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Google Chrome

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Google Chrome

    PCWorld Rating

    Using Google's minimalist Web browser is a unique experience.

Google has updated its Chrome Web browser to 8.0.552.215. It brings a number of changes and--perhaps more important--paves the way for some big things ahead.

So what's new in Google Chrome 8? Quite a bit, actually--though many of the changes are under the hood. Google Chrome 8 introduces more than 800 bug fixes and stability improvements. Those tweaks and other security patches make up the bulk of the progress.

One new feature that's immediately noticeable is the addition of a built-in PDF viewer, something that had been floating around in developer builds for several months. According to Chromium Engineering Director Marc Pawliger, the built-in PDF viewer lets the browser "render [PDF files] as seamlessly as HTML Web pages," without the need for a standalone Adobe Reader installation. All PDFs are also contained in what's called a sandbox, which basically means they're isolated and won't affect the security or performance of any other parts of the system.

The most significant changes in Chrome 8 may be ones that most of us can't see. Developers say Chrome 8 is the first version of the browser to boast full support for Google's upcoming Chrome Web Store, which is widely expected to launch any day now. The Chrome Web Store will offer an array of Web-based applications--both free and paid--that'll be designed specifically to work with the Chrome browser and the still-under-development Chrome OS.

Chrome OS, as you may recall from Google's preview of the software last summer, will offer a bare-bones, browser-like interface that'll rely almost entirely on cloud-based applications. And, despite its similar categorization, it'll be wildly different from Google's other operating system, Android--both in terms of how it works and what types of devices it'll target. (For a detailed comparison, check out "Chrome OS vs. Android: What's the difference?")

As far as the basic Chrome browser, Google's next project is applying its sandbox technology to Adobe's Flash Player. Like with the PDF scenario, it'll allow Flash-based content to stay isolated in its own area, making the overall browsing experience safer and more stable.

Google's clearly keeping busy with Chrome these days, and all of the efforts may be paying off: According to recently released data, November marked Chrome's biggest month to date when it comes to browser market share. The data, compiled by metrics firm Net Applications, shows Chrome growing a full 5.6 percent in global market share for the month of November, bringing its total up to 9.3 percent. That's the second-highest single month gain Net Applications has ever measured for any browser.

If you're already using Chrome, the program should automatically find and install the upgrade soon. If you don't want to wait, just click the Download button to go to Google's Download page. There, you can click the tool icon at the top right corner of the program and select "About Google Chrome." That'll force your browser to check for updates and begin the upgrade process.

Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.

--JR Raphael

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Using Google's minimalist Web browser is a unique experience.

    Pros

    • Can close slow or frozen pages without restarting
    • Sandboxed to help prevent malware infections

    Cons

    • No integrated RSS reader
    • Plain design
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