Saturday, May 28, 2011

iChromy: An Alternative iPad Browser With Chrome Envy

Looking for a more Chrome-like iPad browser? 
Google's not bringing the Chrome web browser to the iPad anytime soon, if ever, so app maker Diigo is trying to fill the void with iChromy.

The free alternative iPad browser, which launches in the App Store today, mimics the Chrome aesthetic. Tabs appear at the top of the screen, and a single bar handles web addresses and searches, just like Chrome's omnibar. There's even a star-shaped bookmark button to the right of the URL bar, just like Chrome.
Chrome flattery aside, iChromy's greatest asset is stability. When tab overload threatens to crash the browser, iChromy quietly shifts memory away from background tabs that you haven't opened in a while. These pages reload when you access them again, but it's a small price to pay for having lots of open tabs with minimal crashes. I've been playing with a preview version of iChromy on an original iPad for a few days, and it's far better at avoiding crashes than my previous iPad browser of choice, Atomic Web Browser.

Otherwise, iChromy is a no-frills browser. It lacks many of Atomic's powerful features, such as Dropbox connectivity, private browsing, full-screen browsing, swipe gestures, multiple search sources, find in page, adjustable font sizes and user agent controls. Even some of Safari's basic features are missing. You can't print from iChromy, nor can you set an app as a home screen icon. If you're looking for a feature-rich iPad browser, iChromy isn't it.

But truth be told, I didn't miss the majority of those features when using iChromy. My main gripes come from little frustrations that don't exist in other iPad browsers: The virtual URL keyboard lacks a dedicated ".com" button. You can't tap the top of the screen to jump to the top of a web page. There are no suggested search results as you type. These nuisances slow down the experience in an otherwise nimble browser.

On the bright side, iChromy does have built-in sharing with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others. You can easily send pages to Instapaper or store them in an offline reading list, and there's even a handy "copy" button for snagging URLs.

Although iChromy is free, Diigo hopes some users will invest in its premium web services, which store bookmarks, highlights and web page screenshots online. iChromy, of course, has the ability to send web pages to Diigo. The company later plans to offer a "pro" version of iChromy with advanced features.

Though it lacks frills and has a few frustrations, iChromy is yet another capable web browser that far surpasses the functionality of iPad Safari while conquering the stability issues that plague other tabbed iPad browsers. And to paraphrase Google, it's free and installs in minutes. Give it a try.

Let us know what's your opinion about iChromy in the comments section.

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