It was September last year when I last properly tried Chromium in Ubuntu. Back then, there was no bookmark sync, extensions were a glint in the dev’s eyes and GTK theme support was a new feature.
I didn’t particularly elaborate in that article about why I didn’t make the switch back then. In fact, I open the article claiming that the experience was a mixed bag, then pretty much rave about it! I must have been tired that day…
The primary reason I didn’t switch was that I was hooked on Firefox extensions. Well, four anyway – SyncPlaces, Flashblock, AdBlock and FEBE.
- Syncplaces will sync bookmarks using any FTP, NFS or Samba share.
- Flackblock does what it says on the tin – it replaces Flash elements on a web page with a click-able placeholder.
- AdBlock Plus needs no introduction. As far as I know, the best advert blocker for any browser. Go on, prove me wrong!
- FEBE is a backup and restore tool.
Flash forward, 9 months later : present day. 3 of these extensions now exist on Chromium, kind of. Here they are :
- Chromium Sync. Technically, not an extension : this is now built into Chromium itself and all you need is a Google account. Your bookmarks, extensions, preferences, auto fill and themes can be synced across any PC you use Chromium. Syncplaces was, by comparison, pretty horrific to set up (and needed to be downloaded first), but it did mitigate any privacy concerns you might have about uploading your data to Google. Personally, I use so many Google products day to day that uploading my bookmarks wasn’t a concern. Your mileage may vary.
- Flashblock for Chromium shares its name with its Firefox compatriot, but they’re by different authors. There may be trouble ahead!
- Similar story for AdBlock for Chromium. Well, at least it’s not called “Adblock Plus”! This has similar functionality to its Firefox big brother, allowing multiple subscriptions to keep the adblock relevant, and it can also be turned on/off for specific sites. It does not, however, sport the incredible per-element blocking that made the original so powerful.
So, what’s missing? Well, FEBE, obviously. I still can’t find an extension which will “snapshot” my Chromium install and perfectly restore it on another machine. My Firefox browsing history goes back about 2 years, across 4 different operating systems thanks to FEBE. However, given that Chromium Sync started off as just Bookmarks before expanding into Themes, and just recently Extensions, I suspect that it’s only a matter of time before we see History too.
Google Sync puts all your data into a special directory on Google Docs, so I imagine that anything (within reason) could be stored there in future.
We Fear Change
So did I make the switch? Incredibly, given my history and love of Firefox : “Yep”. In February, I bought my Google Nexus One phone and on that day, I suspect that I may just have sold my soul to Google. In April, Froyo fever started pitching and in preparation, I started dabbling with Chromium again. Finally, after May’s Google I/O conference when Froyo was announced, one feature in particular swayed me towards moving to Chromium whole scale – the cloud sync feature. This is where you buy music on Amazon (or Google themselves this Christmas, perhaps) and you simply send your purchase to your phone, right from within the web page. Or perhaps you’re on Google Maps getting directions, and those directions are sent as Navigate options to your phone. Very sweet. But initially at least, I think it requires Chromium.
- Start up hasn’t changed in 9 months – it’s still blindingly fast.
- Extensions install instantly. They un-install just as fast. Their options pages are web pages, which makes for a very integrated, natural feeling.
- Chomium Sync, despite being Google-only, will rock your world if you use Chromium on more than one PC.
- The “Awesome Bar” doubles as a URL entry location and a search bar in one. I think this used to be offered in Firefox, then reverted. The latest rumours I’ve heard suggest that it’s heading back to one-bar for Firefox 4.
- Did I mention that start up?
- In order to take advantage of the speed of development, I’m using the daily build PPA (details below). This means two things. One, you’ll be prompted to update every day by your package manager. Two, many banking websites won’t entertain you. Here in the UK, I have one account at the RBS and they block beta builds. Interesting actually – even a user-agent switcher doesn’t fool their website, so they must be fingerprinting another way somehow.
- In the short term, a few things will have moved around and will take getting used to. Nothing major, but here’s an example : right clicking on a link in Firefox, “Open in New Tab” is the third option down, but in Chromium it’s the top option. There’s a few little gotchas like this.
- Bookmark organisation isn’t quite as slick as Firefox yet. You can’t grab tabs and create shortcuts from them – you must still use the favicon logo to the left of the URL. If, like me, you keep multiple folders on the toolbar, you’ll find that you can’t re-order the bookmarks inside these folder using drag-and-drop. You have to right-click, open the organiser and do it there. Finally, I’m not convinced by “Other Bookmarks”. It gets cluttered very quickly and takes up valuable toolbar space if you don’t use it.
- Downloads are pretty intrusive, with a big bar appearing at the bottom of the browser whenever anything comes down the line. You have to manually close it after each download. I couldn’t find a way, extension or otherwise, of changing this.
I use the daily builds (https://launchpad.net/~chromium-daily/+archive/ppa), so in order to install, just pop these commands into a terminal
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chromium-daily/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install chromium-browser