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Summary:

I’ve used Safari as my default browser since 2008, but lately I’ve decided to give Google Chrome a shot at becoming my new standby. I made the switch owing to Chrome’s reported performance advantages. Would they prove convincing enough to make the change permanent?

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I’ve used Safari as my default browser since 2008, but lately I’ve decided to give Google Chrome a shot at becoming my new standby. The main reason I chose to give Chrome a chance was that one of the sites I use every day loads like molasses in Safari, yet loads quickly in Chrome.

Since I know some of you are going to mention Firefox, I’ll tell you right now that I’ve ruled it out. It just doesn’t feel right to me. I’ll use Firefox on Windows, but on a Mac it’s just… weird. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

Interface

I suppose Chrome has an attractive interface, but I do think it looks better on Windows, partly because it feels designed for it rather than OS X (look at Chrome’s bookmarks manager and you’ll see what I mean). It just looks better with Aero.

Some aspects of Chrome’s tabs implementation annoy me. Mostly, I’m pretty happy with them, but there are two drawbacks. One being that, because the tabs take up the title bar, there’s less room to drag the window. This isn’t a problem for people who maximize their browser windows, but I like to keep my windows a certain size and I move them around a lot, since I’m always dragging images onto my desktop.

Another side effect of having the tabs in the title bar means that Chrome’s title bar doesn’t really function like one; you never actually see the full title of a web page unless it fits within the tab, which seems like a small complaint, but it’s still annoying.

Features

There were several features I missed from Safari when I switched to Chrome. Probably the one I missed most was Safari’s Reader view, which lets you reformat a long passage of text in an attractive drop-down that cuts out the clutter.

Fortunately, there’s an extension for Chrome that mimics Reader, and actually surpasses it in some ways. The extension’s called iReader and is available in the Chrome extensions gallery. When you hit the arrow keys to scroll through something in Reader for Safari, the cursor doesn’t disappear like it does in normal web pages, but it does in the iReader extension, which is less distracting for me.

Speaking of extensions, there aren’t any extensions I’ve come across for Chrome that aren’t available for Safari, or that I absolutely can’t live without. The opposite isn’t true. In fact, one of the unofficial Safari extensions that I love, ClickToFlash, isn’t available for Chrome, and it looks like that’ll be the case for some time.

Performance

It’s almost a crapshoot here. I can tell you that using Chrome feels faster than using Safari, but only a little. They both use the same rendering engine, WebKit, but they use different JavaScript engines, and from what I’ve learned about both Safari’s Nitro and Chrome’s V8, V8 is superior, but the difference in speed is also small.

On the interface performance side, I’ve noticed that when I have about six tabs open in Chrome, dragging the tabs around gets laggy. I don’t experience this lag with Safari, which I think has the best implementation of tab-dragging in any browser.

Bugs

I can generally say that I’ve experienced more bugs in Chrome than I have in Safari. For instance, in Chrome, almost every time I go back to a Google search result from, say, a Wikipedia page, the page doesn’t display and I’m left with the cute little dead tab face, then I have to re-enter the search in Google. It’s almost a deal-breaker for me.

There are other bugs, of course, but none that are as annoying or pervasive as the above.

Security

Chrome wins here, bar none. Safari is notorious for being a vector of vulnerability attacks, having famously been hacked in just 10 seconds at the annual Pwn2Own contest in 2009, while Chrome was the only browser that wasn’t hacked. However, security isn’t enough to make me switch to Chrome, as there’s very little chance I’d get a virus anyway, since there aren’t many viruses developed for the Mac and I’m a pretty safe surfer.

Will I stay with Chrome?

After using Chrome for a couple of weeks and getting accustomed to all its quirks on the Mac, I’ve decided to switch back to Safari. There just isn’t enough reason for me to stick with Chrome, and the Google search bug mentioned above is a huge annoyance, one that outweighs the poor performance of Safari on the one page that had me considering a switch to begin with.

Did I make the right choice? How’s your experience with Chrome been?

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  1. 1password doesn’t work with Chrome yet… so no switch for me.

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    1. I’ve been using 1Password with Chrome for at least 6 to 7 months now. You have to download the 1Password beta extension from their forums.

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  2. Interesting notes. It seems like the mac version is not going so smoothly. Windows versions are far more stable than any browser I have used before. The dev builds of chrome go through various stages but often are fixed within a few days. To me this just means they are making bigger changes for bigger benefit, maybe, I like to think so at least.

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  3. I think you gave Chrome a fair shot. Similar story for me, except I’ve been using FF for 5 years and Safari and Chromes as backups. I had to give up on FF completely because of too much trouble managing busted extensions, slow startups, choppy video, etc.

    The big advantage for Safari is that it well connected to the system, loads quick, some nice extensions now. Chrome, no 1Password, no Netflix. Can not abide that.

    Safari is pretty nice, though it took them long enough to get there.

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    1. No Netflix support is a pretty big deal for me, as well.

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  4. Good article. I gave Chrome a shot when it was first introduced to Mac OS X and didn’t like it for a number of reasons. Tried it again about a month ago, saying I’d give it a week. Well, I’m still using it as my primary browser. Go figure! I was a FF and Safari user for years. Chrome definitely needs to add 1 Password, as was already mentioned, but it is much faster to me than Safari. I’ve gotten used to its quirks.

    Definitely not for everyone, but a very capable, safe browser.

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  5. @roofus, yes it does. It’s not as full featured yet, but there’s an extension for Chrome.

    Alex,

    You failed to mention THE best features of Chrome … maybe you don’t know about them?

    The omnibox is phenomenal! Why do the other browsers (Safari included) have two text boxes, one for search and one for addresses? It does not make sense. Plus, in the omnibox you can search through your history and favorites. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you like to keep your hands on the keyboard and off the mouse, this is really great. I have a “read later” bookmarklet for my instapaper account. I do ‘ctrl+l’ and start typing ‘read …’ and press enter. Done.

    One of the coolest and under-publicized features of Chrome is the ability to search within any website from the omnibox. So, assuming you’ve visited youtube (as an example), Chrome knows how to perform a search there. So you start typing “youtube” in the address bar, then press ‘tab’ and whatever your query is, and press enter. Boom, you’ve got your search results on youtube.com without having to go to the youtube website first.

    There’s so much more I could say, but I have to mention the download manager. It stays out of the way and yet is always visible when you need it. Also very easy to use.

    I’ve only had the ‘sad-tab’ crash happen twice … and I’ve been using Chrome on the Mac since the pre-beta days (chromium, actually). There must be another issue with your configuration. And I’ve never had problems dragging tabs, even with 10 or more tabs open.

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    1. Probably should have mentioned some of those features, but I’ve gotten so used to them that I wanted to note some of the smaller differences.

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  6. Free bookmark syncing among different machines is good and nice.

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  7. ClickToFlash —> Flashblock?

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    1. Indeed. I’m using it right now.

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  8. I think Mac is not letting chrome to work as it is supposed to. Chrome on windows is a fantastic experience.

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  9. Hard to beat Safari. I like it best because of 2 features Chrome & Firefox don’t have. Command, Control, D for instant word definitions and Control clicking on photos to add to iPhoto library. I try other browsers but always come back to Safari.

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    1. There’s a great extension for dictionary lookup for Chrome – Google Dictionary. Double-click a word and the definition pops up; or, highlight and click it’s icon in the address bar.

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      1. Thanks doog, I have that installed in Chrome. Chrome is looking good for sure. I will still be trying it out from time to time. Who knows, I might end up switching! Chrome does seem to not be such a memory hog as Safari over time.

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  10. Firefox was one the shining star in the alternative browser market, but in its race to beat explorer, it has become explorer. It is slow, buggy, and deleted from my dock.

    I like the idea of chrome as an alternative to Safari, but it offers me virtually nothing I cannot get with safari.

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    1. I agree about Firefox. I am about to uninstall, but I am going to wait and see if FF4 brings about any needed improvements (not features).

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