By Craig Buckler

What’s New in Chrome 25

By Craig Buckler

The six-weekly Chrome and Firefox updates appear to have become synchronized to within a few days of each other. But you’d be forgiven for not noticing. That said, as well as the 22 plugged security holes, there are a number of new features in Chrome 25 which will stir the juices of developers everywhere…

The web speech API

Do you have a feeling of déjà vu? I’m not surprised — Webkit added speech recognition almost two years ago and it appeared in Chrome 11. However, it was fairly basic and did not implement the W3C speech API. This provides far more control so you can react to speech events and process the phrases accordingly, e.g.

if (webkitSpeechRecognition) {
	var recognition = new webkitSpeechRecognition();
	recognition.continuous = true;
	recognition.interimResults = true;

	// speech events
	recognition.onstart = function() { ... };
	recognition.onresult = function(event) { ... };
	recognition.onerror = function(event) { ... };
	recognition.onend = function() { ... };

Google has created a demonstration page which illustrates a basic text entry box, but expect to see voice-driven techniques used to control web applications and games soon. For more information, refer to the W3C speech API specification and an introduction tutorial at HTML5Rocks.

Evil Extension Eradication

Do you have Chrome extensions you don’t remember installing? Google helpfully provides facilities and documentation which allowed anyone to silently install an extension without your consent. This nasty behavior has been removed in Chrome 25 and the browser now implements Firefox-like add-on detection.

CSS Media Override

You can now emulate different media devices in Developer Tools — click the Settings cog, followed by Overrides. The facility allows you to test print and other stylesheets without needing to change code, using Print Preview or other convoluted methods:

Chrome Overrides

While you’re in developer tools, try using the new console.clear() method to clean the log.

Windows App Launcher

Google has ported this Chrome OS feature to Windows. The launcher is experimental and must be enabled by setting Show Chrome Apps Launcher in chrome://flags/. Restart Chrome and you’ll have a new — and fairly ugly — icon in the taskbar:

Chrome App Launcher

I’m not totally convinced by the App Launcher; it’s just as easy to start Chrome and select an icon from the apps screen. Someone, somewhere will like it, though.

Full History Sync

It’s now possible to synchronize your entire browsing history between devices rather than just the URLs entered in the address bar. It’s another experimental feature — set Enable full history sync in chrome://flags/.

Chrome’s come a long way and it’s difficult to believe the browser is less than five years old. There are some nice new features in version 25, but a number of dubious additions have sneaked in. Keep it clean, Google!

  • Michael ONeal

    “but a number of dubious additions have sneaked in. Keep it clean, Google!”
    Don’t leave us hanging. What dubious additions?

    • The App Launcher, primarily. I doubt I’ll use full history sync either — sounds like a bandwidth hog!

      • chris

        I can’t imaging that syncing the history would be bad at all, as it’s just text. i doubt that my entire history is larger than a high quality 1 minute youtube clip.

      • James Andrew

        And so we see the same pattern as with Firefox, when a program originally developed to offer users a fast, pure browsing experience decides to start throwing in extra features and in so doing, becomes a candidate for bloat, bugginess and unnecessary complexity. I knew Chrome would do this eventually.

        Of course, such additions can (and probably will) be implemented tidily and nicely but in a few years we will need a new browser in the market to offer the quality “basic browsing experience”.

      • You haven’t seen my history list, Chris! Also, remember that history is shared to mobile devices where it might be a little more painful.

        James – I suspect Chrome will become increasingly commercialized. Google may have claimed they didn’t care how many users switched to Chrome, but they now have the top browser, search engine and services. That’s slightly worrying.

  • What about us mac users? We haven’t been able to use it since java went 100% 64-bit. When will 64-bit chrome for mac come out?

  • Henry Floyd

    You forgot to mention the subtle updates to the UI. Tabs now have a more straight, diagonal design than the more rounded look in past versions of Chrome, and the mouse-over button look for the forward/back/reload buttons is sharper and cleaner too.

    • They must be very subtle — I didn’t spot any obvious differences!

  • ralph.m

    Hm, don’t see any of those features—like Overrides—in Chrome for Mac, yet is says it’s up to date (I have version 25). Hopefully those changes will be available soon. :(

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