My eyebrows rose so far this morning, they almost left my forehead completely. That was my immediate reaction upon reading the headline of Ed Bott’s latest opus for ZDnet entitled “Google’s latest Chrome release tries to replace the Windows 8 desktop” (1/15/2014, The Ed Bott Report). And sure enough, although some contortions are required, that’s exactly how the latest Chrome version — numbered 32.0.1700.76 –behaves in a Windows 8 or 8.1 desktop environment. Here’s the “About” info for that particular Chrome version which, according to the Chrome Releases blog, was pushed out yesterday as stable release (1/14/14).
An interesting new Chrome menu entry “Relaunch Chrome in Windows 8 mode” lets you set up a pseudo-desktop on Windows 8.
First, there are a couple of gotchas involved, some of which may be deal-breakers for some Windows 8.x users:
1. To use this Chrome mode, you must designate Chrome as your default Web browser (no workaround to this so far, as near as I can tell, though some may be forthcoming).
2. Numerous plug-ins for the Chrome “desktop mode” don’t work in Metro UI mode (here, desktop mode means Chrome running on the Windows 8 desktop, not running as the Windows 8 desktop; that latter approach actually involves running Chrome as a special kind of Modern UI app, even though it doesn’t come from the Windows Store). Thus, for example, my Norton Identity Safe is unavailable in this mode (which is something of an issue for me, because it’s my primary password repository).
3. There is a screen snap capability of sorts inside the Chrome desktop Window, but it’s strictly left/right, and takes up half the working area inside the Chrome “desktop area.”
4. I observed some flakiness in working with Chrome in the Modern UI as a “desktop of sorts:” several times, either the entire program or windows on the desktop (analogous to tabs in the “real desktop” version of Chrome, I guess) closed themselves down without warning. Checking my reliability monitor, I don’t see any Chrome related errors, though I do see that the PSI Agent and Skype both stopped working shortly after I started playing with this new Chrome facility. I’m speculating, but I have to believe it might have some minor stability issues. Google’s usually both conscientious and quick when it comes to fixing such things, though.
Overall, this facility is interesting, but I don’t perceive it as a viable alternative to true Windows 8 desktop replacement environments such as Stardock’s Start8 or the SourceForge Classic Shell project. I’m somewhat put off by the loss of some key plug-ins (but that could be fixed by switching to a Metro UI friendly password manager, of which there are many in the Windows Store). But the stability issues (which have kept recurring as I’ve kept using the Metro UI version through the “Relaunch …” menu option) are a pretty definite no-no for me. Chrome is the browser of choice for my second monitor, so that when I’m researching or writing on the first monitor, I’m looking stuff up and checking things out in Chrome. To keep losing my open windows and tabs while I’m working simply isn’t acceptable. But again, Google is usually pretty good a catching and fixing such things. Thus, I plan to try again later, in the expectation that a more solid and reliable computing experience no doubt awaits.