Plenty has been written on Google’s Chrome browser (for the Mac in my case), so I don’t intend to re-tread that ground. However, I’ve always spent time with new browsers that are released and have always gone back to Safari after awhile. This time, coming back to Safari from Chrome, was the first time ever that I’ve actually missed the other browser. So I thought I’d jot down some of my impressions of the experience and how it compares to my status quo of Safari.
A lot of people talk up Chrome’s performance relative to whatever browser they were using, usually Firefox or IE. I don’t find Chrome to be faster than Safari in any subjective way, and I didn’t test it. I also didn’t find it to be particularly more stable—I had a few tabs crash in the course of a month in Chrome and only one time did Chrome ever wedge itself to where I had to quit it altogether. That seems about on par with Safari in my experience. That said, one place where Chrome did outshine Safari was memory usage. With a full complement of tabs, with Flash blocked, Chrome uses less memory just sitting there in the background than does Safari. Safari seems to love allocating and holding on to memory for some reason, which is annoying.
I found that when I first moved to Chrome, I would instinctively hit tab to search, since Safari’s location bar doesn’t double as a search entry field as it does on Chrome (and Firefox). This time, I had stayed with Chrome for more than a month, and not tabbing over became a habit that I’m forced to break again as I go back, and I’m finding that I prefer Chrome’s behavior even though I was initially annoyed at the location bar’s multipurpose nature.
There are a small number of things that I missed from Safari when I was using Chrome full-time: a proper, full-featured 1password integration; shortcuts and contextual menus to look words up in a dictionary from the browser; full-sized “chrome” bar at the top to drag the browser window with; and the excellent ClickToFlash plug-in.
It’s ironic that two of the items are plug-ins, which Chrome now officially supports but require hacky workarounds to implement in Safari, that are currently in Safari’s favor. I am certain that it’s just a sign of Safari’s relative maturity that this is the case, and that Chrome will exceed Safari very shortly in this regard. In fact, two plug-ins I enjoyed on Chrome (one for Google Voice integration and another for Gmail integration) are Chrome-specific, and although I’m sure there are similar ones for Safari, the unofficial nature of plug-ins on Safari make me keep them to a minimum.
But 1password is dear to my browsing experience, and the integration in Chrome is alpha-quality, by the authors' admission. I have Safari remember and autofill nothing—no names, passwords, form-fields, nothing—instead using 1password to fill passwords, identities in web forms, etc. 1password is great at that on Safari, and barely passable at just filling passwords on Chrome. I’m happy to have had that bare minimum though, for I wouldn’t have bothered with Chrome without it. ClickToFlash has a functional equivalent on Chrome, although I find the excellent Safari plug-in to be superior.
The tabs-on-top UI of Chrome is frustrating. I remember that the Safari 4 beta did the same thing, but for some reason I don’t recall, it didn’t bother me the way it does with Chrome. I find that in Chrome, I’m frequently grabbing a tab and dragging it around instead of grabbing the window and moving it on the desktop. Annoying.
Despite these nits, this is the first time that I’m back in Safari, and instead of feeling like I’m back at home after a time away, I find that I’m missing Chrome. I think that when Chrome gets some more mature extensions, particularly a great 1password plug-in, I will give it another try. It just might stick.