25 December 2012

What’s new in Chrome 25

Google Chrome 25 Apps LauncherThis new version of brings a couple of experiments that will probably not be available by default for some time, they need to be manually enabled from the flags internal page. First of all there is the Chrome Apps Launcher (Windows only): mimicking Chrome OS, this experiment adds a new icon in the Windows taskbar. It acts as a launcher for the apps installed in Chrome, as well as a search box, like a mini version of the Omnibox. Personally I don’t see the point to have an extra icon – and a damn ugly one! – when it’s just as fast to open the browser and do anything from there. On top of that, this experiment removes the Apps section from the New Tab page, so the only way to launch them remains this separate icon.

A more promising idea was announced recently on the Chromium blog: a new API allowing the default search engine to customize the New Tab page, for example with a custom search box. Naturally, the only search engine currently integrated with the new API is ; you can see the resulting New Tab page by enabling the flag Enable Instant extended API. While the idea is far from new – as always, did it first, including a secondary search engine on their Speed Dial – the integration with Google goes deeper: the Google logo is replaced with the Google Doodle of the day; another nice feature is that the search terms on the search results page are shown directly in the Omnibox, making more room for the actual results. I didn’t like the changes to the New Tag page at first, because it leaves little space for the ‘Apps’ and ‘Most recent’ sections and you can’t reorder apps anymore, they are arranged more-or-less randomly. On the other hand I really like the stripped-down version of the Google search results without logo, the black bar and the search box, so I might stick with this experiment for a while. It you’re missing the links for ‘Recently closed tabs’ and ‘Other devices’ on the revised New Tab page, you will find them under the wrench-menu.

Google Chrome 25 search box on New Tab pageThere was much buzz around the upcoming integration of Google Now notifications in Chrome and a first step towards it has landed in Chrome 25: syncing the entire history of visited pages, not just the URLs types in the Omnibox. As usual, this is hidden under a flag: ‘Enable full history sync’.

Security-wise, this version of Chrome will start disabling extensions installed without the knowledge and explicit consent of users. It’s a little odd to see this move, as Chrome itself provided and documented the methods behind these installations. Another change announced on the Chromium blog improves the privacy and security of search results for users who aren’t signed in to Google by encrypting the search queries performed via the Omnibox.

The Web Inspector went through a redesign, aligning the look of Settings to the other web-based dialogs in Chrome, and gained the ability to emulate CSS media types. This makes it much easier to design specific stylesheets for printing, for example, without going back and forth between the code and the print preview. Google Chrome 25 Web Inspector Overrides

Google Chrome 25 New Script BubbleThe ‘Script Bubble’ experiment I first spotted back in version 21 was reworked: instead of individual symbols for each extension/script, there is now a single hexagon-shaped icon in the Omnibox with a number indicating how many content scripts are active on the page. When clicked it will open a list of extensions and you can click on any of them to open the ‘Extensions’ page and disable it from there. It’s an easier way to track down extensions that are causing problem with the current page. It would be nice to have a link to disable all extensions active on the page; since this is still work-in-progress, maybe it will come in a future update.

Other miscellaneous changes include:

  • A new internal page, chrome://user-actions, that listens for user actions and displays them. Before you start thinking about privacy implications, this only works while the page is open in a tab and will help developers check if their extensions interact correctly with the browser.
  • Another flag, ‘Enable desktop guest mode’, adds a guest user in the browser.
  • Experimental support for the new VP9 video codec has been added, behind yet another flag: ‘Enable VP9 playback in <video> elements’.
  • Chrome now allows users to remove words from the custom spelling dictionary. Or, better said, there is now a user interface for editing the dictionary file, found under ‘Languages’ or directly at this address: chrome://settings/editDictionary. Previously users had to manually edit a text file in the Chrome installation directory to remove words they added by mistake.
  • Speaking of spelling, I noticed a new flag named ‘Enable Automatic Spelling Correction’ that should enable auto-correction while typing, but it doesn’t seem to be working right now…

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