What’s New in Chrome 17

Craig Buckler
Craig Buckler

We’ve been using Chrome 16 since December 13, 2011. That’s almost two months — positively ancient for Google’s rapidly-updating browser! Like most releases, Chrome 17 provides a number of tweaks. There are fewer major new features than Firefox 10 but some would argue Chrome requires less polishing.

Let’s look at what Chrome 17 has to offer…

Omnibox Pre-loading

Type a search term into Chrome’s address bar (sorry Google — I still think “Omnibox” is a stupid name) and you’ll notice various suggestions and possible sites. If Chrome’s confident it’s read your mind correctly, it’ll start pre-loading your chosen page. Popular places such Facebook will then appear almost instantaneously although I had less success with other sites.

User opinion will be mixed. It makes Chrome seem faster but it’ll sap your bandwidth and could make sites slower by hitting them with unnecessary pre-load requests. I suspect Google has judged it about right — Chrome only pre-loads when it’s absolutely certain of your intentions. However, you can switch it off by unchecking “Predict network actions to improve page load performance” in Options > Under the Hood.

Malicious File Alerts

Chrome will now alert you when a download appears to be malware or some other nasty file. It’s important to note that Chrome doesn’t actually scan the file; it verifies the originating server against blacklists and looks for suspicious activity.

Override the User Agent

It’s now possible to set a different browser user agent without an add-on. Open the webkit inspector, click the settings cog and check “Override User Agent”. It offers various flavors of IE, Firefox, iPhone, iPad and Android or you can enter your own browser string.

Add-on Panels

Panels are small windows which pop-out to reveal applications which are running all the time but don’t require their own tab, e.g. music players, chat applications, stock checkers etc. Panels are only available to add-ons and the API has been updated accordingly.

Miscellaneous Updates

There are a number of smaller changes you may — or may not — like:

  • Page zooming has been improved; it goes up to 500% and is more consistent with other browsers.
  • Print Preview now appears in a modal dialog rather than its own tab.
  • The History tab, chrome://history/, has been redesigned. You can filter and remove specific domains.
  • A new chrome://profiler/ page provides task profiling and debugging information which could be useful for process-intensive web applications and add-ons.
  • HTTP pipelining has been enabled. This permits multiple HTTP requests on a single TCP connection and has been in other browsers for a while.
  • There have been a few dozen security fixes and the V8 JavaScript engine has been updated.
  • New tab has lost its ‘+’ icon. I’m not convinced that’s a step forward though?

Chrome Arrives on Android

Perhaps the biggest news is Google’s release of Chrome on their Android OS. It’s a beta application available for Android 4.0 smartphones and tablets. Like Firefox mobile, the browser allows you to seamlessly synchronize your settings, bookmarks and open tabs on all devices. For more information, refer to Google’s Introducing Chrome for Android blog post.

Google claims they aren’t interested in dominating the browser market. It makes you wonder how far Chrome could have gone had they made more effort!