Web & social

Google Chrome's New Beta: A Hands-On Tour

The latest beta for the Google Chrome browser is mostly about speed, thanks to a new JavaScript engine and an early taste of GPU-accelerated video.

But Google has also introduced a few new features to make the user experience more pleasurable, including password sync and a revamped options menu. Let's take a closer look:

Password Sync

Google Chrome's password sync
Chrome could already sync your apps, bookmarks, preferences and themes across multiple computers, but until now has lacked a way to sync passwords. In the latest beta, you can access password sync under the "Personal Stuff" section of the options menu. A Google account--along with your username and password--is required for syncing, but you can also add an extra layer of encryption with a custom sync passphrase.

One thing that was kind of confusing: After I enabled sync on my second computer and punched in my user name and password, Chrome asked me what data I would like to sync between computers, even though I had just entered that information after setting up sync on my first computer.

New Options Menu

When clicking the tool icon and selecting "options," Chrome now displays settings in a new browser tab instead of a pop-up menu. This means you can access specific options with URLs, such as chrome://settings/personal. (Google says this is useful for providing tech support to computer-illiterate relatives.)

Google Chrome's new Options menu
The options menu also has a search function now, so you can access settings by typing instead of digging through menus. It's almost like Google Instant, in that the search results update each time you enter a new letter. I'd say these are all revolutionary and wonderful new features, but I just can't get that excited about options menus. Sorry!

Organizing App Icons

Google doesn't say this is a new feature, but I never noticed it before and haven't heard anyone else mention it. If you've installed any Chrome Web apps, you can now rearrange them on the home screen by clicking and dragging.

Google Chrome's web app icon organization
As mundane as it seems, the ability to organize apps is the feature I'm most excited to see. Let's get support for app folders next, okay Google?

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