Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is Chromium better than Google Chrome?

What is Chromium?
Google Chrome has made a big splash in the browser pond even though it's still feature poor compared to more mature browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. Many people would agree that the biggest share of this newbie browser's success is due to the big marketing muscles that Google can flex. Just as many people aren't aware that Google's browser success is also due to the fact that it's a branded version of the free and open source Chromium browser.

The Chromium project is the test bed for most of the new features that end up Google's browser. There aren't many visible differences between Chromium and Google Chrome so you may find that the line between the two is pretty blurry. But if you want the latest features, surfing speed and simplicity, you may want to try out the latest build of the Chromium web browser. You can even run it as a portable application so that it won't interfere with any of your installed browsers. I'll tell you how to do that and offer you a few tips as well.

News Flash 8/4/05: Themes for Google Chrome are now available and work well in Chromium and the Portable Chrome I’ve mentioned below.

Where's the download?
If you went looking for Chromium, it's very likely you'll only end up finding places to download Google Chrome. It's not hidden, but it's surely not well advertised. The Chromium testers have a page where they host packaged versions of the daily builds. Once there, you can choose to download a EXE file with a built in installer, or a ZIP version.

Chromium Download (manual install) (exe installer)

There are beta versions available for those wishing to try out Chromium for the Mac and Chromium for Linux. These versions are still partially broken but work on them continues.

Chromium for Mac and Linux

How do I install Chromium?
I recommend downloading the package. Once I've done that, I simply unpack the zip file into a folder and I run it from that location after creating shortcuts to chrome.exe. The mini-installer.exe package does not allow you to choose where Chromium is installed. It places the application files into a hard to find subfolder under your Documents and Settings. I think that's a terrible place to store applications.

I can also recommend using the Portable Chrome package which can be found at a German blog by a person named Caschy. The portable version does not store your profile, history and cache files in your Documents and Settings folders.

Portable Chrome Download

This portable package is downloaded as an EXE file, but it's a simple self extracting archive which will only ask you where you want to unpack the files. Caschy's portable Chromium package may not be as up to date as the packages at the site. I always update my Portable Chrome by downloading the latest and unpacking it into the "Chrome" subfolder in my Portable Chrome folder. I make sure that I launch Chromium using a shortcut to the ChromeLoader.exe file in the Portable Chrome folder.

Some of you may be aware that even Chromium, like Google Chrome, still contacts Google servers. If this concerns you, you can always download a portable version of SRWare Iron which is another version of Chromium which doesn't contact any outside servers at all. It does get updated occasionally but I always want the most up to date version of Chromium and for that reason alone I put up with the connections to Google. I typically have a tab or two open to either Google Mail or Google Reader in any case and I'm not too concerned about sharing my surfing habits.

Download SRWare Iron (web browser for privacy fanatics)

How do I add more features to Chromium?
Right now, extensions (addons) aren't well supported but they can be used. I have tried using them with only limited success. I've found the best method is to use javascript Bookmarklets which often allow you to do many of the same things that the addons in Firefox do for you. For those of you who aren't familiar with Bookmarklets (or Favlets for IE users), these are simply bookmarks that you can drag to your Bookmark toolbar and click on when you are at a web page where they'll do a job for you. The very same bookmarklets I use in Chromium often work just as well in Firefox and Internet Explorer. This fact makes it easier to switch between browsers when you need to. Below is a short list of my favorite Bookmarklets and some links to other lists of Bookmarklets that others find useful.

My favorite Bookmarklets

  • LastPass Login - quickly fills in all your usernames and passwords for web logins - requires a free account at
  • Delicious Bookmark - allows you to post your favorite bookmarks online - requires a free account at
  • - allows you shorten URLs and to make simultaneous posts to Twitter and Facebook - requires an account at
  • Readability - scrubs all the non-essential ads and makes text larger on many blogs and web sites
  • Youtube to MP4 - allows you to download Youtube videos as MP4 files for playing on iPods or your PC
  • Remove Bloat - removes distracting advertisements on many sites
  • Evernote - allows you to quickly add clippings to your Evernote PIM and web account - requires a free account at

Links to lists of useful Bookmarklets:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

How to launch programs using only 3 keys

a tip for Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP

One nice thing about Windows is that there are plenty of ways to launch applications. The most common way would be to click on the green Start button and look around for what you want to run.

There is another way to use the Start button that many people either don't know about or have long forgotten. You can open the Start menu from your keyboard using the fancy key with the Windows logo on it. This key is often called the "Windows" key.

Why would you want to start using the Windows key? The one word answer is ... SPEED.

I've set up my work PC so that I can launch any one of 36 different apps using only three keys. My fingers never have to leave the keyboard and in most cases I don't struggle to remember what keys I need to hit.

Here's how to set up your own three key speed launcher.

1. First, you'll have to start using the Classic Start menu if you aren't already. Just right click on the Start button and choose properties. Then choose the Classic radio button.

2. Open up your Start menu for editing by right clicking on the Start button and choosing Explore.

3. Add your own special launch folder. I've named mine "xLinks" but you can use any name as long as you start it with a letter that doesn't already appear as the leading letter for some other menu item.

4. Open your new launch folder and start adding and creating your shortcuts in it. Here's an example of some of the shortcuts I've added to mine. Notice that all of the shortcut names each start with a unique letter of the alphabet or the numbers 0 through 9. This allows you to have 36 unique shortcuts.

5. You are essentially done once you've added shortcuts into the launch folder. The only question remaining is how they can be used. Here's what I see when I hit the Windows key then X.

If I hit one more key, I'll launch the corresponding shortcut in that menu. For example, if I had hit the Windows key then X then P, I would have launched my Windows Paint program. I can hit these key combinations fast enough that you can barely see the menus flash up. Most users would have still been reaching for the mouse while I was opening my application.

I've found that it's a great way to impress folks looking over my shoulder. They'll often ask what I'd just done. If I feel like being cryptic that day, I just say "It's magic!".