Chrome Beta 6: Simple, Speedy and Full of Add-Ons

Google has beefed up the latest beta of its Chrome Web browser by simplifying its features, boosting page-load speed, and packing it tight with many useful add-ons to enhance your browsing experience. Chrome Beta 6 is now available to download.

Speed Boosts

Chrome boasts impressive speed boosts. Beta 6 hits a "15 percent speed improvement on the V8 benchmark, and a 15 percent improvement on the SunSpider benchmark, both of which measure JavaScript performance," according to the Chrome blog. Google says the browser also improved by 64 percent on Mozilla's Dromeao DOM Core Tests (click on the images for a closer look at the graphs).

In its blog, Google doesn't claim to have the fastest browser on the market -- a hefty declaration that most other browser manufacturers make. When Opera 10.5 was released in March, it was supposedly the fastest browser available. But Apple said Safari 4 Beta owned that crown -- a claim that was later shot down by tests. Internet Explorer 9 -- often the slowest of the bunch -- beat everybody in HTML5 tests (Chrome scored a distant last). It's difficult to tell who is the fastest -- which would explain why some people have a slew of browsers downloaded onto their computers.

New Features

Chrome Beta 6 has a bunch of new features and improvements that are ready for download. Here's a choice few:

  • Autofill: Google is especially proud of its autofill feature. Chrome's autofill works the same as autofill does in any capable browser, saving names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and more for easy online shopping. In Google's nod to safety and privacy, Chrome won't save your information without asking first.
  • Sync: It's not just about syncing bookmarks anymore. The update to the sync feature includes preferences, themes, and Chrome extensions as well as your autofill data (excluding credit card numbers) through your Google Account. Your Chrome experience on any computer will be the same as it is at home.
  • Cosmetic Changes: What's an update without a facelift? Chrome has a streamlined upper toolbar that makes the Omnibox (the site address bar, which has search capabilities) "more approachable," and condenses options into a single menu.
  • Web Timing: If you don't believe Google's speed tests, you can now run diagnostics yourself. Google placed a Web Timing feature into Chrome that'll measure load time across browsers.

Add-Ons and Safety

Chrome has no shortage of browser add-ons, nor does it skimp on Web safety settings. NotebookReview.com listed the 15 best Chrome security extensions for the ultra-paranoid. The best-sounding ones are:

  • Web of Trust: Displays traffic signal warnings for every link on the Web. Green means safe, amber means suspicious, and red should be avoided.
  • Click & Clean: In case your Web history is less than, um, presentable, Click & Clean demolishes not only your browsing history, but it also deletes every cookie, web temporary file, local web artifact, Local Shared Object (cookies for Flash) and download history item. You could also use Chrome's Incognito feature.
  • View Thru: Shortened URLs can pose serious security issues -- View Thru creates mouseover blurbs that show where you might be headed beforehand.
  • Secure Profile: Clamps your Chrome down iron-tight with encryption and password protection.

Gizmodo also has a list of the top 10 Chrome add-ons you should know about. My favorites:

  • Xmarks: Syncs your bookmarks not only on Chrome but across every browser by storing your information in the cloud.
  • AdBlock: Highly customizable ad-blocking extension that'll keep marketers off your computer.
  • IE Tab: Some sites (sadly and still) can only be viewed in Internet Explorer -- IE Tab opens the IE rendering engine within Chrome itself, so you never have to double-click on Microsoft's "E" icon again.
  • Sexy Undo Close Tab: This one is my favorite, as I'm always closing tabs and immediately regretting it. Sexy Undo Close Tab (which also has an awesome name) basically scours through your browsing history to find closed tabs and allows you to bring them back from the dead.

(See also PC World's "Top 10 Chrome Browser Add-ons" for another selection.)

Constant Updates

Google has been pumping out Chrome updates faster than users can keep up -- and that's the point. In a blog post entitled "Release Early, Release Often," Google said that "running under ideal conditions, we will be looking to release a new stable version about once every six weeks, roughly twice as often as we do today." The idea is that since Google creates new features so quickly, it wants to make sure every user gets a stable and speedy copy of the browser as soon as possible. (Google promises users of the stable version of Chrome that these improvements will be available "soon.")

Though these constant updates may instigate user headaches, it's a sign that Google aims to be the Web browser leader, blasting past its competition with the latest and greatest.

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