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.
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.
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.
4. The site will now appear under the ‘Other search engines' field in the Search Engines configuration window. Highlight the site in the list, click Edit and enter a simple keyword. The next time you want to perform a search at this site, type the keyword in Chrome's address bar, followed by your search term.
5. Unlike most browsers, Chrome lacks a Home button. If you feel lost without it, however, you can select Google Chrome Options from the Wrench icon and click the Basics tab. Select the ‘Show Home button on the Toolbar' box and, voila, you'll have a home button again.
6. If you're fed up with comment boxes that are too small for your musings, Chrome can help you overcome this limitation. When faced with a tiny comment box on any website, simply click and drag the cursor at the bottom righthand corner of the box to create more space for your wordly wisdom.
7. If you're an XP user, brighten up your browsing experience with Chrome's very own Easter egg. Type ‘about:internets' into the address bar and a number of coloured tubes will snake their way across the screen. The feature is a tribute to US senator Ted Stevens, who once described the internet as "a series of tubes".
8. Chrome lets you create a shortcut to any web page on your desktop and in your Start menu. Type a URL into Chrome's address bar, then click Page Control, Create Application Shortcut. A pop-up dialog will ask where you want the shortcut to be stored. Press ok to save the shortcut.