After a longer-than-usual cycle of two months – no doubt due to the joint Christmas and New Year holidays – Chrome 26 has graduated from the dev channel. The first major change users will notice is a drastic change in the look of menus, from the system menu to context menus. Chrome is replacing all native-style menus with a design more reminiscent of the web and Google+, with bigger text and lots of whitespace. Overall I like the idea of unifying the design across platforms – it resembles the iOS version a little better as well – but on the other hand it will start looking different from all the other software on the respective OS’ – foreign even – and the design consistency inside Chrome is broken as well: tabs, controls and scrollbars are styled like the OS, while the menus (and increasingly dialog boxes) look like they come from a web app. Also the new menus are too big, almost too big to fit inside a lower resolution screen. The malware landing page received a similar redesign in the Google+ style.
There are a couple of updates related to WebRTC, a standard for Internet communication supported by both Google and Mozilla. Starting with this version there will be an indicator in the Omnibox whenever a website request access to your local camera and microphone. From there you can allow or deny access; this control is also available in the Chrome settings, Content section. Chrome also introduced a new internal page, chrome://webrtc-internals, where you can track the active connections through WebRTC.
A more important project expanded in Chrome 26 are desktop notifications, which include support for regular HTML5 desktop notifications and messages generated by extensions and will eventually display Google Now notifications. For now, the new features are available only on Windows and Chrome OS after turning on the flag “Enable Rich Notifications”. On Windows, users will see a new icon in the system tray for the Notification Center with options to enable or disable specific websites from sending notifications and a Quiet Mode to turn all pop-ups off for an hour or a day. Unfortunately a month later on my PC the experiment still fails to display anything but blank rectangles either in the notification pop-ups from TweetDeck or in the systray; I suppose there is much more work to go to make it work properly.
There are of course many other smaller updates; let’s start with the ones that are just playing catch-up with other browsers, to the point where it’s hard to believe Chrome has been around for four years and never had something like:
- Drag an URL onto the home button to set it as homepage;
- Print the selection instead of the entire page – available both in the context menu for selections as well as in the Print Preview window. On a related note you can now print CSS background images and colors;
- Resume broken downloads – currently only an experimental feature under the flag “Enable Download Resumption”.
And now for the rest:
- On the New Tab page in the ‘Recently closed’ menu there are sometimes entries grouping several tabs, for example after a browser crash. Now when you hover over that link you will see a tooltip with the list of pages that will be restored.
- On the ‘Extensions’ page Chrome added a link to check the permissions for each of them; until now you could only review them during installation.
- Google Chrome will add support for Google Wallet – meaning Autofill will be able to fill online forms with information from Google Wallet.
- Clearing the browsing data more than once a day will trigger a little info-banner reminding users they could be using Incognito Mode instead.
Version 26 also marks the complete removal of Web Intents from the Chromium code base; at this stage not really a big loss, because the implementation wasn’t very user-friendly, as I noticed while using version 24.