been on win 7/vista.

  6. Calvin Webster

    I couldn’t agree with you more about Chrome, it’s v8 javascript engine is so snappy…i can’t go back to any other broswer.

    I can attest to multiple tabs as I also regularly have at least 10/15 open most days…and absolutely love the ‘tab/task manager for it’ SHIFT+ESC.

    Using the dev channel for a while also made chrome really slow on occasion, especially when i made my shortcut contain all the flags to enable extensions (before they rolled out in to stable).

    One of the things I’ve been using more and more lately in development is the development tools…which seems so much like firebug. By default when you ‘Inspect element’ you get a little popup, but you can dock the pop up in the lower left corner, so i sits within your browser screen.

    I also like all of the real estate given for actually looking at web pages….instead of having all of the buttons/toolbars and the like.

    Thanks for the post, its cool to hear about it on the mac. All of my experience has mostly been on win 7/vista.

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