The Productive Scholar: Customizing Google’s Chrome Browser

chrome-logo-1301044215-300x3002There are many browsers to choose from when you want to surf the web. The choice for a browser may depend on which operating system you are logged into, or maybe there are certain applications that needs a certain browser. Sometimes, browsers have certain features built into them that a user likes for their web experience. Google’s Chrome browser recently passed Firefox (a highly customizable web browser) as the most used browser in the world (second in the United States after Internet Explorer). This talk discusses a little bit of Chrome’s background and why this browser’s ability to customize has made it a popular choice for web browsing.

The Google Chrome browser seemed to peak peoples’ interests back in March 2009. At that time, Google introduced a site called Chrome Experiments. The purpose of the experiments was to test how  Chrome could handle Javascript. To view the experiments back in 2009, you needed to download Chrome and open the experiments in Chrome. You can now view the experiment page in with other browsers like Firefox. This site demonstrates how HTML5, WebGL, Canvas, SVG, and CSS are rendered and used inside a browser without having to install extra plugins to view content like 2D images and 3D models.

A big advantage to using Google Chrome over another browser is the ability to sync your browser history, apps, and extensions across multiple devices using a Google account. Chrome allows you to log into the browser. As you create bookmarks and build a browsing history, you can sync this browser customization with other Chrome browsers running on different machines and Chrome devices (like an Android phone running the Chrome browser or a Chromebook). Google warns that you should only log in to the Chrome browser on personal machines, not public machines. The reason for this is that app data gets stored on the computer or device you log into and then others may be able to access your apps and extensions and bookmarks if they are using the same machine.

Chrome allows for Apps and Extensions to be installed in the browser. The difference between the two are that Apps usually link to a web service or web page and usually do not work offline. Extensions are not specific to a certain web page or web service and can work offline. Both Apps and Extensions can be downloaded from the Chrome App Store. Depending on the app or extension, you might be charged to install it on Chrome. The Apps and Extensions that were demo-ed where:

  • Anatronica 3D Interactive Anatomy

  • 3D Solar System Web

  • Simple Whiteboard

  • OWeb Voice Input

  • Print Friendly and PDF

  • Google Drive

  • Share LaTeX

  • Audiotool

A brief overview of safety features that are built into Chrome were discussed. Sandboxing is a safety feature that tries to contain malware that was executed on one tab inside that tab so it doesn’t spread to other tabs in the browser. It makes it easier to a process by closing just the infected tab. Other features like basic malware detection on a site and auto-updating where mentioned.

Incognito Mode inside Chrome allows for a user to not have their web history tracked and it deletes any stored cookies after the Incognito Mode session is closed. Google lets users know that Incognito mode does not mean a user is browsing the web anonymously. Any files you download will stay on your computer and if site is collecting data on you, this mode may not prevent that from happening.

Given the choices you have for web browsing, Chrome offers a Google Power user many features that help them work with their Google apps and devices. Even if you’re not a Google power user, the features and extensions that Chrome has to offer for education should be explored no matter what operating system an educator runs (Chrome runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows).

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