Editor’s note: We have a special installment for MakeUseOf readers who happen to be Chrome fans. We are reviewing the alpha build of Chrome for both Linux and Mac today. Watch out for the Mac edition later on.
For those Linux users who have been waiting hard and long for the release of Google Chrome Linux Alpha, there are both a good and bad news for you. The bad news is, Google Chrome for Linux is still not available yet. The good news however, the alpha build is now available for testing, which could be a joy for some Linux geeks.
Last week, Google released the first alpha build (build 126.96.36.199) of Google Chrome for Linux (and Mac). I have tested the Linux version on my Ubuntu machine and compared how it fares against Firefox. It is apparent that there are plenty of features missing, but it also comes with some juice that proved to be a surprise for many.
On the Chromium developer’s blog, they have stressed that the alpha build is not meant for mainstream public use and should be used only by developers. Being a public user, you are still free to download/install the software, but do bear in mind that many of the features are still missing.
Next step, installation.
Installing Google Chrome on Ubuntu is very easy. Download the deb file from the Chromium Early Release Channel to your desktop. Double click on the downloaded file to initiate the installation.
When the installation is complete, a warning window regarding the instability of this software will pop up. In the window, you can also opt to help the development of Google Chrome for Linux by sending in the crash reports to Google.
The very first impression of running Google Chrome Linux on my Ubuntu is that it is very fast.
Whenever I click on the Firefox launcher, I always have to wait for several seconds (at least 10 seconds) for it to load in the background before I get to see the home page. The more extensions I installed, the slower it got.
For Google Chrome, the moment I click on the launcher, the browser loads instantly, almost without any delay. One could argue that Google Chrome doesn’t support any extensions now and most of its features are not available, so it is logical that it loads faster. That could be true, but still, the difference in the speed is enormous.
Other than the boot speed, the speed that it loads a web page, performs a search, accesses URL history, suggests the URL as you type is also much faster than Firefox. And also more intelligent, in my opinion.
We have already covered plenty of Google Chrome features, including the tips and tricks, so I shall not delve into that. Overall, what is working in this alpha build is basic browsing, new tabs, simple tab dragging, search from URL bar, incognito mode and full page zoom.
What is lacking for now?
In short, it is still lacking a whole great list of things. There is no flash support, means you won’t be able to watch any videos on Youtube, no printing, no complex text support, no complex tab dragging (pulling the tab out of the browser window), you can’t change the homepage, little or almost no configuration options in the Options page and many other features that are only partially implemented.
One thing that I also noticed is that the font rendering in Google Chrome is still not up to par with Firefox. In addition, the UI still needs some polishing to make full of the GTK+ theme.
Should you install?
Google has make it clear that this is still an alpha release and should be installed by developers only. I am not a developer, but I am already enjoying the benefits of its speed. For basic browsing (checking mail, reading articles, performing searches in search engines), Google Chrome can do its job well, but for anything that is more complex, you will have to fall back to your native browser. There is no harm in installing it and trying it out for yourselves, I am already using it as my default browser. For complex stuff, I guess I’ll have to stick with Firefox.
Don’t forget that this is only the Linux version. My colleague, Jeffry, will be reviewing its Mac counterpart. Watch out for his article. Will it be better or worse? Find out soon.
What do you think about this alpha release? Did Google do the right thing by releasing such a raw version of their browser? Are you satisfied with it? Let it all out in the comments!