So the Linux build of Chromium (the open source browser than Google Chrome is based on) has been out for a while now and every now and again I’ve been upgrading to the latest developer release just to see how it’s coming along. Lately, the builds have been a lot more stable, font rendering hasn’t been a problem in a long time and small features are regularly being added. It seems (for my purposes anyway) that Chromium is starting to become a serious contender as my browser of choice.
The reason I haven’t been using Chromium as my default browser up until now has been the lack of extensions that make Firefox the best browser available. Recently though, that’s changed, although the public version still doesn’t have extensions enabled.
A few days ago I upgraded to 188.8.131.52 (Ubuntu build 30813), using the Chromium daily build PPA enabled with Ubuntu-Tweak, and it’s simply blown me away. I estimated that the startup time of Chromium on my machine is about 4-5 times faster than Firefox (edit: I’m running Firefox 3.5.4 but it would be more fair to compare it to 3.7), and rendering of complex pages also seems to be faster (see this post that confirms the speed improvements). That prompted me to have a look to see how the extension support is coming along and I like what I found, even though some of the extensions lack the polish of their Firefox equivalents (it is early days). You can find a list of extensions at Chromium extensions, as well as follow some plugin development at Chrome Plugins.
It seems that the guidelines for extension development under Chromium is sensible and well thought-out (I’m not a developer, but it makes sense to me), and I’m pretty excited about what’s on the way. One of the nicest touches is that the browser doesn’t need to be restarted after installing (or uninstalling) an extension, and the installation process is less intrusive than Firefox’s. It must be nice to come in after someone else has made the mistakes that you can then avoid. Some of the more useful extensions I’ve come across so far are:
- Adblock+ (as it says, the toolbar button icon is missing)
- Gmail checker and Subscribe in Feed reader (from official sample extensions)
- Google Reader compact and clean (cleans up the reader interface…very nice)
- Bookmark sync (the option is greyed out on my computer, not sure why, maybe this feature is currently only available on Google Chrome?)
- Tweetpage (opens a popup with URL shortened and status update text area, toolbar button icon is missing)
- YousableTubeFix (allows downloading and manipulation of YouTube content)
- Session saver (saves tab collections as sessions)
- Chromed bird (Twitter feed checker…lack a lot of functionality but I imagine this will improve)
All in all, Chromium is looking more and more like it will replace Firefox as my default browser in the near future, especially if development continues at this pace. I’m not sure if I’m ready to make the shift just yet (there are still some Firefox extensions that I can’t live without), but I’m starting to see a time when Chromium is faster, more intuitive and more elegant than Firefox.
Note: it’s not immediately apparent, but if you want to uninstall an extension go to chrome://extensions, find the one you want to uninstall, and press Uninstall.