Chrome for Linux Improving at a Brisk Pace

When Google released its Chrome web browser for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X users were left out in the rain, without the ability to enjoy all the goodness that is Chrome. Thanks to the relentless porting efforts of the Chromium team, we now have daily builds of the Chrome/Chromium web browser, and I decided to take a look where the Linux version stands.

Installing Chrome/Chromium is easy, but it starts with the decision which variant you want: Google’s Chrome,or the brandless Chromium. Chromium builds are updated daily, while Google Chrome builds are more irregular. I opted for Google’s Chrome, but installing either of them is as easy as 1-2-3; Google offers a .deb package which will not only install Chrome (you can pick either 32bit or 64bit), but which will also add a repository so Chrome gets updated automatically.

Both Google Chrome and Chromium do not yet have Flash support enabled by default, but it’s quite easy to enable said support with minor CLI magic; you need to create a plugin directory in Chrome’s directory, and then create a symbolic link to within this directory.

sudo mkdir /opt/google/chrome/plugins/<br />
cd /opt/google/chrome/plugins/<br />
ln -s /usr/lib/flashplugin-installer/

All you need to do now is add the --enable-plugins argument to the Chrome command. If you’re an idiot like me, don’t forget to add this argument to all your shortcuts, including any possible ones in your panel, or you’ll be left wondering why the argument works from a terminal but not from the panel, and waste 10 minutes of your life trying to hunt down what’s going on.

In any case, after all is set and done, you’ll get the full Chrome experience on your Linux box, and I must say, the browser has made tremendous strides forward lately. Not only has the browser become a lot less crash-prone (no crashes yet, in fact), the browser itself also feels a lot snappier than the last time I tried it (a few months ago). Rendering is considerably faster, but the user interface responsiveness has also been kicked up a few notches, and the subtle animations have been improved too.

Chrome with Flash.

Chrome's themeing options.

Support for themes is a very welcome addition, especially the magic button which will set Chrome to use your Gtk+ theme’s colours and icons, making Chrome feel much more like a part of your desktop. In my case, Chrome did pick the wrong window border colour; for some reason, it picked my highlight and icon colour (red) instead of my window border’s colour (black). Also, the main Chrome window lacks the Compiz shadow, even though its dialogs do have the shadow. A minor niggle, but annoying nonetheless.

Overall, development is continuing at a very brisk pace, and because of it, I can finally start using Linux more often again. Ever since I switched to Chrome (the day of the first release, actually), I missed Chrome dearly on other operating systems, so much even that I started using them less and less often. With Chrome shaping up on Linux, I can finally start giving it some more time.


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