PRODUCT REVIEW

Chrome for Linux: Good Browsers Come to Those Who Wait

Google finally released a beta version of its Chrome Web browser forLinux on Dec. 8, slightly more than one year after releasing itsChrome browser for Microsoft Windows. The wait was worth it,especially given the more than 300 extensions already available tocustomize the new browser.

Because Linux distributions are numerous, Google ported the Chromecode to a select handful of the most popular distros. Chrome for Linux is so faronly available for the Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSuse distros.

Similar to Google Chrome for Windows and Mac (also just released),Google focused on speed, stability and security in building the Linuxversion. However, Google also wanted a high-performance browser thatintegrated well with the Linux ecosystem, according to Brian Rakowski, productmanager.

“This includes tight integration with native GTK themes, updates thatare managed by the standard system package manager and many otherfeatures that fit in natively with the operating system wherepossible,” Rakowski said.

True to Its Roots

In developing the Linux version of the Google Chrome browser, companyofficials decided not to keep the project exclusively in-house.Instead, it sought help from the open source community that wasalready well-versed in the Chromium Project, said Rakowski. More than50 open source contributors that worked on Chromium were helpful indelivering the Linux version of Google Chrome, he added.

Chromium is an open source browser project with a goal of building asafer, faster and more stable way for all Internet users to experiencethe Web. Like the Windows version, Google’s Chrome browser for Linuxis fast, secure, stable, simple, extensible and embraces openstandards like HTML5, according to sofware engineers Dan Kegel and Evan Martin.

“Google Chrome works well with both Gnome and KDE and is updated viathe normal system package manager. It has also been developed as atrue open source project, using public mailing lists, IRC channels,bug tracker, code repository, and continuous build and test farm –following in large part the trail blazed by Mozilla,” they wrote.

Where they noticed problems in system libraries, the Chrome developerspushed fixes upstream and filed bug reports. This open approach todevelopment seems to be working, noted Kegel and Martin.

Hands-On Account

Google Chrome Beta for Linux has much of the look and feel of theestablished Windows version.However, under the hood are telltale signs that the code is carefully tunedto integrate with the Linux architecture.

I use Chrome for Windows on several of my PCs. Thus,my first exposure to the Linux version of the Chrome Beta on my Ubuntudesktop and Ubuntu-based netbook was a simple venture into familiarterritory. The user interface (UI) is largely the same.

Installation, as expected, was fast and sure. Browser settings andbookmarks were imported from my Firefox browser painlessly.

I thought I had lucked out in being able to port the Google ChromeBeta over to my two computers that run the Puppy Linux distribution.One of the Puppy community members recompiled the binary code toconvert the .Deb package of Google Chrome into a .Pet package forPuppy Linux. However, a key library was missing, causing Google Chrome toflash on the screen and then disappear.

Extensions Galore

Speedy, tabbed browsers are becoming the standard today. So a newbrowser candidate needs some extra oomph to give users enough reasons toswitch from their current browser of choice. Google accomplishes thiswith its gallery of extensions.

The vast array of extensions available in the Firefox and theSeamonkey browsers push their usefulness high up on the browser list.Google Chrome jumps to the top of that list with its more than 300browser extensions developed specifically for Chrome.

I found Chrome versions of many of my favorite Firefox add-ons. Thismakes it much easier to switch my work routine from one browser to theother without missing anything.

When Google first launched the Windows Chrome version in September2008, the plan was to make it easy to customize the browser withextensions. Google also wanted to make extensions easy to create andmaintain, while also preserving Google Chrome’s speed and stability, notedRakowski.

Mostly, Google met that goal. Each extension runs in its own processto avoid crashing or significantly slowing down the browser.

Other Notable Features

Google Chrome beta for Linux has a lot of nice features. It did nottake me long to find my favorites.

For instance, the pin tab feature locks a Web site in place with aright click. It reduces the size of the tab for the pinned URLs sothey are quickly found among a growing list of opened browser tabs.

Another gem is the ability to preselect URLs to open when the browserloads. Sure, a few other browsers have a similar feature, called a”personal tool bar.” But Chrome lets me do it with a right click of themouse.

I also like the ability to use the system title bar and borders withinthe browser by right clicking on tab bar.

1 Comment

  • I use Chrome, on the Windows Platform.

    It is fast, stable and really quite a strong contender for the second spot. The release of the Adblock extension for Chrome, just makes it all that sweeter.

    That being said, Chrome on Linux is an okay experience if you have tons of disk-space. I left the browser open overnight, and it consumed a little more than 1GB. Memory leakage???

    Google makes some AM azing software services, and Chrome is very likely going to improve into a robust, secure browser on Linux (and Mac possibly). I shall continue to evaluate future releases of Chrome with great interest and anticipation, but for now – I think Chrome is not going to be my mainstay browser on Linux – it is an actual "beta" unlike other Google Beta(s), and I will advice folks to give it a whirl and go back to the browser of their choice on Linux.

    I AM still with Firefox and happy with it.

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