Chrome only: If there's an app, a link, or anything else on the web you want to quickly pull up on a smartphone, or send to friends, QR Code Generator gets you there with just a right-click from Chrome. More »
3-way hardware-accelerated browser shoot-out: Chrome on top, IE9 just behind and Firefox brings up the rear (video)
After yesterday's announcement that Chrome 7 is now hardware accelerated, I instantly wanted to get the major browsers back into the ring for another screencasted deathmatch. Back when I did the 4-way speed test, only Firefox and Internet Explorer 9 featured hardware acceleration, and as a result Opera and Chrome were many orders of magnitude slower. If you watch the video, however, you'll see that's definitely no longer the case: Chrome is now the fastest of the three major browsers.
That speed comes at a price! As I discuss in the video, Chrome might be faster, but it uses significantly more resources than either IE9 or Firefox 4. Firefox is some 30% slower, but at the same time seems to use less CPU and GPU time. IE9 seems to utilize the same amount of CPU time as Chrome, but a little less of the GPU -- and it's marginally slower as a result.
What I don't know is whether this is by design or not. You'll notice that the GPU never went far above 50% -- why, with three browsers open, does it not get closer to 100%? The resources are there to be used -- why not use them?! Likewise, my CPU is still only half-used even when all three browsers are drawing 1000 frantic fishes at the same time. If you're curious, the other IE9 test drive samples all provided similar results. I wanted to try Google's 'HTML5 rocks' sample gallery, but they intentionally used elements of CSS and HTML5 that aren't yet supported in Internet Explorer 9 or Firefox 4.
In the name of science, here's some more information about my process: the screen capture does slow down each browser by a few frames per second, but relatively the figures are still accurate. I saw a small deviation in FPS when I was only running one browser at a time (probably because my CPU has multiple cores). There are a few unknown variables too, like whether the CPU core usage is defined by the app, or by the operating system (but with Chrome using more resources than IE9, you can only assume that Windows isn't unfairly biasing its own-brand browser).
If you'd like to recreate my test, you'll need to enable hardware acceleration in Firefox 4 and Chrome -- IE9 has it turned on by default:
- Firefox 4 -- grab a nightly build, navigate to about:config and add gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled -- set it to 'true'
- Chrome 7 -- grab a nightly build and add the following flags to the shortcut before opening it: --enable-accelerated-compositing --enable-gpu-plugin --enable-gpu-rendering --enable-accelerated-2d-canvas
Head over to The Wilderness Downtown, punch in the address of the home where you grew up, and watch the magic unfold. The "experience" is definitely one of the most interesting demos to come out of Google's Chrome Experiments thus far. It's a fantastic showcase of what HTML5 and modern browsers bring to the table.
As director Chris Milk told Wired, "[HTML5] is in its infancy right now, but I think the browser will be the next widely recognized artistic medium." He continues by adding "It allows such a larger dialog with the viewer. There's actual two-way communication going on between the art and the observer."
One parting note: is it just me, or was that HTML5 progress indicator every bit as annoying as the ones we've grown accustomed to with Flash preloaders? Yeah, that's what I thought.
I'm not sure when the changes actually landed, but Google has announced that an early implementation of hardware acceleration is now available in developer versions of Chrome 7.
Early testing suggests that performance is still worse than Internet Explorer 9, but the gap has definitely been closed a bit. The '1000 fish test' now clocks in at about 10 frames per second, which is definitely an improvement from last time -- but still some way short of IE9's 45 FPS.
The Chromium blog post says that only some content is being accelerated, so the Fish Tank might not be a fair comparison of the browsers. I'll try to find a better test or benchmark and share my findings later today. You can enable hardware acceleration in Chrome with the --enable-accelerated-compositing flag -- and if you discover anything interesting, please share your findings in the comments!
Update: you might need a nightly build of Chromium to take advantage of this hardware acceleration. It would be nice if Google could explicitly state when the changes were made...
Google had originally pegged December 2010 for the first release of Chrome OS, but it's been looking like a fall release is now a safe bet. It's certainly netbook-ready at this point, though some missing features (like an on-screen keyboard) may mean that tablet devices arrive slightly later.
Developers keep plugging ahead, however, and continue to work on tablet-friendly features. Two code revisions have landed in the past couple days which will definitely make Chrome more at home on tablets. The first is device orientation support (think auto-rotating content on your Chrome OS tablet and accelerometer-enabled games) and the other is speech input (hello, voice commands!).
Both features have been part of the Chromium code for a while now, but they're now enabled by default and it's typically a very short amount of time between a new Chromium feature being defaulted and its arrival in the official Google Chrome builds. It's also worth noting that voice input support is only on by default for Chromium's Windows users -- Mac and Linux users would need to add the --enable-speech-input switch to their shortcut for the time being.
Developer Jeremy Selier has posted a simple-yet-cool demo video of device orientation using his Macbook Pro -- check it out after the break!
There's a big crop new extensions showing up which take advantage of Google Chrome's new context menu API, and that's great news for those of you who can't live without your right-click menu.
You can see a pair of newer extensions in my screenshot -- and while I'm not certain I'll be using the tab switcher, Copy Short URL is probably here to stay.
Just right-click a link and left-click and a bit.ly or tinyurl shortened link is copied to your clipboard for hassle-free sharing on your favorite social sites. That's it. Nice and simple, just how I like my extensions!
The developer states that more truncators will be added soon, which would be a welcome improvement. API and account support would be a nice touch as well -- perhaps that will be tacked on as well.
So, what is Native Client all about? It's Google open source tech which allows native code (the kind of code which powers your favorite desktop apps) to run inside your browser. Assuming that browser is Google Chrome, of course, because no one else sports NaCl support yet. Native code in the browser should mean the arrival of Web apps that truly compete with desktop apps in terms of performance -- which could be a big boost to things like online media converters and photo editors. At the very least, you'll be able to play Quake in Chrome.
If you want to see Native Client in action, Google has a gallery of NaCl demo ports you can check out -- or at least you're meant to be able to check them out. Both Chrome dev and Canary responded with a "missing plug-in" message when i tried to load them, even though Native Client was enabled (as you can see in my screenshot).
The dev channel update was actually quite a major one, though it mostly contained bugfixes and cleaned up code. The full log of revisions is available here.
update: as reported in the comments, you need to add the --enable-nacl flag to your shortcut. I've done that, and the demos still don't load, however. The missing plug-in message did disappear at least...
Chrome Pig extension checks Gmail, takes screenshots -- and lets you set clipboard images as wallpaper!
In general, I prefer Chrome extensions which don't try to do too much. Do one thing, and do it well is a good general rule, after all. However, once in a while a Swiss-knife extension crops up which is filled to overflowing with useful features and just begs to be installed.
Enter Chrome Pig. Yes, it's weirdly named. Yes, it includes a somewhat random mish-mosh of features, but dang, are they handy ones. Chrome Pig can:
- Screenshot an entire page, the viewable portion, or a selected region
- Check Gmail for unread messages (you must be signed in)
- Open supported files types in the Google Docs previewer
- Edit a page's CSS to your liking
- Re-enable right click on sites which disable it
- Search the site you're currently browsing
- Open the current page in IE
- Set a clipboard image to your desktop wallpaper
I've put the last one in bold because it's a feature which you would think should be included by default in a Web browser. Firefox, Opera, and IE can all do this, but Chrome can't? Why? At any rate, problem solved! With Chrome Pig installed, just right click and copy an image, click its browser action button, and set the clipboard image to your wallpaper -- it will even resize, center, or tile.
Some of Chrome Pig's features -- lyric search, form fill, and translate, for example -- I can do without. The configuration page offers checkboxes to disable unwanted items, though they still appeared in the drop-down after multiple disable/enable attempt and a browser restart. Hopefully the developer will address this issue in a coming update.
That shortcoming aside, I'm happily adding Chrome Pig to my extensions -- it'll replace two other and add a couple additional features which will come in handy.
Chrome: If you find yourself frequently cutting and pasting links from your web browser to include in Twitter updates, TweetRight offers easy sharing of pictures, text, and links right from the Chrome's context menu. More »
Chrome extensions with right-click context menus coming soon! And your chance to win a Chrome hoodie...
There's also a bunch of other new APIs, the most exciting being the Omnibox API. Imagine Chrome's built-in search engines (type 'Amazon', then a space, and then a book name -- it searches Amazon!), but with extension access. Type the name of an extension into the Omnibox, and then any further input is redirected to the extension. Actually, having said this is an exciting addition, I'm really not sure what an extension would do with it... Perhaps something Ubiquity-esque?
Oh, and if you make an extension (featuring the new APIs? It's not clear), let Google know and they might send you a free Chrome hoodie! Hooray.
When Google began working on a built-in Flash plug-in for Chrome, they cited a handful of key motivations. They wanted a more hassle-free web experience for end users, more modern alternative to the aging NPAPI architecture, better security, and an easier way to deliver updates.
According to the SecBrowsing blog, their update aspirations have been a smashing success.
The traditional Flash updater is easy enough to avoid -- I often work on end users systems and see the beleaguered Flash updater crying out for attention from the system tray. Sadly, its cries often go ignored. Chrome's internal updater, however, can't be ignored. When there's a update to the browser or an internal plug-in, by Odin's beard, you're going to get it!
Within just two days of the most recent Flash update, fewer than 30% of SecBrowsing visitors were running an out-of-date version. That's compared to 14 days with the previous release -- a substantial improvement.
No comparisons to other browsers are given, but I've got to think that Chrome users are well ahead of the curve here.
Verified authors start appearing in Chrome Extensions Gallery -- but not on Google's own extensions?
The Chromium blog announced the change two days ago, and several extensions are already displaying the verified author stamp. While I've seen everything from more well-known developers like WOT to humble individuals verifying their Tumblr sites, one thing surprises me. Google hasn't verified any of their extensions yet.
It's a bit surprising. After all, it's Google's Gallery and browser -- and a change they dreamed up, developed, and implemented. You'd think stamping your own submissions to the Gallery would have been a top priority -- both to give end users a visual cue that all these Google extensions are the genuine article and to set a precedent with developers.
This is only the third day, of course, and Google will no doubt give their extensions the check mark at some point -- I just find it strange that they didn't have them marked from the get-go.
What you'll see in the video after the break is darn near a geek's TV dream come true. Apart from adding super-slick search abilities to your DIRECTV received (Google TV can search everything from the program guide to your PVR stash), there's Google Chrome -- front and center on the apps menu.
Since Chrome is on board, you'll be able to enjoy the same Web content you do on your computer. That also means anything which runs on the "Chrome platform" -- extensions and the Web Store's upcoming assortment of apps and games -- should also work. While they're not demoed, it's interesting to see Netflix and Pandora apps on the menu as well.
It's an interesting look at what Google TV is all about. Check out the video and share your impressions in the comments!
We're not just talking Plants vs. Zombies or Bejewelled here either (no offense intended). In the top right corner of 1Up's screenshot you can clearly see FIFA 10 -- and you've got to think that if EA is on board with one title, they'll be bringing more to the table as well.
1Up's post also shows Google demonstrating other in-browser games like the Quake demo their own devs released, Freeciv.net, Google Pac Man, and a Flash version of Lego Star Wars. The page for Plants vs. Zombies is also shown with a price of $3.99 -- not to bad for one of the most addictive little games I've played in a long time. There's also a 'try it free' button so you can count on being able to test drive at least some of the games and apps in the store prior to plunking down your cash.
I don't know about you, but the more details that surface the more excited I'm getting about the Chrome Web Store opening its doors. Now, when am I going to get my hands on a shiny piece of Chrome OS hardware....?
Stylebot is a Chrome add-on that provides a point-and-click interface for customizing the CSS on any page, and then it saves your customizations for next time -- and if you have bookmark sync turned on, it even syncs them for you!
The way that it works is very simple. In Selection mode, each element on the page gets a highlighted frame when you hover over it. As soon as you get the element that you want, just click it. Any CSS declarations that you then specify are applied to that element.
"Specifying CSS declarations" sounds pretty technical, but it's basically clicking a bunch of buttons. You need to know a bit of CSS to make good use of the add-on, but it's also a very good way to learn. Of course, if you do know your CSS, you can just switch to Advanced mode and hand code it instead.
A few missing features:
Up/down keys do not work for incrementing/decrementing values. That's a must-have Greasemonkey feature!
Existing font sizes (and other properties) are not displayed. This means that, if I want to increase the font size of an existing element, I need to start by guessing what the current size is. Then, I need to nudge it up by entering (say) 12, deleting, entering 13, deleting, entering 17, deleting, entering 15, etc. It rapidly gets annoying. Up/down keystroke support + showing the currently selected font size would go a long way towards alleviating this.
There's no simple way to undo a single change. You can either reset everything you've done, or you can manually edit the CSS in order to remove the change (if your CSS chops are up to the task).
Other than those few things, it's certainly a handy add-on for customizing the Web. I like that it saves your settings automatically and syncs them. I've embedded the add-on's "intro video" after the break.
While the number has changed, I didn't notice any significant changes at first glance -- other than a broken sync window which was totally blank (and will no doubt be fixed immediately). Google's accelerated release schedule for Chrome means you're likely going to see version bumps more frequently. Anyone want to place bets on where we'll be at this time next year? 9? 10?
Chrome's dev channel will likely be bumped in the coming days. If you want to make the jump now, grab a Chromium snapshot build.