Google Chrome Test Drive

I have been using Google Chrome for the first time tonight. Conveniently, it imported my Firefox and IE bookmarks on its own. The feel of Chrome is more that of Firefox than Internet Explorer. Chrome seems to be a capable browser, despite the fact that it isn’t a finished product. It certainly has a nice interface, and is very easy on the eyes. I thought that sites loaded pretty fast, though my view was skewed by the old Pentium-III computer I was using for the test.

Oddly, when I visited my favorite browser identifier website, Chrome was listed in the browser details, but the site told me I was using Safari.

Google Chrome

Google released its own web browser today, called Chrome. At the moment, it is only available in beta to Windows users only. Mac and Linux versions are said to be in the works. I’ve been reading about on it online. I’m pleased that they are releasing Chrome as an open-source application. Tonight, I downloaded the app, but haven’t installed it yet. I’m eager to try Chrome, but I seriously doubt any browser will pull me away from Firefox 3.

So why did Google make its own web browser? Google tries to answer that here. In my opinion, with an already flooded browser market (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Camino, Opera, etc.), I don’t see the need for another browser. Web developers have enough juggling to do already.

In the big picture, I’d rather see an entire Google operating system. If somehow releasing their own browser is a small step in that direction, then I cheer them on. I only hope it doesn’t become another one of Google’s forever-beta programs. Gmail to this day still calls itself a beta product. Get real! It has been a final product for years now. What’s with all the betas? Slap a 1.0 on it and kick it out the door.

Google Desktop

I installed Google Desktop on my laptop today. I was immediately thrilled with it. Previously, I had been using Yahoo Widgets, but I started to get concerned about the amount of system processes involved and its memory usage. Google Desktop uses less memory than Yahoo and all aspects of the program run as a single system process. Google also makes a Mac version of this product, but I have not tried to use it. Considering my Mac has Dashboard and Spotlight built-in, I don’t see a need right now for Google Desktop on that system.

I primarily downloaded Google Desktop for the Sidebar widgets. Luckily, my laptop has a widescreen, so the size of the Sidebar without hiding isn’t too space consuming. The Sidebar is slick and shows the local weather conditions, email snippets, a news feed, a notepad, a picture, custom rss feeds, and a Google search box. I am using Gmail for my email already, so setting up the email section was easy. Bear in mind that Gmail is not required. When it comes to the picture, I was at first concerned it may be a waste of time, but it does look really good sitting in the sidebar. I don’t have many pictures stored on this laptop, but I easily added a photo feed from my Flickr page. It works perfectly and pictures are streamed directly to my desktop. The RSS section is also cool. I dabble in some RSS feeds here and there, both in my browser and also online on Google Reader. I rarely think to check any of them. Now with RSS built-in to the Sidebar, I can add my favorite feeds, such as Netflix New Releases and they will appear automatically.

The desktop search portion of Google Desktop is the main purpose of the program. It automatically indexes emails, chats, photos, web history, and more in a variety of different file formats. I haven’t put this feature to the test so far since I only installed the application this morning. I have made good use of Spotlight on my Mac, so I have begun to see the benefits of such an application. I’m sure to make good use of this program.

I think Google Desktop is a winner for the Windows desktop. If the Sidebar does become too cumbersome, which I do not expect, I can enable the auto-hide feature to tuck it away when I am not using it. For now, I want it to be in full-view, so I can read my RSS feeds and see my photos stream in. I am very happy. If you are a Google user and already make good use of a Gmail account, you’ll be sure to love Google Desktop.

Google’s Home Page

Am I the only person who has noticed that the once squeaky-clean home page at google.com is being slowly filled with links and whatnot? Once upon a time the basic page displayed only the company logo (changing occasionally for holidays), the search box, and two options: Search, or I’m Feeling Lucky. Later came the Preferences link, which is a very welcomed addition. A lot of people that I know have never bothered to even notice that it exists.

Fast forward to today and you’ll find plugs for Gmail and GoogleDocs, business solutions, advertising programs, and a link to info about Google. In addition, there is a bar across the top of the page with links for other search methods (web, images, news, etc.). In the right corner on that bar is your Gmail account name, a link to account info, and a link to sign out.

I predict that some day Google will adopt a more Yahoo-style home page and move their once basic search page to a subdomain such as search.google.com (that link as of this post takes you to the same page as google.com, in case you were wondering.) Time will tell on my predictions. Google has a lot of services and applications under its belt now. Surely they don’t want the company’s front page to be as extremely basic as it once was. As for the users, we can look back and cherish a time when it was more simple. We can still enjoy the page as it is today, but I’ll bet it will slowly start to get filled in over time.

Below is a screenshot I just made tonight of the current state of google.com:

Google.com Screenshot

Why Is Gmail Still Beta?

GMail has been up and running for years. I don’t know how many users they have, but I am sure it is a massive number. A lot of people have been using the service for years now. Despite a few enhancements, nothing has radically changed with the service that I can see. I don’t understand why they still are clinging to the idea that it is still in beta. Having proved itself for years now, it is more than ready for prime time. Drop the “beta” tag and let’s go!

GMail

I have used GMail for well over a year now and I have to say that it is by far the best web-based email client there is. I have used Yahoo Mail for many, many years (even the Mail Plus version) and since switching to GMail, I haven’t looked back. Even Yahoo’s new webmail beta doesn’t stack up to GMail, in my opinion.

Nothing matches the speed and simplicity of GMail. It has the most storage of any service, only uses text advertising, has the awesome “conversation” way of viewing email, killer search within your mailbox, and it responds as fast as a desktop mail client. I like how it automatically checks my mail continuously without me having to hit a “check mail” button all the time. And most of all, I love how it displays pictures in email attachments. When I click “view”, I actually get to view the full-sized picture in a new browser tab. In Yahoo, even after all these years, you still have to have it virus-certified, choose to download it, then save it, or open it on your PC in an image viewer to see the full-sized version. That is nonsense.

If that isn’t enough, GMail even offers free POP mail access to your mailbox from a desktop email client. Yahoo users must subscribe and pay a yearly fee to have this feature. Don’t even get me started on Hotmail. I quit that horrible service many years ago. It isn’t even a consideration.

The only annoying thing about GMail that I have found is the silly Google Chat that is now built-in that lets you instant message other GMail users that are logged in. I don’t care for that. At work, it tells me it cannot find the service (probably due a company firewall), but luckily, you can turn that off in the options at the bottom of the page. I find it cleans up the interface a little and (I think) makes things run faster. Who uses it, anyway?

Picasa

I don’t think I have ever written about Picasa, the free photo manager from Google. It is one of the best, innovative programs I have ever used. If you have a digital camera, it is really a must. It does what I have not been able to with other programs, at least not as easily. Before Picasa, I actually believed that I could keep up with my mounting photo collection by using folders and filenames alone. But after a while, I had no idea where any particular picture was.

This program does it all very well. I get the most use out emailing photos with it, and making web photo galleries. It does both of those so quick that, without the program, I wouldn’t even want to bother anymore. It’s quick and easy photo corrections are pretty capable, and the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button is always fun to toy with. The best feature of this program is that it never actually edits any of the original photo files! It stores a hidden .ini file in each photo folder that keeps track of your edits, rotations, etc. from Picasa. But keep in mind that it doesn’t substitute for hardcore photo editing, such as you would do in Photoshop.

There is a actually new version of Picasa that Google released recently, which is version 2.5. It adds some new features, hardly any of which I’ve tried yet. If you haven’t yet tried Picasa at all, then you are crazy. Try it out and you won’t go back. Read more about Picasa at: picasa.google.com.