Browser 2014 reviews — chromium

I have been doing most of my browsing with chromium for the last two days.  So it’s time for that chromium review.

A quick note on “chromium” vs. “chrome”.  The “chrome” browser is a proprietary google product, based on “chromium”.  I tested only “chromium” because that’s the open source browser and is available in the standard repos.  It, too, is a google product.  But it is entirely open source.  “Chromium” and “chrome” were originally based on the Webkit browser engine.  However, more recently, webkit has been forked, with “blink” as the new fork and the base engine for “chromium.”

Quick summary

Overall, chromium has been the best of the browsers that I have reviewed this year.  Page loading is fast, though perhaps “midori” is faster.  I have not had any crashes.  It has been very reliable.

What I don’t like

Having said that “chromium” has been the best, let me mention my dislikes:

  • I don’t care for the way it handles tabs.  Middle click does open a new tab, but does not switch to that tab.  Sometimes opening a page in a new tab will put the new tab just to the right of the current tab.  And sometimes it goes to the far right of all tabs.  I have not found out how to control this.  I could not find any configuration settings to control tabbed browsing.
  • The absence of shadows.  Some sites put a dotted line or shadow around a link that you have just clicked.  For example, dslreports.com does that.  I find it very useful.  However, “chromium” is not displaying that.  I can’t be sure whether that’s a “chromium” problem or a site problem.  But, either way, I don’t care for it.
  • “Chromium” will happily save and enter passwords for login to sites.  But it refuses to do this with for the google site.  I find this annoying.  And I worry about the security implications.  The browser is less likely to be tricked by a phishing site, than is the user.
  • Copy/paste problem.  I’ll discuss those in more detail below.

Bookmarks

“Chromium” handles bookmarks well.  It uses a traditional menu, with a bookmarks toolbar available for those who want one.  And I can middle-click on a bookmark to open it in a new tab.

Copy/paste

I’m not sure why there are copy/paste problems.  But I am seeing the same problems with “chromium” that I saw with “midori” and “epiphany”.  Perhaps it is a webkit problem.  So I checked with konqueror, and it has the same problem.

However, on careful checking, I only appear to have a problem with opensuse forums.

To describe: traditionally in unix, one selects text with the mouse, then pastes the selected text with middle-click.  When editing a post for opensuse forums, that does not seem to work.  Instead, I have to use something similar to CTRL-C to copy and CTRL-V to paste.  I never liked doing it that way in Windows, and I don’t like it with webkit browsers.

However, the more convenient select/middle-click seems to work fine for pasting a url into the browser address bar.  And it works fine when editing a message to post a comment to a blogspot blog.  It is only in opensuse forums that I have run into this problem.  I did post a forum message about that, today.

Private browsing

This works well with “chromium”.  Using the main menu, I open an “incognito window”, and browse from there.  While I haven’t thoroughly tested all privacy aspects, it seems to be doing as I would expect.  In particular, it seems to be not saving cookies, not sending cookies that originated outside the private browsing session, and not saving flash cookies.

Passwords

The “chromium” browser does offer to save passwords, and does automatically enter saved passwords as needed.  For me, it saves them in “kwallet” (part of KDE).  But that depends on how you install “chromium”.  You can install either the gtk interface or the kde interface.  I chose the latter.

On a site which says to not save password, “chromium” does not attempt to save them.

My one gripe, mentioned above, is that it won’t save the google password.

Configuration

There are a fair number of configuration options.  To access them, select “settings” from the main menu.  There’s an “advanced settings” option near the bottom of the settings page.

Apart from a lack of settings for tabbed browsing, “chromium” seems to be reasonably flexible in its configurations.  There is also a possibility of installing extensions.  On the settings page, there’s a menu near the top left where you can select “extensions”.  From there, you can find a link to “browse the gallery” which takes you to the chrome store.  To me, that store looks like the kind of site that I would want to avoid — too much in the way of flashy presentation and too little in the way of useful information.  So I have not installed any extensions.

Overall summary

“Chromium” is a browser that works pretty well.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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