I was going to write a belated Money Monday post about our new 27-inch iMac, but I wanted to include a picture. I know I’ve taken a picture already, so of course I looked in iPhoto first. It’s not there, so I found the camera, found the camera cable, hooked it up, and imported everything into iPhoto. It’s still not there. So I must have taken the picture with my iPhone, so I plug that in, and it has a dead battery. I wait until it has enough charge to respond, and then iTunes wants to update the software. I guess I could have said no, but I didn’t want to forget, so now it’s updating and has been doing for a couple minutes.
I don’t want to wait anymore. I’m in the mood to type. You’ll have to see our massively gargantutitanicolassal iMac later.
Last night, I finally downloaded Google Chrome, and that’s the inspiration for this post.
Like many of you out there, I use my web browser a lot. A lot a lot. So I want a really good one, and I’ve yet to find my dream browser.
(Disclaimer: I just want to say that I know about Firefox and OmniWeb. I used them long enough to decide I didn’t want to anymore, and I don’t want this post to be about them or a totally comprehensive rundown of every browser available for the Mac, k? Feel free to argue their strengths and weaknesses in the comments, or those of any browser I haven’t named, but don’t criticize me for leaving them out of this post. It’s just not what I wanted to write about.)
Opera is so very close to my dream browser. I love the UI so much. It’s highly customizable, has smart and innovative features, and although I’m not a huge fan of the default theme, it can be made pretty. I used Opera for a very long time. I even paid for it back when it cost money. I even applied for a job there, and even got an interview there, and was willing to move to Oslo to be a part of the awesomeness that is Opera. But I don’t use Opera anymore, because there were just too many sites that weren’t loading properly. I didn’t dig too deeply, and it may well be that those sites aren’t using valid code so it’s really their fault and not Opera’s, but as the end-user, I don’t want to care whose fault it is. I just want it to work. It was with great sadness that I started using Safari.
Safari is the browser that comes on Apple computers. It’s gotten a lot better in the past couple of years, and it generally does a better job with the pages I visit regularly, but I never found myself satisfied with the UI. In Opera, if you accidentally close a tab, you can command-Z (the “undo” shortcut in all programs) and it comes back. In Safari, there is no way to pull up the last closed tab, short of going into history and finding it, which may or may not be near the top of the stack. Ugh. There’s also no way to tell it to always open to a set of tabs or to the tabs from your last session. You have to open it to your homepage (or a blank page) and then go into History and click on “Open all windows from previous session.” That’s always what I want, and to have to tell it every single time is pretty annoying. I have several minor gripes about the UI that I won’t bore you with, but I will state that I have looked into a few add-ons and complimentary programs to use with Safari, and not all of my gripes can be addressed. I also think it’s kind of ugly, and having tabs that go upwards, not to mention tabs below the address bar, is just illogical. But it did most of what I needed it to do, and although my list of complaints is long, on a typical day, I could use Safari and be reasonably happy with the results. Still, I want better.
Although I fancy myself to be somewhat of a nerd, I don’t read all the nerd blogs and keep up with the latest nerd news. I’m not a cutting-edge nerd. I’m a stay-at-home mom nerd with non-nerd priorities who still likes to nerd it up occasionally. So I’m probably the last to find out that Google Chrome finally had a beta out for Macs. At least I knew what it was.
So I finally downloaded it last night, and here are my first impressions.
1. The Finder window that opened after downloading had a shortcut to the Applications folder so that it was trivial to drag the program into it. I’ve seen this before, and it’s a minor thing, but not everyone does it, and I do appreciate it when I see it.
2. Any browser worth the time it takes to download will import your bookmarks from whatever browser you were using before. When I first started Chrome, it asked which browser to import from, which is nice, because you know what it means to ASS-U-ME. It also imported my browsing history. Wow. That’s slick as snot. I was already impressed not 5 seconds after installation. It also asked if I wanted it to be my default browser. Nice again.
3. Tabs on top! I know this is one of those things like curly brace placement and vi versus emacs where all the nerds seem to have strong opinions, but seriously, I’m right about this one. The address bar contains the address of the page you’re viewing. It’s entirely dependent on what tab you’re looking at. So of course it should be on the tab and not above it. Duh. Otherwise it changes every time you click on a tab. It if isn’t on the tab, it should be constant.
They also put the bookmark bar below the tabs, which I have mixed feelings about. My bookmarks are relatively constant. I can change them, of course, but they aren’t tab-dependent, so I expect them above the tabs. On the other hand, when I click one, it only affects the current tab. I suppose if forward and back buttons go on the tab, then this makes sense too. I haven’t used a browser that did it this way before, but it’s not something I’ll get upset over.
4. Spot on password management.
One of my Safari gripes is that it asks if it should save your password when you hit the login button, but before it submits it. This means you could be saving the wrong information. If you’ve fatfingered your password, or you just plain can’t remember it and you aren’t 100% certain you put in the right one, you could end up saving the wrong password five times before you finally get the right one, and then you have six password records and only one is right. In Opera, it popped up when you hit the login button, and went ahead and submitted it as well, so you could wait and see if it worked before you picked an option on the pop-up. Chrome does it even better by waiting until you’re logged in to ask, and by asking within the window in a cute little yellow bar. No pop-ups! *heart*
5. Speaking of little yellow bars, the entire address bar turns yellow when you’re at a secure site. I love this. It’s so obvious. No more squinting to see if the infinitesimal lock icon’s itty-bitty semicircle has shifted 3 pixels or not. You don’t even have to avert your gaze from the page. It’s in your periphery.
6. This is one of the many little things I missed from Opera. The favicon is on the tab instead of in the address bar. When you have a billion tabs open, you see the favicon instead of less helpful snippets of the page title such as “Th….” *cheer!*
7. It seems every browser now has page thumbnails on your new “blank” tabs, so no surprise that Chrome does too, but they’ve upped it a notch. When you hover over a thumbnail…
…you get the option to sticky it or remove it. By default it shows your frequently visited pages, but you can edit it. I’ve only seen one or the other: frequently visited pages or you have to select what pages you want there. Best of both worlds. Love it.
8. That’s not all they’ve added, either.
It’s not quite as cool as Opera’s tab trash, but it goes a long way to making me stop caring about tab trash. Which brings us to…
9. …being able to open my last closed tab easily. This isn’t as intuitive as command-Z, but at least it’s friggin’ POSSIBLE.
10. In Safari, I have to decide to always open every file type it thinks is safe, or no files at all. I download a lot of zips, and I like them to automatically open so that I can see immediately if there was an issue and I need to try downloading again. Sometimes people don’t zip their templates (a decision I’m firmly against, but nevertheless it happens) and then when I download them, Pixelmator automatically launches. Ugh. I hate that. Chrome lets me pick! I can always open zips but not Photoshop documents. *dance*
11. I have the option of showing all my downloads in a usable way. This really takes me back to my Opera days. Aaah. But it’s prettier!
12. When I open a new tab, it opens to the right of the current tab, instead of at the end. It also has very pretty animation when it happens. When the link I’ve clicked opens a new window, it opens as a tab without my having to press command. Halle-friggin-lujah! As if I should have to read minds or check source code to see if a link will open in a new window or not! This drives me crazy about Safari! It’s so rare that I want something in a new window, and I can’t tell Safari to never make a new window unless I explicitly ask for one.
13. I can drag a window into another and turn it into a tab.
14. Is it just me, or is this like 10 times faster than Safari? I swear pages don’t even load; they just appear.
15. The Omnibar. I’ve been saying “address bar” because I don’t want to confuse people, but it’s actually called the omnibar because it’s more than just an address bar. I think this is meant to be a major selling point, and it’s simply not for me, but I do like it.
In the above example, we see a few things pop up when I type “quin”: the option to search for exactly what I’ve typed, the option to search for suggested search terms based on what I’ve typed so far, a suggested site I’ve never been to based on what I’ve typed so far, and items from my history and bookmarks based on what I’ve typed so far. It happens as I type, so each letter I press gets me new suggestions. Note that the last two don’t have “quin” anywhere in them. It searched the content of those pages. Very nice, though not new to me. What’s new is having all these in one place instead of having separate search field and address bar. I like that it’s in one place, but it doesn’t excite me as much as Google seems to think it will. Still, thumbs up.
(Note: I have Inquisitor installed, so I’m used to suggested search terms in Safari. It just occurred to me that Safari doesn’t have that by default, so maybe this will look more impressive to some of you.)
16. The whole URL highlights when I click anywhere in the omnibar. It’s the little things.
17. Most importantly, it seems to render all my regular sites perfectly fine, and even does a better job on one of them than Safari did. (Note to Mac-using INs: the PIP button works!) I’m sold!
1. I don’t particularly like the look of bookmark folders. It functions like an ugly drop-down menu that doesn’t look like a drop-down menu until you click on it. In other words, before you click, it isn’t obvious what’s going to happen on the screen. Safari’s little downward arrow next to the folder is more elegant. The way Chrome displays the bookmarks over to the side instead of directly below the folder seems awkward and unnecessary to me.
2. There is no way to open all of the items in a bookmark folder at once. I found this surprising since it’s been in both Opera and Safari for ages.
3. There is no bookmark management tool. To delete a bookmark, you have to go to the site, click the bookmark star, and then click “Remove.” Clunky! Apparently the Windows version does have a bookmark manager, so I have to assume it will eventually find its way to the Mac version too. Surely, right?
4. There’s no built-in RSS reader, which isn’t really a negative since I use Google Reader anyway, but the upshot of this is that there’s no RSS button in the address bar and I have to go hunting for it on the page. I like knowing it’ll always be in the address bar if there’s a feed. Look in one place, and if it’s not there, then the site has no RSS, and if it is there, just click and now the feed URL is in the address bar for each copy-paste into Google Reader. I miss that.
Probably positive bits
When I was reading about Google Chrome, I liked what I read about how it handles pop-ups, but I haven’t experienced it yet, so I reserve final judgement until I’ve BTDT. I do know that Safari’s handling of pop-ups doesn’t impress me. There’s just one setting: block them or don’t, and it doesn’t always work perfectly. Some get through that I don’t want, and some don’t get through that I do want, and there’s no way to fix that. It seems like Chrome will do a better job, very similar to what I had in Opera, but I want to see it in action.