Google Chrome for Mac Is Speedy, A Bit Buggy

As with other Mac applications, options and features are available on a separate menu, although if you want, you can display two icons -- a page icon and a tools icon -- at the upper right of the browser screen, which give you access to many Chrome features via menus. For example, you can set your overall Chrome options, clear your browsing history, import bookmarks, and so on.

Chrome, like Safari and Firefox, can generate a separate window for keeping your browsing session private; here it's called Incognito mode. There's also a pop-up blocker.

What's missing -- and a few bugs

When Google calls a service or a piece of software "beta" you never know what you're going to get -- sometimes you'll get an application that most companies would consider a final release, and other times you'll get a work in progress. With Chrome for the Mac, you get the work in progress.

In addition to the non-functional bookmarks manager -- it's grayed-out on the menu and doesn't work -- there's also no full-screen mode as of yet. Unfortunately, the Mac version also doesn't yet support extensions, which are now part of the PC and Linux versions.

The Mac version also lacks Chrome's geekiest feature -- the Task Manager. The Task Manager is a kind of techie's heaven. It displays every separate process in the browser, and shows the memory and CPU taken up by each. It also lets you free up RAM or CPU by ending a process, and there's more as well. Chrome for the Mac also doesn't support Google Gears, which is required if you want to use Google's Web-based applications in offline mode.

Also not available are what Google calls application shortcuts, which let you run Web-based applications from your desktop. On the PC version of Chrome, when you start an application shortcut, it runs in a browser window with no controls such as tabs, buttons, or the address bar. It's designed for a world in which you run many applications via the cloud rather than on your local computer. Given that application shortcuts are generally flaky on the PC, not having them available yet on the Mac is no great loss.

Mac-specific goodies

Chrome may be missing extensions and several other features available on the PC, but even in this beta version, it does offer Mac OS X-specific features. It supports multi-touch gestures, such as the three-fingered swipe for moving forward and back in a browsing section. And it integrates with the Mac OS X spelling and grammar checker, which is good news for bloggers and anyone else who writes online. It also ties into the sandboxing security technology built into Mac OS X.

The bottom line

Chrome for the Mac is still an early beta, so if you're looking for an everyday browser, this isn't it. It's missing so many features that it simply isn't ready for serious work. However, if you want a chance to see Google's vision of a browser for the Mac, it's well worth the download.

At this point, because the browser is still incomplete, it's hard to gauge how well it stacks up to Safari and Firefox. Safari is a blazingly fast browser, and Firefox offers an enormous ecosystem of add-ins. Chrome is built for speed and will eventually support its own extensions as well. So it's clearly trying to combine the best of Safari with the best of Firefox. We'll have to wait for a more polished version of the browser to see whether it succeeds.

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