Even as the official announcement focuses more on the changes in Chrome for Android, the desktop version got a number of important updates as well. First, there is the ‘search by image’ feature integrated in the context menu: if previously you could immediately search for the selected word or sentence, now this is available for images too. While this is supposed to work with any search engine that supports image search, in the real world that basically means it’s restricted to Google – and even here it only works with the original search engine, not with custom Omnibox search. Also new in the image context menu: a ‘Print…’ option.
Speaking of search, the new variant of the New Tab page including a second Google search box is slowly creeping towards the stable channel; I’m still not sold on it and many power users agree, but apparently dumbing down the interface for users is more important than simplicity. I can only hope that the old version will still be an option – or that I find a more efficient extension to replace the default New Tab Page.
A bigger, long-term change is the upcoming switch to Aura, the UI stack used by Chrome OS, probably coming as soon as Chrome 31. The Aura-builds have a small a on the browser menu button. Presumably this change should unify the UI stack across platforms – but there seem to be no plans for porting Aura to MacOS, so the unification is far from complete. As much as this would make keeping Chrome features in sync over several platforms easier, I can’t help but think this decision could introduce other problems (design inconsistencies with the underlying OS, poorer performance) – remember Firefox uses a similar cross-platform model with XUL, which turned out not to be very efficient.
Several updates concern user management in Chrome, though most are still work in progress and available for testing as flags: a ‘Guest Browsing’-mode, ‘supervised users’, a dedicated user chooser inspired, again, by Chrome OS, and the ability to sign-out of your Google account from the profile switcher menu.
The – long overdue – Downloads Extension API will be available for developers once Chrome 30 reaches stable status, allowing a range of new features that the current download manager lacks. Before third-party extensions start integrating these, the default download bar will get one of them, a clearer warning message about the threat level of downloaded files based on Google’s safe browsing service.
A number of small tweaks will improve the Notification Center: for developers Synchronized Notifications between browsers and the option for partial updates; for users the Message Center icon becomes persistent, a new icon for Do Not Disturb mode and the ability to save notifications settings for each profile separately.
A potentially controversial change is the removal of the ‘Recent’ section from the Bookmarks page. Personally I never used it and found it confusing, because it almost never listed the recently bookmarked addresses, as it’s supposed to do. Maybe bookmark sync interfered somehow with the ‘recent’ algorithm, but I always found old bookmarks there – and I mean really old: looking through it now it’s like looking back in time 3-4 years. As much as Opera got a lot of heat for removing bookmarks altogether, I realized I’m actually using a single folder to save everything – it’s sort of like a temporary to-do list. Later I can save the links I want to keep around to OneNote or delicious or remove them if I just needed some short reference for an article.
Current stable Chrome is the first version to support fractional values for letter-spacing and word-spacing like 0.5px or 0.04em.— Maximilian Hoffmann (@max_hoffmann) October 6, 2013
And the list of changes goes on:
- The Developer Tools have been updated with several new features, as described in this article;
- The bookmarks bar has a slightly different design that now applies to both versions of the New Tab page;
- Performance improvements for
querySelector(All)and decoding gif images;
- Results for typed internal URLs will rank higher in the Omnibox, making them easier to access for power users;
- You can now drag and drop an entire folder into the chrome://extensions page in order to load an unpacked chrome extension;
- A new privacy control was added to the Website settings icon in the Omnibox allowing users to choose which sites are permitted to download multiple files at once. A list of white-listed websites is also to be found in the full-fledged ‘Settings’ page;
- The pop-up blocker will get an improved version, which stops pop-ups from loading instead of just hiding them;
- The local storage space limit for web apps is being increased from 5M to 10M;
- Last, but not least, a new icon on the “You are offline” page.