The latest update to Google's web browser, called Chrome 32, adds a number of useful new features and changes, such as the ability to mute individual tabs (perfect for annoying web sites). But Windows users are going to notice two more dramatic changes, neither of which are very welcome.
Google describes some of the changes in Chrome 32 in a blog post. But the big changes for Windows users are sort of glossed over or at least deemphasized.
The first of the two Windows-based changes applies only to Windows 8.x: On those versions of the OS the "Metro" mode gets a new look, as Google explains, that basically brings the Chrome OS user experience to Windows. This means that when you run Chrome in Metro mode, you're basically running Chrome OS: You get the Windows 7-style launcher, floating browser windows and inefficient Chrome OS-style windowing controls. Oh the innovation!
So why is this a problem? Metro apps run full screen, and Chrome for Metro does not, instead providing its own non-standard windowing environment. It's like a shell within a shell.
The second of the new changes, however, is perhaps even more alarming. In this release of Chrome, even the desktop version of the browse now dispenses with native, standard UI controls like radio buttons and scrollbars. Instead, it uses non-standard UI controls that match the look and feel of Chrome for Metro and thus Chrome OS.
Here's a shot of the new Chrome 32 scrollbar control with native scrollbar controls seen in other windows behind it. The Chrome 32 scrollbar thumb is only 10 pixels wide—50 percent skinnier than the native control in Windows 8.x—and thus much harder to click with the mouse. And there are no directional arrows for smaller scroll movements.
Even more problematic for me are the tiny new radio buttons and checkboxes, which I need to use every day while managing this site. I use Chrome for this, and they're much harder to click now.
This is a huge problem. And Google's complete disrespect for Windows, while understandable, is bad for its own users. As with its crazy decision to stop supporting Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), Google's actions continue to be hostile to users on Microsoft's platforms. And like that EAS episode, it's alarming because this literally impacts hundreds of millions of people.
(To be fair, Microsoft is no stranger to using non-standard UI controls. If you look at applications like the Zune PC software or modern versions of Office, you'll see similar non-standard controls that are not part of the stock set built into Windows. But the Mac version of Office in no way resembles Office for the PC, which is perhaps a better comparison.)
I'm kind of hoping there's a way to revert Chrome to the standard UI controls.