Quick Tip: Get familiar with changes in Google Chrome

Get ahead of your users by keeping tabs on new changes in Google's Chrome browser.

One of the hardest parts about managing an IT environment is implementing change - or handling the effects thereof. This is ironic, since IT is about change and promoting the concept of forward evolution to make things work better. Nevertheless, there's a human factor involved in both the customer and the service personnel, and so change can be daunting, especially when it's deemed to be for no valid reason. Worse, if you manage systems you might be held responsible for unwanted change, so it's always advisable to keep an eye on what's coming so you can prepare your users.

Bob's story

I was recently contacted by a user I'll call Bob. Bob wanted to know why Chrome looked so weird; he reported seeing a link that said "Chrome has changed." Clicking the link brought up a window showing what had changed, Bob informed me, and he said "At the top I have links to Gmail, Google+, images and an icon of sorts for the apps." Bob was not happy with the new Chrome features and stated he was considering switching back to Firefox.

I checked my own version of Chrome which had none of these features. This made sense since Chrome doesn't update at the same time for everyone, but you can trigger an update by clicking the Settings button in the upper right. (Figure A)

Figure A


Click "About Google Chrome." (Figure B)

Figure B


This will show your current Chrome version and automatically update it to a new release, if available. In this case I believe Bob already had version 29, which I then received.

Upon starting the latest version of Chrome I saw what Bob had referred to. Opening a blank tab showed me the following screen. (Figure C)

Figure C


(This screenshot was taken on 10/1/13, which was the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park).

I proceeded to sign in and observed the following menu along the top of the browser, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D


As you can see, there are now easy links to access Google+, Gmail, Images, notifications, the "Share" function and that curious grid icon. Since the box two screenshots above urged me to "Click the grid to have a look," I did so. (Figure E)

Figure E


The grid allows you to launch apps in the same way the "Apps" screen used to appear on the new tab page in Chrome. Just in case you liked having Apps on their own dedicated page, there is also an "Apps" button in the Bookmarks Bar (if you have this function turned on). (Figure F)

Figure F


Making sense of it all

Some of the changes make sense - I guess. There is a bit of redundancy with the Apps grid icon AND the Apps bookmark, not to mention the fact I can get to Gmail, Google+ and other locations quite easily without a new interface to assist me, but part of the strategy of menu rearrangement involves promotion AND convenience.

I am not sure I get why the "Images" link is now front and center but I think it has to do with the fact Google is enhancing their image search capability and, according to their Chrome blog, will soon allow you to right-click an image and search Google for it.

I noticed something odd with this new version: opening a new tab didn't always show me the new interface. In fact, I tested this several times with sporadic results. It's not a big deal since I have bookmarks and so forth to access the links I need, but if I were dependent on the interface I might be as peeved as Bob.

This was a good reminder to me to keep abreast of upcoming changes so as to notify users in advance if something significant looms ahead. Google provides a webpage tracking Chrome Releases and also a Google Chrome Blog which you should keep an eye on if you are the person responsible for web browsers in your company environment.

In addition, I recommend making sure you update your browser before anyone else - and consider these methods to turn off Chrome's ability to autoupdate itself. This is even easier if you use Group Policy. When you're ready you can toggle Chrome's autoupdate function for users so they'll get the desired release, or you can push the installation out via Microsoft's SCCM (for Windows clients) or a master preferences file, for instance.

Want to revert to an old version of Chrome? Google prefers their latest version to be standard for users, but you can find previous versions elsewhere online. I recommend only doing this if something is outright broken, however. Always remember that IT is supposed to effectively promote change, not cling to the past.

An update

Update: two days after this article was originally written, Chrome updated itself to version 30. After the upgrade, opening a new tab showed a link at the bottom right stating "Chrome has updated." (Figure G)

Figure G


Clicking "Chrome has updated" brought up the following window. (Figure H)

Figure H


It's important to note the "Recently Closed Tabs" tip - these can be found on the Chrome menu (click the button in the upper right of Chrome) to access these. (Figure I)

Figure I