Chrome for the Mac: The Future Best OS X Browser?

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Google’s (s goog) Chrome Browser was released to the public as a beta version for Microsoft (s msft) Windows in September 2008, and currently enjoys 3.6 percent marketshare worldwide (NetApplications data November 1) putting it in fourth place behind MSIE, Firefox, and Safari.

There was initially no Mac version, but last month Google began releasing a series of publicly available “developer” alpha previews of Chrome for the Mac. It’s quickly become my browser of choice for most web work and surfing.

Prodigious Speed

Chrome’s main advantage is prodigious speed — it starts up quickly and loads pages likewise. JavaScript rendering is especially lively, thanks to Google’s in-house V8 Javascript rendering engine. Chrome uses Apple’s Safari WebKit rendering engine.

The Chrome developer previews have also proved amazingly stable for alpha level software. In three weeks of fairly intensive production use, I’ve had only one unexpected quit, and that under heavy use loading several pages simultaneously.

Chrome’s minimalist “Zen-like” user interface suits my sense of aesthetics too. That’s subjective of course, but it doesn’t hurt to like what you’re looking at. There’s a selection of alternate skins or “themes” you can download, but I didn’t like any I sampled nearly as well as the default interface.

Like Opera and Safari, Chrome lets you access your favorite websites with a click from thumbnails of your most visited sites in its the New Tab Page, displayed when a new tab is created showing the nine most visited web sites along with sites most often searched, as well as recent bookmarks, and recently-closed tabs.

Tabs At the Top?

Chrome’s preferences have just three panels — their content clear, sensible, and intuitive. I also like Chrome’s tabs, which gracefully pop up when summoned and likewise take their leave when dispatched. Tabs at the top? Not a big deal to me one way or the other. With Chrome, there’s still plenty of title bar to grab at the top of the window, and no vertical height sacrifice in the content window.

The only thing I really miss from my erstwhile standby workhorse, Opera, is the latter’s uber-handy Zoom menu on the main page bottom margin. I also still like Opera’s download manager better, although Chrome’s is cleverly implemented and not bad at all.

Chrome isn’t quite ready for tasks where security is an issue, such as online banking or credit card Web purchases. Google warns that these Mac builds still “lack certain privacy features, and are not appropriate for general consumer use.”

Google projects having a final build of Chrome for the Mac out the door by year-end.

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