Chrome for Mac – Thoughts

I’ll start out saying that I really want to like Chrome on the Mac. After seeing it blow away the competition on the PC, I looked forward for months to having a fully baked version on OS X. Even though I’m an unabashed Apple partisan, I’m eager to see Google competing with Apple on so many fronts. Even though Chrome and its open source foundation, Chromium, are based on Apple’s pioneering WebKit project, I think Chrome has admirably differentiated itself from Safari. Unfortunately, I cannot acclimate myself to daily use of Chrome, for several reasons. First, however, I should mention some strengths that Chrome has going for it.

The Good

The big thing that Chrome offers on the PC, its speed, is its strength on the Mac as well. While I did not do any actual measurements, pseudo-scientific or otherwise, to compare the performance of Chrome versus that of Safari, Chrome just feels faster. Actual numbers have been crunched by others, but these results may be significantly changed now that Safari 5 is in the wild. Numbers aside, Google has managed to craft a browser that feels lighter and faster than the already minimalist Safari – no small feat.

The other great thing about Chrome is its search bar. This thing is a fantastic innovation, and yet it’s also no surprise that Google would implement such a feature. The ability to search from Google right within the search bar is very nice and convenient. Also, until last week, the ability to search one’s history in a natural way (i.e. not depending on URL syntax) was a major win for Google as well. Fortunately, this ability is now baked into Safari 5. We’ll therefore call this but a narrow win for Chrome.

The Bad

Now then, despite these positives from Chrome, I can’t make myself switch to it for everyday use. After using it regularly for about a week, there were too many little annoyances that kept getting in the way of my browsing workflow (leisure-flow?). Here are all the deficiencies that I found annoying:

  • Zero support for AppleScript. This is a major sticking point. I use AppleScripts all the time to send bookmarks and archives to Yojimbo. Not supporting AppleScript means that Chrome is not a fully fledged OS X citizen. Google has got to fix that.
  • No ClickToFlash. This is such an integral part of my Safari browsing sessions that I barely remember that it’s an add-on. I know that there are ways to partially block Flash in Chrome as well, but ClickToFlash is the whole enchilada, it works fantastically, and it’s only for Safari.
  • Speaking of add-ons, I find that Chrome extensions are a bit pokey in general. More in line with my actual usage, though, is the lack of a good 1Password implementation in Chrome. I know that Agile is working hard on getting this fantastic product to work with Chrome, but I’m spoiled by how flawlessly it works in Safari.
  • Lastly, the Find dialogue in Chrome. You know, the standard Command-F shortcut. While it sometimes works just fine, there have been times when I’m looking for a word on a site, and Chrome refuses to show me a Find dialogue, no matter how many times I try to invoke it. This is a bug that will be fixed, I’m confident, but Safari wins here.
  • No Readability-like feature. This is a recent addition, but I have to mention the amazing utility of the newly-added Safari Reader feature in Safari 5. While I had the Readability bookmarklet installed before having Safari 5, I never used it. Building this ability into the browser and having it just a shortcut away was a great move on Apple’s part.

I admit that two of these issue stem from my use of particular add-ons in Safari, so I’m not trying to claim that Chrome is useless by any means. These are simply the things that kept me from keeping Chrome as my daily browser. With that said, I’m leaving it installed, and will periodically update it. I’m very confident that Google will keep making Chrome for Mac better and better.

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