If Google has its way, we would ditch the desktop completely, instead using a browser to send mail, manage contacts and use office applications. The search giant launched its own Chrome browser in September, in what has been seen by many industry spectators as a challenge to Windows' desktop dominance.

Analysts believe Google intends to make Chrome the window to web-based alternatives to all the programs that reside on your PC.

While Google is some way from achieving such a feat, Chrome shows promise and warrants attention. Read on for our top eight Google Chrome tips and tweaks and discover whether the newest browser on the block is a viable alternative to Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera.

1. Google Chrome looks very different from Internet Explorer and Firefox. However, Chrome can import your existing settings and bookmarks to help you settle in. Once you've downloaded Chrome, you'll need to close your current browser in order to port its settings.

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2. When you first start using Google Chrome, it can seem rather barren. As you use it, however, the blank thumbnail boxes for most-visited web pages will be populated, providing an easy, visual way to jump to your favourite sites.

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3. There's no need to visit search-engine sites. Like Firefox, Chrome lets you create a shortcut to your engine of choice directly from the address bar. To create a custom search right-click inside the address bar and select ‘Edit search engines'. With the dialogue box still open, go to your chosen website.

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