Chrome grows up

The fastest Web browser on the market, Google Chrome offers a complete browsing experience with extensions, themes, and security settings.

In slightly more than a year, Google Chrome has surprised users and critics alike by acquiring a skyrocketing percentage of the browser market share. That attention and heavy usage is not undeserved. Chrome 5 is blazingly fast, more stable than previous versions, and introduces support for extensions, better bookmark syncing and management, browser preference syncing, and further HTML5 innovations. Full-screen viewing also debuts for Mac users in this version.

Based on WebKit, the same open-source engine that powers Apple Safari, Google's Android mobile platform, and several other Web-browsing tools, but with a different JavaScript engine, Chrome's interface remains a drastic departure from other browsers nearly two years after it first debuted. Instead of the traditional toolbar, Chrome puts its tabs on top. Moreover, the tabs are detachable: "tabs" and "windows" are interchangeable here. Detached tabs can be dragged and dropped into the browser, and tabs can be rearranged at any time. By isolating each tab's processes, when one site crashes, the other tabs do not.

The search box and the address bar have been fused into a hybrid "Omnibox," which includes suggestions for URLs culled from your browser's history and search suggestions from your search engine. It remembers site-specific search engine results. There's also Application Shortcuts, a feature that lets you create desktop icons for Web-only applications, such as Gmail. The stealth mode, Incognito, lets you surf without the history-recording cookies, and can work with all of your extensions or just the ones you choose.

Unlike previous editions of the browser, version 5 feels fully baked in a way that they didn't. There are still complaints about wonky Web site support, but those tend to be the rare exception, and not the general rule. Minor problems aside, Chrome should be a serious option for anybody who wants a browser that gets out of the way of browsing the Web.

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