Archive for March, 2010


Browser Size Comparison

I’ve been using Google Chrome (or rather Chromium) from the development channel since a relatively short time after it was announced to the public, and ever since I started using it I have been amazed at the rendering speed, development speed, page (pre)loading speed and startup speed(!) of this wonderful open-sourced browser all while it manages to be visually discrete yet enticing.

Something that bothered me about Mozilla Firefox — which is the browser I was using prior to switching to Chromium — was that a lot of the screen area was taken up by all the tool bars. Just look at this comparison (follow image link for larger version):

Just look at that ridiculous height that Firefox is taking up (browser to the far left). It has the window title bar, menu bar, “Navigation Toolbar”, “Bookmarks Toolbar”, and finally the tab bar. That’s FIVE bars! Outrageous. Now, it is true that the tab bar hosts only one tab in the screen shot, and you can actually set it to hide the tab bar if in fact only one tab is showing. But open one or more other tabs and the tab bar is there!

I should also mention that it is possible to customize Firefox to show nothing but the window title bar and the menu bar (with the addition of the tab bar if this is the current case). So that condenses it quite a bit. You can also choose to use small buttons for the “Navigation Toolbar”, but it doesn’t really make them considerably smaller in my opinion.

Next is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8. Counting the bars of IE8, we see 4 bars: the window title bar, navigation toolbar with back and forward buttons, location text field, and search text field. Quite good utilization of a bar, in my opinion. Then a poorly utilized favorites bar, followed by the tab bar. What I think is interesting to notice here is that IE has in recent versions done away with the ancient menu bar, since it actually isn’t used very often.

Notice how unnecessarily large each tab seems to be, and that there are a bunch of buttons to the right of the existing tab that would seem to be in the way of newly opened tabs. There is actually a perfectly wasted space in the “favorites bar” directly above those buttons where the buttons would fit very snugly. Why not put them there instead?

Moving on now to Chromium. The compact, blue (in the default theme) browser. The image next to the one at the far right is Chromium in its non-maximized state, i.e. just a regular window. And the one at the far right is Chromium in its maximized state.

In its non-maximized window state, Chromium has a little space between the tabs and the top edge of the window, so that users will be able to drag the window relatively easy. This vertical space is about 15 pixels. The tab height is 25 pixels. This gives a total of 40 pixels. That’s not a lot on a 1920×1080 screen, or even a 1024×768 screen, yet they managed to make tab text very legible and it looks very stylish all while maintaining this thin size. In its maximized state, the extra space above the tabs is almost completely removed (what’s left is maybe about 2 pixels).

Another important factor is that Chromium not only done away with the menu bar, like Internet Explorer, but also has no window title bar. At the end we are left with just two bars! Extremely compact. All menus are stowed away in the Page/Document/File (icon) button menu, and Wrench/Settings button menu in the navigation toolbar of Chromium.

Chromium also has only one text field in the navigation toolbar, which works as both location field and search field. By putting a question mark at the beginning of what you type into this text field, you can search your default search engine (set in the preferences), and by pressing CTRL+E or CTRL+K Chromium adds the question mark automatically for the user. But actually, I believe anything that isn’t parsed as a URL (such as a web address, or a local file name) is fed through the search engine.

I haven’t mentioned that Chromium also does have a bookmarks toolbar. I usually hide it because the “Omnibar” (Chromium’s name comparable to Mozilla Firefox’s “Awesome bar”) is just so great at finding my bookmarks and search history (and even pages I haven’t visited before) that I don’t really need the bookmarks toolbar. And if I do, I just click the Add tab button (the \+\ looking button to the right of all the tabs). This opens the
New Tab page, which features both the bookmarks toolbar and if I choose, thumbnails (or a list) of a few select pages of my choice.

Browsing with the bookmarks toolbar however, is quite similar to what’s seen below:

Behold Apple’s browser, Safari 4. If Safari is be able to remove its bookmarks toolbar, it is quite similar in size as Chromium. Safari does feature a menu bar, but it is tucked away at the top of the screen, as almost all programs do under OS X.

But still, the window itself is free of the menu bar, for you see, Apple, Google and even Microsoft (SOMETIMES) belong to people who just “get it”. Simple is better. Less is more. Remove all the bulk and cruft and what you get is a lean machine of a program that is highly useful. Featuritis is a disease, and that includes too many interactive parts visible at the same time in a given window, within a given area of the screen. Content is king. The application comes second, and therefore needs to enable the content to flow forward as best it can.

By now this post (or more like article) is quite long, but I’d just like to mention a little something about the little favicons to the left of the tabs in the Chromium window. In case you’re not interested in them, you may stop reading now. 🙂 It’s a lovable little feature that has come back in a form even stronger than before — Pin Tab. This feature  was present in older builds and was removed for a while. It lets you make a tab’s width even smaller (just over the width of the favicon), and stow it off to the far left for safekeeping — “pinning” it. This is great for any tabs you keep open for a long time during your browsing session (which lasts days or weeks for some who don’t shut off their computer).

I was messing around with the Pin Tab feature now that we got it back on the Chromium dev channel, and it turns out the new feature (or at least one I hadn’t noticed before) is that if you close a Pinned Tab, its icon will remain on the far left, and you can click on it to open the Pinned Tab back up again still in its Pinned form. Just like a bookmark, or an application that loads super-quick, right in your tab bar. Amazing feature. They are window-specific however, and are not present in newly opened windows. Just like regular tabs. All that’s missing now is a key combination to pin a tab.

Wow, 1216 words. That’s pretty bad, even for me, so I’ll end it now. Thanks for reading!


New Google Interface

Apparently if you’re running a late enough version of Chromium or Google Chrome I really don’t know how you enable this, but you might experience that Google’s home and search results page have been revamped to a new style. I’m running Chromium 5.0.335.0 5.0.356.2 (on the dev channel).

This is what these pages look like for me now:

Notice how the buttons and search text box is bigger, and the Google logotype now lacks shadows and the trademark symbol has been taken off of it. This page no longer features the fade-in effect, but shows everything on the page immediately. Though I have to say, in Chromium, the page reloads much, much faster anyway, than in Firefox 3.5.8 (current version in Ubuntu 9.10 as time of writing).

Update (2010-03-12): Fade-in effect is now activated in the new design as well.

Moving on to the results page now:

As you can see there is an entirely new menu on the left hand side. This menu is collapsed by default but I expanded it to show what it looks like. The options that were available before–such as sorting by date, and other attributes–can now be found under “More options…” also on the left hand side. The first menu on the left is very smooth-looking with its little favicon/thumbnail style of icons, and probably AJAX-powered, with its smooth expanding and collapsing. The menu below it however, unfortunately is not very smooth and seemingly even reloads the page when one expands/collapses it. It also resets the state of the menu above it.

Update (2010-03-23): The lower menu is now much more smooth and does not reload the page. It also features a few options (two at first: “All results” and “Page images” and more as you use other options), and the menu has now been titled “Recommended Tools”.

Update (2010-03-12): The little icons in the left-hand side menu are now colored as opposed to monochromatic/gray-ish.

Another thing to notice is the integration of the search button into the search text box, giving them both a more coherent look.

One thing I’m really missing from this new interface is the handy dictionary on the right side. If you search for a word that Google’s dictionary recognizes, there would otherwise be a link to its definition (see image below). I can’t see that anymore, but hope it resurfaces some day.