Thursday, September 15, 2011

Almost Chrome

I have very simple needs (in a browser). I want my browser to:
  • Shield me from obnoxious ads
  • Open new tabs at the right
  • Close tabs when I double click them
  • Let me drag links to open in a new tab
  • Let me drag selected text to search

After this week I need to add 2 more:
  • Render rich text e-mails faithfully in Gmail
  • Reduce tab width appropriately as I open additional tabs

Here's how I got here. It starts with the topic of my previous Dancing Pigs post. Following that post I slowly started to move my browsing to Chrome.

While I like Chrome it almost made me add another requirement:
  • Have a search bar

Chrome has an OmniBar. In a nutshell this means that it doesn't have a search bar like Firefox and Internet Explorer. So if you want to search you have to open a new tab and type your search in what I call the address bar. After a while the Ctrl+T to open that new tab became almost natural so I can live with the OmniBar.

Chrome began to grow on me. You see lots of discussion on how fast Chrome is. I never could really tell that Chrome rendered much faster. What I did notice that Chrome is much quicker to navigate around with. The "instant" option of loading the page while you type the URL significantly speeds up my navigation. It can be somewhat disconcerting though.

Chrome had a problem where some of the threads (Windows processes) would exhibit runaway processor usage. Sometimes you could kill off a couple of them and sometimes you had to restart Chrome.

While this was annoying it wasn't nearly as annoying as Firefox's memory leak problems. I have to restart Firefox every day or two as its memory usage will grow to more than a gigabyte. There's even an Add-On for that!

Then after a couple of weeks with Chrome I began to notice that when I sent someone an e-mail and they replied to me including my text that my text had irregular fonts. It made my e-mail look very unprofessional.

At first I just though these were situations where I had copied and pasted foreign text into an e-mail but more research proved this wrong.

I went to Google and found this in the Gmail forum. You'll see that this is a long-standing problem that has been acknowledged by Google.

The last update from Google is on 08/23/11:
Just wanted to let you know that we're investigating cases of incorrect formatting when labs are disabled. I don't have an update on a solution right now, but I'll check in next week to let you know if I have any news.
To demonstrate the problem here is a screen capture of what my original e-mail looked like to me:

Here's what the recipient saw:

Notice how the point size changed from the first paragraph to the second. This is actually one of the better e-mails. Often the font changed between paragraphs as well, e.g. from Arial to Times.

I simply couldn't tolerate that so I went back to Firefox 3.6.22. It was like putting on an old pair of jeans. Gmail formatting was instantly cured. Whew!

One of the other features of Chrome that I liked was the ability to pin tabs and reduce the space required for persistent pages, e.g. Gmail, Twitter, imo, etc.

Golly gosh Firefox 4+ has this capability! Why don't I just upgrade to Firefox 6? Was my brain absent when I leaped to that conclusion?

Guess what was the first problem I ran into? Firefox Bug 574654. In a nutshell this arbitrary developer removed the beloved about:config capability to specify the minimum and maximum tab width and then created an Add-On that performs something of the same function. Go read the reviews to see the reception. Don't miss the one that points out that this add on doesn't work with the upcoming Firefox 8.

But I'm smart enough to always have a fallback plan. Right? We'll see. I had created a Windows System Restore point before I upgraded to Firefox 6 so I simply fell back to the previous configuration. Unfortunately Firefox seems to cross the line between system and user so when I restarted Windows after the restore Firefox 3.6.22 wouldn't run. I had to undo the restore, uninstall Firefox 6 and reinstall Firefox 3.

I'm crossing my fingers that Google fixes the Gmail formatting issue with Chrome soon.

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