Google Chrome was released in beta today (Tuesday, September 2). This is Google’s browser, currently only for Windows, and its arrival rekindles the browser wars into a three-way race between Mozilla’s Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and now Google’s Chrome.
Chrome offers much faster loading speed and more stability as its main differentiators, but also a new feature called an “incognito session” (which we’ll cover later today), plus the ability to quickly use web sites (such as Gmail) as applications on your desktop and Start menu.
The majority of the Firefox keyboard shortcuts we’ve covered here previously do work in Chrome. There are a few exceptions, which I’ve outlined below.
Here’s what works:
- For tab navigation, you’ll use Ctrl+T to create a new tab, Ctrl+1 or Ctrl+2 (etc.) to switch tabs (or Ctrl+Page Up/Ctrl+Page Down), Ctrl+W to close a tab, and Ctrl+Shift+T to re-open a tab you just closed. Ctrl+L still jumps you up to the location bar (called an “omnibox” in Google Chrome parlance).
- Ctrl+R or F5 reloads the page. (And Ctrl+R or Ctrl+F5 forces a reload.)
- For navigation, Alt+Home goes to the home page and you can use Alt+Left Arrow and Alt+Right Arrow (or Backspace and Shift+Backspace) to go back or forward a page in your history.
- Ctrl+B toggles on/off the bookmark bar.
- Ctrl+D still sets a bookmark.
- Ctrl+J opens a download tab.
- Ctrl+H opens a history tab.
- Ctrl+U views source.
- You set font size the same way: Ctrl+= (aka Ctrl++) still makes the font bigger, Ctrl+- (dash) makes the font smaller, and Ctrl+0 resets it back to normal.
- Ctrl+K or Ctrl+E to search does still work too, but not quite in the same method as Firefox: It simply moves you up to the omnibox with a question mark pretyped, which will then allow you to type in your search term and press Enter to get a search result. (You cannot choose a specific search engine with Alt+Down Arrow as you can with Firefox.)
- Alt+Enter after typing a URL in the omnibar still opens a new tab with that content.
All in all, I’m pretty pleased with the keyboard control of Chrome, but there’s a lot of room for improvement in this beta:
- There’s no apparent way to open the “Control the current page” and “Customize and control Google Chrome” dropdown menu icons in the upper right, except by clicking.
- In a very serious breach of Windows usability, the F1 key does nothing at all instead of calling up help.
- The list of keyboard shortcuts in their help is very incomplete.
- Ctrl+S does nothing instead of saving the current web page, although you can right-click (even with Shift+F10) and choose “Save as” from the shortcut menu.
- At least one keyboard command, Ctrl+O to open a file, has no listing anywhere on any menu. (All keyboard shortcut commands should have toolbar icons or menu entries as equivalents, and those icons or commands should always list the keyboard shortcut as a visual reminder.)
- When Chrome offers to save a password when you log in to a site, there’s no keyboard method to say yes or no — you have to click on one of the buttons that appear.
- You can’t navigate your saved bookmarks in a menu to select a site as you can with Firefox’s bookmark menu. (In Chrome, you can only click on the bookmark toolbar under “Other bookmarks” or search bookmarks in the omnibox using Ctrl+L and typing in a few letters from the bookmark.)
Here are some of the Firefox keyboard commands that do NOT work in Chrome:
- F11 for full screen
- / to search within the page
- Shift+Delete to forget a form entry
- Ctrl+Shift+B does not let you organize/edit your bookmarks.
- In Firefox, F6 toggles between the bar and the document. In Chrome, it only goes to the omnibox and doesn’t let you leave.