10 May 2011

What’s new in Chrome 13

It’s always nice to get a sneak preview of upcoming features and Chrome’s Canary channel makes this easy and relatively pain free, as the software is stable enough for daily browsing and bugs get resolved quickly. There seem to be many new things in version 13; here’s what caught my attention so far:

  • A new internal page: chrome://gpu-internals that displays information about the hardware acceleration: what content is accelerated, depending on the flags enabled, the graphics driver version for debugging and a ‘Diagnostics’ sections that seems to be still under construction.
  • Google Chrome set up multiple profilesMultiple profiles can be enabled through about:flags. Unfortunately, in the current implementation they are of limited use: since each profile is syncing with a account, you can only have as many profiles as you have Google accounts, plus one extra profile if you choose not to sign in – but then you will not have your settings and bookmarks synced… That is similar to opening an incognito window alongside a normal one, only with extensions on. Not to mention you cannot use Google Apps accounts to sign in. I also encountered problems with LastPass – occasionally it stops filling in user names and passwords –, which is not very surprising, since profiles change the way the browser handles cookies. I somehow doubt users will start creating new Google accounts just to enjoy profiles in Chrome – you can compensate to a degree by installing the Canary Channel, which is now available for Mac OSX as well.
  • Finer control over Instant: by default, with Instant enabled, tries to load everything you type in the Omnibox immediately to help you get there more quickly. As the prediction is not always what you expect, this could became annoying or counter-productive. The new flag, “Restrict Instant To Search”, allows users to turn off the instant loading for addresses and history results and keep it only for search queries. From what I saw, the ‘regular’ Instant is interfering with an older experiment, “Focus existing tab on open”, so it’s probably a good idea to enable both flags simultaneously. Personally, I prefer having Instant on for everything, it makes loading new pages faster and more fun.
  • A new way to choose your starting pages: this feature is actually available in the stable version of the browser as well, as a part of the new ‘Options’ page; it was slightly redesigned in this version of Canary. You can use the autocomplete to easily add pages from history – even apps, as you can see below with TweetDeck for Chrome – or save all open tabs with one click. Google Chrome set starting pages
  • A verbose error page when the browser cannot connect to a web site. Instead of simply prompting the user to reload the page or to visit a cached copy, the browser presents a long list of troubleshooting steps, explaining about DNS and proxies, highlighting settings that can be changed in Chrome or in the operating system to restore network access. It should prove helpful having these options clearly laid out, especially since without Internet connectivity you would be cut off from searching for a solution online… Google Chrome error page Webpage not Available

Anything else I’ve missed?

Update: The innovations in versions 13 haven’t stopped here: in the next Canary Channel update, Chrome has introduced a design experiment, “compact navigation”.

Desktop notification for crashing extensionsAnd another update: A little glitch in version 13.0.777.0 was causing AdBlock to constantly crash; this way I noticed another small change: the browser now uses desktop notification to alert the user about these events. In the stable build, Chrome would show a big yellow bar under the Omnibox. It's probably an experiment to see what the users prefer, as both approaches have ups and downs: desktop notifications are more subtle and do not disturb the browsing experience as much as the notification bar; on the other hand they are only loosely connected to Chrome and many people could discard them, thinking they are generated by some other software running in the background.

Notification for a new versionThe final update: Just before switching to version 14, Chrome showed a small notification on the wrench menu to remind me an update was available. The feature is actually around for some time, but I didn’t get to see it that often, probably because I use Chrome daily and so it’s constantly up-to-date. It’s nevertheless a nice touch, a more subtle way to remind users to move to the next version. Which I did! Welcome Chrome 14!

P.S. The final version was released at the beginning of August, emphasizing Instant Pages, better search in the omnibox and a stable version of the print preview.


  1. "Anything else I've missed?"

    I hope so. This is boooring. If you ask me, Chrome 12 came and went with no value added.

  2. Yeah I agree, these new rapid release browser cycles are nice although kinda silly in their arrogant version numbering.

    In my opinion these updates don't seem to change the software product enough to warrant an entire whole number change in version.

    The difference between chrome 12 & 13 seems to me that it should be more like a chrome v12.23 or similar.

    They are indirectly devaluing the worth of the orthodox software versioning system.

  3. i hope nothin new is added.... only small changes.... excepting more from google....

  4. I love chrome is one of my favorite browser.