Google Chrome 5 Beta: The top five features

Google is touting the speed of its latest browser release, but the Chrome 5 beta offers plenty of other attractive features.

Google recently launched the beta version of Google Chrome 5 , the next iteration of the search giant's Web browser. New features include HTML 5 specifications like Geolocation and file drag-and-drop; expanded cloud sync capabilities; Flash integration; and JavaScript engine speed boosts.

There's a lot to love about the new trial version of Google Chrome. Here are the highlights:

Expanded Sync

Google introduced bookmark sync for Chrome last year, which allows you to store your Chrome bookmarks in the cloud and access them from any computer running Chrome. The latest beta version of Chrome expands the browser's syncing capabilities to include sync for visual "themes, homepage and startup settings, Web content settings, and language ."

To get started with Chrome beta's expanded sync, click on the wrench icon on the far right of your browser window and select 'Set up sync.' Just login to you Google account through the pop-up window that appears, and Chrome will save all your settings to your Google Docs account. (Note, though, that you cannot change your Chrome settings directly from Google Docs.)

If you don't like Google Chrome, Opera also offers a wide variety of browser syncing capabilities through its Opera Link service .

Run extensions in Incognito Mode

Chrome's Incognito Mode allows you to browse the Web without recording your browsing or search history and blocks Web site cookies. But Incognito Mode also prevents any of your Chrome extensions from running in the Incognito window. Chrome 5 beta now allows you to use your extensions in Incognito Mode, but you have to manually re-enable them.

To re-enable your extensions, you can either click on the 'extensions manager' link at the bottom of the Incognito Mode start page or go directly to the extensions manager page by clicking on the wrench icon on the far right of your browser window. For every extension you want to run in Incognito Mode, click the "Allow this extension to run in incognito" check box, and click "Authorize" if a pop-up window appears. But keep in mind that browser extensions will be able to record your browsing data in Incognito Mode, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of using the feature. Nevertheless, if you want to save some of those Playboy articles to Instapaper to read later, enabling extensions in Incognito Mode might be worth it for you.

HTML 5

HTML 5, the new programming standard for Web pages, may not be officially ready yet, but that hasn't stopped Google from implementing some of its new and exciting features. Google Chrome 5 beta introduces file drag-and-drop capabilities, Geolocation (such as Google's MyLocation feature), and offline application caching (Google Gears replacement ). The new version of Chrome beta also offers Web sockets, which make it easier and faster for Web-based applications to communicate with their host servers.

Adobe Flash Plugs In

Apple may be trying to kill Flash in favor of the HTML 5 video standard, but Google just threw a big old bear hug around the popular Web video format by integrating Flash Player right into Chrome. This means you no longer have to worry about updating or downloading the latest version of Flash. Just open up Chrome beta 5 and start watching online videos from YouTube, Hulu, and Megavideo. Google says integration with Chrome will make Flash more secure for users, and all Flash Player updates will be delivered through Chrome's automatic update feature.

If you're running a Flash blocking extension in Chrome like Flash Block don't worry, your Flash blocker will still work with the new integrated Flash plug-in.

Speed

Although Google is touting Chrome's latest speed benchmarks as the best new feature in Google Chrome 5, I left this feature for last since the browser hasn't been independently scrutinized by independent tests.

Google says Chrome 5 beta improves the speeds of the browser's JavaScript engine as measured by the V8 and SunSpider JavaScript benchmarks. JavaScript is a popular programming language used to build interactive Web pages and Web applications. Browser makers most often focus on improving rendering speeds of JavaScript to boost browser performance.

Google says Chrome 5 beta is faster by 30 and 35 percent respectively for each benchmark compared to the previous beta version of Chrome. The new browser is also 213 and 305 percent faster than the original Chrome release, according to Google. While that all sounds impressive, I'm waiting for independent testing before I believe Google's claims.

So those are the top features in the latest version of Google Chrome beta. If you want to give Google Chrome 5 beta a try, you can sign up to get Chrome beta updates . But remember, beta releases can be buggy and may crash more often than the stable versions of Chrome, so don't count on a worry-free browsing experience. Google Chrome beta 5 is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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Ian Paul

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