According to the announcement posted on the Chromium blog, version 27 brings a couple of improvements to the overall speed of the browser – a barely noticeable 5% due to optimization of background preloading – and several new features for developers, like a better design for date/time
<input> forms and support for the
ch CSS measurement unit. The new Sync FileSystem API will allow apps to sync locally stored data and settings through Google Drive – the equivalent of iCloud or Dropbox for Chrome apps.
A cool new feature that could prove very useful in many situations is a new indicator for tabs playing audio. It’s just a small animation, but those tabs quickly stand out on the tab bar, so it’s much easier to find the page that started playing something annoying in the background. It can detect sounds coming from Flash players as well – in the example to the left inside Gmail. There are some small quirks with the feature, the indicator shows up sometimes when I load TweetDeck, but overall it’s a very nice idea.
Work continues on a new tab page centered on the Google search engine, the so-called ‘Instant extended API’. It’s now enabled by default in the Canary channel and it will probably replace the current new tab page by the time Chrome 27 reaches the stable channel. The thing is, the more they change it, the less I like it! Several features have been stripped and the usability is becoming worse with every new iteration:
- Apps have been removed from the front page and can be accessed either with the Apps Launcher or from a new button on the bookmarks bar that opens a new internal page, chrome://apps/. Personally I use them like bookmarks to web apps, I click apps dozens of time a day and even making them two-clicks away instead of one is seriously annoying and time-wasting! And I’m not even considering using the Apps Launcher, I just don’t need another icon on my taskbar just to launch websites.
- The number of ‘Most recent’ pages has been reduced from eight to four;
- The list of recently closed tabs is no longer available in the interface; you can still reopen the last closed tab from the Chrome menu or with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+T, but older tabs can only be retrieved from history;
- The menu for tabs from other devices has been moved to the main browser menu and is also missing from this new tab page;
- But instead we get a giant Google search box and, naturally, a Google+ share button and notifications…
For now this new tab page can still be disabled from the flags list. If Chrome removes the current new tab page in favor of this I might have to start considering switching to another browser – or at least replace it with a more user-friendly extension…
Other smaller changes – or still unfinished – include:
- An internal flag for ‘Google Now’ has been added, but it’s not functional yet – and if you disable ‘Instant extended API’ it starts throwing all sorts of cryptic error messages. Hopefully the stable version will have a workable feature.
- With ‘Instant extended API’ – and ‘Enable full history sync’ from Chrome 25 – enabled, the history page will list your recent tabs from other synced devices in the top section:
- A new Windows-only experimental feature, ‘Track time spent on each each page’, aims to improve the list of most visited sites;
- The Action Box – still hidden behind a flag – has a new action for printing the page;
- Starting with this version Chrome removed the limitation to the number of custom keyboard shortcuts registered by an extension;
- Another experiment allows extensions to interact with internal Chrome pages. Not the best idea security-wise, since an extension could potentially change browser settings without user interaction;
- And, if you enable too many flags and just want to quickly revert to the default values, there is now a dedicated button on the chrome://flags page called ‘Reset all to default’.