Your operating system can run processes in the background -- things like realtime antivirus protection and streaming movies and music around your home -- and so can Google Chrome. Background apps have existed in Chrome and Chromium for some time, but now that the Chrome Web Store is open and its apps are available for installation, Google has posted a blog about why backgrounding is cool.
It's really all about Chrome being your "OS" even if you're using a Windows or Mac computer. With the ability to run Web apps in the background and Native Client support headed to the beta and stable channels in relatively short order, Chrome Web Apps will soon be capable of doing many of the same things your traditional desktop apps can do.
Google's post talks about using backgrounding to issue notifications (as apps like TweetDeck and exfm do) or to prefetch data. There's really no end to the possibilities, and we're exited to see what the next generation of Chrome Web Apps can really do.
If there's one single thing that truly sets Chrome apart from its herd of rivals, it's the Omnibar. Chrome users already know and love this feature, but Google's just made it possible for developers to create extensions that will push it even farther ahead of the competition by providing an API for it. Now, there are already huge numbers of extensions available for Chrome -- many of which we here at Download Squad couldn't live without -- but none of them have thus far been able to make full use of the Omnibar.
As an example of how the API can be used, take a look at Switch to Tab, shown above. It allows users who leave ridiculous amounts of tabs open to use the Omnibar to search them all for the specific tab they need to find. It only shows up to 5 results right now, but the concept is pretty decent just the same -- and there's no telling what kind of goodies that devs will come up with now that they can treat a browser's address bar like a command line.
On the Beta Channel, several Web Store related fixes were pushed. Access to Chrome's private Web Store APIs has been made more secure, and a histogram has been added which tracks Chrome's built-in promo for the Web Store. Events such as launching an app, clicking through to the Web Store, or manually closing the promo will be logged.
Dev Channel users, brace yourselves: print preview is getting really close now! If you've got the feature enabled in about:flags, pressing Ctrl+P will now actually cause the print preview page to display. It's still not functional, but you will see the in-tab preview page appear and a list of your installed printers -- but the Chrome print dialog will also appear. Cancel the dialog, and you'll get the something went wrong alert.
The Chrome Task Manager has also been updated (image after the break) and now displays Chrome processes in two groups: apps and extensions, and browser and plug-ins. Sandboxed Flash -- which debuted in Canary recently -- has also arrived for Windows Dev channel users. Google Instant integration has also been tweaked, and now plays nicely with extensions which have keywords hooked into the Omnibox.
And of course, both Channels have had the version number bumped "so we look hot, fresh, and new to our friends." Gotta love the less-serious side of Google.
Google Chrome's dev channel has been bumped from 7.0.503.0 to 7.0.517.0. The update wasn't silky-smooth for me this time -- more on that later in this post. So what's new in Chrome dev?
For starters, there's been a lot of code cleanup, and there have also been some minor UI tweaks as well -- a few pixels rounded here and there on Mac, but nothing too noticeable. Google Chrome's remoting code has seen numerous updates and it looks as though the feature is just about ready for us to test. Right now, however, all you can see is a login window -- but you won't be able to login. My guess is that only Google's internal accounts will work at the moment.
About:Labs has also arrived in Chrome dev, so you can now take side tabs for a test drive by visiting the Labs page instead of adding a command line switch.
Now, back to the update process itself...
This is also the first time I've had trouble retrieving a Chrome update. Google's Anthony Laforge announced the release last night, but Chrome still tells me that the update server is not available. There could be any number of reasons for the hold-up, but with the arrival of the Web Store just around the corner and the possibility of Chrome OS hardware on the way, Google may be rolling out additional hardware or battening down the hatches on current servers in preparation.
Patience, young padawan. Your dev channel update will arrive soon if you're getting the "not available" message -- try restarting Chrome and see if that fixes things.
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...
Ahh, the thrill of running bleeding-edge software! It's not for the feint of heart, to be sure. Heck, it's not even for someone who has a perfectly strong heart but doesn't do well with watching features appear and disappear on a regular basis.
Take Chrome's nifty internal PDF plug-in. Just a few days ago, Google dropped the need for a command line switch to activate it, enabling it by default for users of the dev channel build. Today, however, another update was pushed and the plug-in has once again been switched off.
You can still enable the plug-in if you wish -- just visit chrome://plugins and click enable underneath the Chrome PDF Viewer.
It's likely that the Chrome team is just ironing out a few kinks prior to pushing the plug-in to the beta channel. With Chrome's accelerated release schedule, it probably won't be long before the PDF viewer joins the internal Flash plug-in on Chrome installs everywhere.
Ever find yourself wishing you could run two versions of Google Chrome -- like the stable version and the dev version -- side-by-side? It's been a tad tricky to do that in the past, but Google has just made things about as easy as they can possibly get -- by introducing another Chrome build.
Yes, Google is offering a Vista-esque four flavors of Chrome now -- with the release of Canary, a pseudo-dev channel build which installs to a different directory (%localappdata%\Google\Chrome SxS\ on Windows). Canary isn't linked to your Google Chrome installs at all, meaning you can also run different sync profiles, themes, and browser preferences.
Apart from the folder change, Googler Huan Ren states that Canary may also receive updates which the dev channel does not. Canary will be the most bleeding-edge official version of Chrome and somewhat of a mix between Chrome dev and the Chromium snapshot builds.
Canary's arrival has a lot to do with the new Chrome release cycle. With stable builds due out every six weeks, beta branching will occur more frequently and "risky" changes from the trunk can now be pushed to Canary prior to landing them on the Dev channel.
This also says a lot about Chrome's early adopters -- there's obviously a crapload of them if Google feels it can support two official, pre-beta builds. Download Google Chrome Canary here and run it in tandem with your current stable, beta, or dev build.
Wait a sec... "Why Canary?", you ask? I'm guessing this is a reference to the old practice of taking a canary down into a mine... If the canary died, it was unsafe and the miners knew to bail out. If a change kills Chrome Canary, they'll block it from the dev build.
Yesterday's dev channel update has flipped the switch, however, and the internal PDF viewer is now enabled by default. Interestingly, Google's official release post states a known issue where the PDF plug-in doesn't load on Linux -- yet it does on my Chromium OS install. If you happen to be running Chrome dev on Linux, let us know if the plug-in is working for you!
Apart from the plug-in change, it looks as though another big chunk of Chrome's UI will soon be moved to a browser tab. Just as they did with the bookmark manager did, Google is getting ready to move Chrome's options (or preferences) to a tab. Take the jump to see what it looks like so far!
Also hidden behind a command-line switch is the Chrome Web Store shortcut. If you have the --enable-apps flag appended to your shortcut, you may notice this on your new tab page:
A few things to remember:
1) You must enable apps support to use these. Check the first how-to post if you don't know how to do that.
2) Due to security restriction in Chrome, you can't simply click-and-run to install these .CRX files. Right click and save link as to save them to your computer, then drag them onto your Google Chrome window to install.
3) These are not full-blown extension apps. Really, they're web apps (like GMail, Twitter, etc) + PNG icons. App tabs open with no toolbar and the tab looks different in your Chrome toolbar (as you can see above).
4) Want your apps to reappear every time you launch Chrome? You still have to pin them -- just like regular tabs. If you don't pin an app tab, it won't reappear.
- Feedsquares by Qikon
- Grooveshark by Qikon
- MyFav.es by Qikon
- Pandora by Dave
- Yahoo Mail by pat_boy2008
The Google Apps, in case you had trouble with the
- Spark Chess and Trillian's web client are available from Owen Campbell-Moore: download here
To create your own app, here's what you do:
- Find nice looking icons and make sure you have at least two sizes (24 and 128 pixesl)
- Modify the manifest.json from one of my apps or one of the Google apps in your resources folder. If you're only creating two images, strip out the lines which reference the 32 and 48 pixel images.
- Make sure you input the correct URL and change the name of your app.
- Load it into Chrome via the load unpacked extension button
That's it. Simple, huh?
Chrome apps are capable of a lot more than pretty icons -- including things like running offline and notification support --but for now I'm happy with the eye candy.
First, add some command line switches to your Chrome shortcut:
--enable-apps : turns on extension apps, otherwise you'll get an error when you try to install them.
--apps-panel : (optional) instead of loading the new tab page, Chrome will display a floating panel above the current tab
If you need help adding command line switches to Google Chrome, check our how-to post!
Now, on to the good stuff: installing the trio of Google apps!
Here's a (not-so-well-kept) secret: Google Chrome has been shipping a handful of extension/web apps for quite some time. They're hiding in a folder called resources -- which you'll find in your Chrome profile folder. On Windows, look in %localappdata%\Chromium\Application.0.428.0\Resources. Linux users can check in /opt/google/chrome/resources/.
Mac users, feel free to share the path in the comments! Scroll to the end to see the Mac version, contributed by Spenser Jones! Our thanks!!
Remember that path... you're going to need to browse to it three times (assuming you want to install all three apps).
Head to your Google Chrome extensions tab (chrome://extensions) and make sure you see the developer mode buttons above. If you don't, click the plus next to the text to reveal them.
Now click load unpacked extension... and drill down to the folder you located above.
Click into the folder of the app you want to install (like gmail_app), then click OK. If the install is successful, Chrome will refresh your Extensions page and you should now see the icon for the app.
Updates to the Google Chrome dev channel build tend to come fast and furious, and they don't always include noticeable changes. This time, however, there are a few noteworthy UI tweaks to go along with the usual assortment of bug fixes and security updates.
For starters, the unified menu we told you about early last month has now been turned on by default. The goal, of course, is to simplify Chrome's UI and increase the amount of space available for extension icons. Some Download Squad readers, however, seem to be less than thrilled with the change. Apart from requiring an extra click to access your extensions, the "create application shortcut" option has been removed.
Chrome Sync has received a lot of attention in this update, and now sports a new interface. As you can see, extension sync is also enabled by default now -- no more need for a pair of lengthy command line switches. Several improvements under the hood have drastically improved extension sync, and I haven't experienced any issues since updating.
The sync engine has also been tweaked to support encryption, and work continues on adding password sync to the mix. It's actually enabled by default in Chromium right now, though it doesn't appear to be active -- my Linux Chromium still prompts me for passwords I've saved on Windows. The feature seems to be nearly ready, though, so likely won't be much longer before you're able to flip the password switch in Chrome.
If you're using the dev channel, you've probably received the update already - click the wrench menu > about Chrome to check. Want to make the jump the Chrome's cutting-edge build? Download it here.
Worth noting: the unified menu does add an extra click to open your extensions tab, but you can also get there by right-clicking any extension icon and choosing manage extensions.
Yes, the initial iteration of extension sync was not without its problems. It made Google Chrome a little crashy for some users, but hey -- we're talking about the first go at a brand new feature on an unstable application here. On top of that, it's opt-in and must be enabled via a command line switch. Caveat emptor, right?
Still, the Chrome developer crew wasn't about to take the weekend off and let extension sync continue causing frustration. This morning, a tweak to the extension sync code has landed in the Chromium source code which will "only allow installation of extensions/apps with gallery update URL via download from gallery."
This should help prevent a number of issues -- since sync will now presumably grab extensions using the same method Chrome already used to update your installed extensions. It does, however, mean that sync will only work on extensions you've installed via the official Gallery.
I'm certainly OK with that -- I don't actually use any non-Gallery extensions any more. If you are using some, well... At least you'll be able to sync most of your extensions automatically and Chrome won't crash on you.
Expect to see this one make the jump from Chromium snapshot builds to the Google Chrome dev channel rather quickly.
Neither internal Flash or internal PDF rely upon the venerable old NPAPI system. The hope is that this new architecture will provide a more modern, secure way for browsers and plug-ins to interact. PDFs you view with the internal plug-in will also be safely tucked away in Chrome's sandbox, preventing any malicious activity from damaging your operating system.
If you're running the dev channel, here's what you have to do to turn on the internal PDF viewer:
- enter chrome:plugins in your Omnibar
- scroll down to the entry for Chrome PDF Viewer
- click the enable link, and you're good to go.
As the official blog post mentions, it's a bit limited in terms of functionality at this point. No zoom options or navigation controls are presented yet, so you'll have to page down or scroll down to read. You can, however, search the text using control + F as you would on a web page.
My advice: give it a try, but stick to using the Google Docs Viewer for now.
We told you it was coming, and now it's here: Extension sync has landed in the Google Chrome dev channel build.
It's not enabled by default, so you won't see it in your sync options menu unless you activate the feature via a command line switch. --enable-sync-extensions turns it on (again, see our tutorial on using command line switches if you're not sure how to do this).
Today's dev channel release also brings the usual assortment of bug fixes and tweaks, but extension sync is by far the biggest news. Hit up about Chrome in your wrench menu to auto-update, or head over to the download page for Google Chrome's dev channel builds to take the expanded sync feature for a test drive.
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.
Google has released an update to Chrome's developer channel build, and the changelog is a lengthy one. Among the plethora of bugfixes and UI tweaks are some notable changes like the arrival of theme syncing, the departure of Windows 7's taskbar thumbnails, and several minor UI tweaks.
As predicted yesterday, the expanded sync options which landed in Chromium have made their way into the dev channel build. Theme sync wasn't even present in Chromium's preference menu as of yesterday afternoon, yet it snuck in to Chrome today.
That was also the case with support for Aero Peek, which was removed on April 5th. Those who want them back can simply add a command line switch (see the previous post), and thumbnails will likely reappear in Chrome once a satisfactory implementation can be engineered.
Interested users can either update their current dev channel build via the wrench menu -> about Chrome and new users can download the build from Google's site.
If you haven't received the update yet, you can force a check by clicking the wrench menu and then "About Google Chrome." Downloads are also available from Google's early access channels page.
It's not without bugs, though. @keshav and I have both had a glitch which seems to occur when using win+d to show the desktop where tiny windows will appear along the top of your taskbar (pic after the jump).