If you’ve dug around the many graphs that are displayed when you type “about:histograms” into Chrome’s Omnibox, you’ll notice that we’re still obsessed about measuring, benchmarking, and improving speed and performance on the browser.
In this next installment of technical interviews on Chrome’s speed, we’ll dive into two more areas that contribute to Chrome’s speed: UI responsiveness and WebKit.
with James Robinson
Google Chrome is already an extremely secure Web browser. Armed with its exploit-thwarting sandbox, Chrome remained untested at Pwn2Own this year, while other browsers were hacked within minutes.
Still, it never hurts to bolster your defenses, and there are plenty of good options for doing just that over in the official Google Chrome Extensions Gallery. Let's take a look at nine which are well worth installing -- see you after the break, Chrome fans!
View Thru - The millions of short URLs floating around on Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the Internet might be a convenience for some, but they can also be a big threat to your safety. Just like the Rickrolls of yesteryear, there are those who "poison" shortened URLs, hiding their malicious destinations behind a jumble of letters and numbers.
With View Thru installed, you'll see a tooltip appear whenever you hover over a link, which includes the title of the destination page and its unshortened URL.
Sebastian and I were chatting about Google Chrome earlier today when I mentioned something that I wanted to be able to do: pull up the new tabbed bookmarks manager when I open a new tab.
Now...I haven't coded a lick in more than a decade, but it looked like this would be easy enough to hack in via an extension. Seb agreed that it looked like a pretty trivial task, and he decided to give it a go. Thanks to an existing extension called New Tab Redirect, I had my fix about an hour later.
Redirect is already a solid extension, giving you the option to use most of Chrome's internal pages (file:// URLs and about: pages like downloads, history, and extensions). The dev channel's in-tab bookmark manager is (obviously) a fairly new addition to the browser, however, so it wasn't supported.
With a little bit of additonal code, Seb turned out the New Tab Redirect (mod) extension. It's now available for download from the Google Chrome Extensions Gallery and should work just fine with the dev channel build and Chromium snapshots. Now every time I click the plus sign to create a new tab, there are all my bookmarks... awesome!
Once the bookmark manager makes the jump to the beta and stable channels, those of you using less "experimental" versions will be able to use it as well! We'll keep you posted when that happens.
WebOfTrust is an awesome extension for Google Chrome in its own right -- it provides trust and safety ratings for websites and helps keep you out of trouble. They also allow other developers to tap into their data, which leads to cool little spin-offs like the Ultimate Chrome Flag extension.
After you install the extension, you'll see a flag icon in your Chrome Omnibar which tells you where a site is hosted. A WOT rating is also displayed (yahoo! Engadget comes up green...). Clicking the icon brings up even more details, including geolocation info (if available), Google PageRank, Alexa rank, and a full breakdown from WebOfTrust.
UCF also provides a button to copy the site's domain name and IP address to the clipboard for easy re-use anywhere you want to paste it.
It's a handy little extension, both to satisfy your curiosity about sites and make sure that curiosity doesn't get you into trouble...
In case you wondered -- I did enlarge the pop-up display to show detail. It won't be nearly that huge in your Chrome window.
It's been ported from the 32-bit Debian package and requires a little command-fu to install, but the procedure is pretty simple. The four-step process is posted at Maemo Arena so those of you with an N900 jonesing for a taste of Google Chrome on your device can get it up and running.
I'm curious to hear some thoughts on the port. Does the desktop version handle well on a small device like the N900? Chrome/Chromium's interface is fine for larger screens, but those buttons will be pretty small on the N900's 3.5" display.
If extensions and sync are working, I'd be more than willing to deal with it -- if I owned an N900, of course.
Anyone want a good deal on a used iPod touch...?
Browsing YouTube in Chromium on the Nokia N900 (image courtesy Maemo Arena)
This Friday, April 9th at 19:00 UTC is the deadline for students to apply to this year's Google Summer of Code.
The Chromium project has been accepted as a mentoring organization for this awesome program. This means that you have the opportunity to work on exciting new features for Chromium over the summer, experience real-world browser development with a Chromium team mentor, and, of course, receive a stipend.
To participate, first pick an idea off our handy ideas list or come up with your own. Next, discuss it with a prospective mentor on our mailing list or irc channel. Finally, when you’re confident you have a solid idea, write up a proposal on how you'd implement it in the allotted time frame (3 months) and submit it at the official gsoc website. In evaluating proposals, we'll be looking for familiarity with the codebase and lots of intelligent detail. The more detail you can provide, the better!
Adobe Flash Player is the most widely used web browser plug-in. It enables a wide range of applications and content on the Internet, from games, to video, to enterprise apps.
The traditional browser plug-in model has enabled tremendous innovation on the web, but it also presents challenges for both plug-ins and browsers. The browser plug-in interface is loosely specified, limited in capability and varies across browsers and operating systems. This can lead to incompatibilities, reduction in performance and some security headaches.
That’s why we are working with Adobe, Mozilla and the broader community to help define the next generation browser plug-in API. This new API aims to address the shortcomings of the current browser plug-in model. There is much to do and we’re eager to get started.
As a first step, we’ve begun collaborating with Adobe to improve the Flash Player experience in Google Chrome. Today, we’re making available an initial integration of Flash Player with Chrome in the developer channel. We plan to bring this functionality to all Chrome users as quickly as we can.
We believe this initiative will help our users in the following ways:
- When users download Chrome, they will also receive the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. There will be no need to install Flash Player separately.
- Users will automatically receive updates related to Flash Player using Google Chrome’s auto-update mechanism. This eliminates the need to manually download separate updates and reduces the security risk of using outdated versions.
- With Adobe's help, we plan to further protect users by extending Chrome's “sandbox” to web pages with Flash content.
These improvements will encourage innovation in both the HTML and plug-in landscapes, improving the web experience for users and developers alike. To read more about this effort, you can read this post on the Flash Player blog.
Developers can download the Chrome developer channel version with Flash built in here. To enable the built-in version of Flash, run Chrome with the --enable-internal-flash command line flag.
- Geolocation API: Run with the --enable-geolocation flag.
- Incognito extensions
- Unpacked extensions are now remembered across browser restarts.
- Favicons for extension pages (define with a 16x16 image in your manifest.json).
- setPopup() was added to browserAction and pageAction for dynamically changing which popup to show based on the selected tab.
Earlier this week, the Chromium browser's bookmark manager moved from a separate native app window to a new tab inside browser itself (a la Opera). The streamlined manager has quickly made its way to Chrome, landing today in the developer channel build.
The bookmark manager in-a-tab feels is a much more logic implementation on tabbed browsers, and it's been a feature of Opera for quite some time. You can still drag-and-drop to rearrange, sort, import, and export your bookmarks like you could with the native manager.
Along with the manager, the new build includes improvements to Chrome's autofill and translate features.
Instead of Robot's muted grays and greens, Hardware is electric blue on black with a printed circuit overlay. If you're a fan of darker themes, this is one of the best ones I've found in the Chrome Extension Gallery. The font color on the bookmark toolbar could be tweaked to stand out a bit more, but I usually use the --bookmark-menu command line switch anyway so it's not something I'd complain about.
Gotta love that circuitry. I like to use it as a kind of "geek pride" badge since I know most of my customers (and plenty of my friends) probably wouldn't call a printed circuit "beautiful."
The new 'tabbed bookmark manager' currently looks like what you see in the screenshot. Rather than spawning a new application window as Google Chrome does, the new version opens alongside your current set of tabs (like the new tab page). Items can be dragged and dropped and you can create new folders and items via the tools menu. You can also sort and search your bookmarks.
The manager can also be accessed by typing chrome://bookmarks in your Omnibar, though I wasn't able to set it as my new tab page -- Chromium simply loaded the default one instead.
While the update is a welcome one for Windows, Mac, and Linux users of Chrome, it is an ideal feature for Google Chrome OS. Spawning additional windows isn't the best UX decision on a browser-based operating system.
Like most new additions to Google Chrome, the new bookmark manager is only currently available in the Chromium buildbot releases. Download a current snapshot build and try it for yourself, or check out a screencast after the break!
At least your extensions don't work for now.
Soon enough you'll have the ability to specify which extensions you want Google Chrome to allow while you browse Incognito. The change has landed in recent Chromium builds, and I have no doubt that we'll see this make the jump to Chrome's developer and beta channels fairly soon.
While it will be nice to have certain extensions available -- like LastPass (so I don't have to type in all my passwords) or ExtensionFM (so I can listen to my music library in the cloud) -- it's important to remember that some extensions may do things that you're trying to avoid during private browsing sessions. In fact, Chrome/Chromium will spawn an alert saying "Chromium cannot prevent this extension from recording your browsing data" when you place a check in the allow box.
For now, you'll need to download a build from the Chromium BuildBot stash to try this out. So far, so good. I haven't experienced any (additional) instability or crashing due to enabling a few extensions in Incognito mode.
Dan Kantor knows the web, and he knows music. Better still, he knows how to make the two play nicely together. If you're not familiar with his work, Dan built Spinner -- AOL's popular music site -- when he was part of our family.
Now he's on his own, and he's got a new musical marvel to share: ExtensionFM. While using the extension inside Google Chrome is fun enough, it's easy to see just how cool it's going to be on the Google Chrome OS smartbooks and tablets that are due out later this year.
The concept behind ExntensionFM is a simple one: scan the webpages you browse for embedded MP3s and build a library of tunes inside your browser. You can also put together playlists, and the music will keep streaming in the background as you happily (or unhappily, depending on your modus operandi) surf the web.
ExtensionFM also provides listings of artists and albums in your library, and a list of the sites you've listened to -- which adds a whole 'nother layer of cool. Once you've grabbed a track from a particular site, ExtensionFM keeps tabs on it for you. We'll have more on this after the break, along with more screenshots and Dan's screencast!
Google Chrome's default new tab page is already good -- and honestly, I seldom find myself clicking anywhere other than my bookmark toolbar when I add a tab. So while I might not need to change the new tab page, the Incredible Start Page extension certainly has me hooked regardless.
Install it, and your new tab page displays a sleek, three-paneled view which includes recently closed tabs, your bookmark toolbar folders, and random slides pulled from Flickr -- with any non-folder items from your bookmarks overlayed on the images.
There's also a sticky note where you can enter text and fire it off to a new GMail compose window. Text you jot down is saved, so it's also a handy place to leave yourself a reminder...Now if they would just tap in to Chrome's bookmark sync to make it reappear when I got to work...
Options allow you to choose from four Flickr keywords (clouds, sunset, nature, and star) and five color schemes.
It's a nice way to add some visual pop to Chrome's new tab page.
- Sydney, AU - Mar 5th
- Tokyo, Japan - Mar 11th
- DevFest Japan, Google Chrome extensions, HTML5
- Austin, TX - Mar 14th - Mar 15th
- South by Southwest, advanced extensions and HTML5 101
- London, UK - Mar 16th
- Madrid, ES - Mar 18th
- Google Chrome hackathon @Universidad Complutense de Madrid (sign up here)
While it's certainly not all that difficult or time consuming to click through the wrench menu, then extensions, then click the options button next to whatever it is I want to configure, there's a more direct route.
Like many tasks in Windows, you can speed things up with a simple right-click.
Chrome has a built-in context menu (pictured above) which appears when you right click an extension button. As you can see, it's two-click fast to get to the Chromed Bird (or any other configurable extension) options this way!
Bonus: there's also a disable and uninstall option, making it a really fast way to get rid of those unimpressive extensions you test.