The Google Chrome universe has come a long way since the Chrome browser was released in beta form in September 2008. What started as a browser added extensions in January of this year. In early December 2010, Chrome added the Web Store, which pulls together in one place those extensions, themes which you can use to customize your browser interface, and applications (apps for short), which will be discussed more below.
Julie previously posted about extensions, and you’ll want to read her post to catch up on them if they are new to you. Collections are a fourth category which bring together applications and extensions to suit a particular need, such as if you’re getting started with Chrome apps or want to add some apps for editing photos.
What are these new apps? The answer might surprise you, because right now they’re primarily just links to the websites you know and love. For example, the Gmail app simply opens up a tab with your Gmail account. This may not seem like much, but it’s my sense that this is a lead-up to the Chrome OS, which will be based upon the premise that most people are using their computer for web-based applications anyway. More about that later. Still, these apps are a convenient way to access websites. And some companies, like the New York Times, are building app-specific collections of content.
When you go to the Chrome Web Store site, you’ll be greeted by a page that looks something like this (click on it and all images in this post for a larger version):
You can choose any number of apps depending upon what you’re interested in. ProfHacker readers will likely be most interested in the categories of Communication, Productivity, and Utilities. The easiest way to reach your apps is to open a new tab (Ctrl-T in Windows). Below is a screenshot of what some of my apps look like after installation.
Notice the menu that is just to the right of the Evernote app. It’s what you will see if you right-click on a given app. A nice feature of this menu is that you can select how you want your app to open. If you select “Open as a pinned tab”, your app will do that from now on, saving some valuable tab and bookmark toolbar real estate. (For more about pinned tabs, check out Kathleen’s post on Five Nifty Tricks in Google Chrome.) No matter how you access them, these apps are ready to go each time you open a new tab.
Now back to the Chrome OS. Google is currently developing and testing its own OS which will run these web-based applications. Admittedly, this type of OS might not work for all purposes. Personally, I’d be hung out to dry if I had to use the Chrome OS exclusively unless there was a web-based Matlab app. But it is an interesting premise, nonetheless, for web-based computing. Google is currently recruiting folks to test their OS. Each participant in the program will receive a Cr-48 notebook and in return give detailed feedback. You can sign up the program here. (And yes, Google can consider this post to be a hearty wave from me that I’d like to be considered – they’ve got my application!)
There are exciting developments in web-based computing, on all kinds of different platforms. Have you tried out these Google apps? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments.