Google’s Chrome browser keeps improving;
Beta 2’s release in February certainly
advanced the case for Chrome as a worthy competitor to Safari, Firefox, and the rest of the pack.
I wanted to give Chrome a fair shake, so I set it as my default Web browser and removed Safari from my Dock completely for a week. And while I found a lot to like, Chrome in its current state exhibits enough frustrations that I’ve had to hand the crown (and Dock space) back to Safari. Make no mistake, Chrome includes some excellent features—features whose absence in Safari now causes me intense mental anguish. But for today, I’ve come to bury Chrome, not to praise it.
Here are seven reasons that Chrome lost its short-lived reign as my default browser:
1. Tabbing taboo.
Now, I’m not referring to the browser window tabs themselves; others have written
far more extensively on that topic than I could ever hope to. Rather, I’m complaining about how the tab key behaves in Chrome. I like to use the tab key to hop between text input fields on web pages; I can tab right to a login form or a search box—in Safari. Chrome, however, tabs between both text fields and links on the page. (In Safari, it’s a preference, and holding down Option as you tab temporarily reverses your preferred behavior. Ah, sweet, delicious compromise.)
I’ve held down every modifier-key I can come up with, and Chrome merely smirks. It’s impossible to switch away from its default tab behavior, and on pages rife with links where I want to get straight to form fields, this default behavior just doesn’t work. And here’s the real knife-twist: There appears to be a bug on some pages, so that when you tab to different links on the page, the links themselves don’t get highlighted, making it a chore to figure out just what’s selected at any given time.
2. Location, location, location bar.
I love the single bar that Chrome dual-purposes both for entering URLs and initiating Web searches, and for years I’ve installed Safari hacks that aim to recreate the same experience.
My complaint, though, is that Chrome too often fails to autocomplete the URLs I’m typing the way I expect it to. If I type in “goog,” as expected and desired, Chrome autocompletes “google.com” in the location bar. But when I start typing “music.me,” while Chrome dutifully starts listing suggestions based on sites I’ve been to, it requires that I tap the down arrow twice (or use the mouse) to get to the first suggestion and hit return, instead of doing the standard autocompletion that it does for “goog.” In Safari, the “top hit” for an autocompleted URL suggestion always appears right in the URL bar. Google’s autocompletion behavior seems unnecessarily inconsistent, and is hampered by the fact that suggestions frequently don’t appear right in the location bar itself.
3. Downloads on the down-low.
When you download files in Chrome, a 45-pixel tall bar overlays the bottom edge of your browser window. And it doesn’t go away unless you close it manually. I can find no preference to disable this bar, and while I appreciate the aim of not popping another window open to handle downloaded files, I don’t like the incessant claiming of valuable browser real estate.
4. Dragging can be a drag.
Chrome’s tabs live very high up in the application’s window. You’ll find about 11 pixels of available space if you’d like to click on the window itself, say, to drag it elsewhere on your screen. Misjudge by even a single pixel, and you’ll start dragging the tabs themselves instead. With just half a dozen tabs open, you’re forced to either try your luck in that narrow sliver above the tabs, or get dangerously close to the left-side window controls or the right-aligned “new tab” button. Boo.
5. Command and control.
Chrome fails to implement two special Safari keyboard tricks which I’ve grown to reply upon. The first is Safari’s “hold down the Command key while submitting a form” trick, which submits your form in a new tab. While I suppose most Safari users don’t know about this shortcut’s existence, it’s an awesome, addictive one. Firing off multiple Amazon product searches in multiple tabs without ever leaving the one I’m on is an excellent feature, and Chrome disappointingly lacks it. Chrome similarly omits Safari’s “hold down option while hitting return on a typed URL” trick, which automatically tells the browser to download the file at the location you’ve entered. If you’re armed with only the URL of, say, an MP3 file, you must first visit the URL in Chrome, then right-click on the browser’s custom player widget and choose “Save movie [sic] as…” to save it to disk.
6. Image is everything.
Drag an image out of Safari, and you’ll see a ghosted version of that image as you drag it, so you know exactly what you’re getting. Perform the same act in Chrome, and you’ll note that you’re dragging a tiny globe icon. That makes it harder to tell whether you’re getting what you think you’re getting as you drag the image, and forces me to double-check each image I download.
7. What it says on the tin.
Officially, Chrome is Chrome Beta. I’m being kind by lumping several buggy behaviors together into this single line item. Occasionally, I simply can’t close tabs. Other times, tabs appear completely blank, or I type in a URL and hit return, and Chrome immediately forgets what I wanted and instead does nothing, erasing the location bar. More rarely, closing a tab instead closes the entire window. It’s completely fair to behave like a beta product when you call yourself one—just don’t expect a permanent Dock spot.
As I said at the outset, Chrome’s a great browser, and I could just as easily write up a list of seven things I love about it. But until some of these flaws are addressed, Chrome’s greatness is overshadowed by its weaknesses and so it’s back to Safari I go.