Friday Five: Amazing Things You Can Do with Google Chrome Browser on a Mac

Google Chrome IconIf web traffic reports at many Apple-centric websites are any indication, most Mac owners choose to use the default web browser — Safari — for their Internet travels. But Google Chrome is a powerful web browser that provides many capabilities that just aren’t available in Safari. In today’s Friday Five, I’ll show you five things that you can do in Chrome that are impossible in Apple’s default Mac web browser.

1) Download and run Chrome Apps
Chrome isn’t just a browser, it’s also the basis for the web-based operating system known as ChromeOS that runs on Chromebook laptops. Both ChromeOS and Chrome can run apps that are specifically written for the platform, meaning that if you have a need for an app that you just can’t find on Mac OS X, there’s a chance you might be able to find it in the Chrome Web Store.

For example, let’s say you need a writing app and some of the OS X apps out there are just too expensive for your tastes. From within Chrome, click the “apps” button on the left side of the favorites bar (see image below), and a screen is displayed showing icons for all of the Chrome apps you have installed. By default, one of those is the Web Store. Click that icon, and you’re in a large — and mostly free — app store.

Searching for writing apps, there’s Writer — which acts a lot like many of the distraction-free writing apps that are available on OS X. Within seconds, the app is installed, and I’m ready to start writing and saving my documents in the cloud.

Writer app in Chrome Browser

If your kids are bugging you for apps to run on their Mac, the Chrome Web Store might just be a place to find no- or low-cost apps that will keep ’em happy.

2) Control another computer
There are a number of ways to remotely control another computer, but I don’t think I’ve found one that’s quite as simple — and free — as Chrome Remote Desktop. With the Chrome browser installed on both of the computer you wish to control or access, it’s easy to do user-to-user screen sharing that’s perfect for supporting another computer user. Chrome Remote Desktop also lets you access your own computer from anywhere you’re using Chrome.

You can even use the free Chrome Remote Desktop app on your iPad or iPhone to control a Mac, Windows, Linux, or ChromeOS machine anywhere. If you’re setting up Chrome Remote Desktop to visit your own Mac at home or office, the Mac needs to be set up through the app with a six-digit PIN that is used to ensure that only those who know the PIN can get in.

Chrome Remote Desktop

 

Likewise, if you wish to share your screen with another person either for presentations or support, both of you just launch Chrome Remote Desktop. The person sharing the screen clicks a “Share” button that generates a 12-digit access code, the person on the other end clicks an “Access” button and enters that code. It’s fast and surprisingly painless.

3) Get automatic warnings of malware and phishing sites
Although Chrome has been rightly maligned for using too many resources on the Mac, it does a good job of keeping your device protected — in my opinion, much better than Safari. Chrome displays highly visible warnings if you are visiting a website that contains malware or is a bogus site masquerading as a valid web destination attempting to get you to type in your user name and password (phishing). In the past, I was alerted to a malware insertion on a WordPress website I was running thanks to Chrome — Safari never warned me of the problem. The issue was easily fixed, but it could have caused some real problems if Chrome hadn’t blasted a large red warning screen at me first.

Chrome also provides sandboxing, meaning that a malicious script running on a website can’t affect your Mac or even other browser tabs.

4) Spiff up Chrome with a theme
One of my favorite features of Chrome is the ability to install themes to jazz up the web browser. Themes cover the “new tab” screen and the search bar, turning Chrome into a work of art if you wish. No more boring gray search bar or white “new tab” screen! Now you can cover it with an alien or get in the mood with a seasonal theme. Themes are available in the Chrome Web Store and can be browsed with a click on the Themes link in the left Web Store sidebar.

A space theme in Chrome

 

5) Set up Google Translate to translate any website with a click
Sometimes one of your favorite websites might not be in your native language. Rather than going through the process of opening http://translate.google.com in Safari, then typing in the URL of the page to get a translation, Chrome allows you to add a Google Translate Extension. For example, I work closely with the team at MyApple.pl, a Polish-language Apple site. Since I know absolutely no Polish but I’d still like to read the site from time to time, I set up Chrome with the Google Translate Extension. The first time I visited the site, I clicked the Google Translate button that appears in the search bar near the “omnibox”, and it translated the page to English. A temporary banner asked if I always wanted Polish translated to English, and I responded “yes”.

Now any time I visit the page, there’s a short delay and the content is translated into English. This works well with any language, so if you’re planning a trip somewhere and wish to read a lot of native-language websites in your language, Chrome’s Google Translate Extension is very helpful.


If you use Google Chrome as your default browser, what are some of your favorite tricks? Let the other Rocket Yard readers know by telling us your secret in the comments section below.


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