Yes, Google Chrome Built For OS X Lion Is Coming — But It Will Take Time

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Like just about every other Mac user in the world, yesterday I upgraded my machines to OS X Lion. It’s great. But perhaps the most annoying quirk is that Google Chrome, my browser of choice, isn’t so great on it. It’s certainly usable, but many of the niceties of Lion don’t translate. For example, gesture-based back and forward browsing is broken by default, the scrollbar is still very visible, and fullscreen is wonky. But fear not, fellow Chrome for Mac lovers, work is underway.

When I posed the question about a native Chrome for OS X Lion on Google+ yesterday, Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP of Chrome, weighed in. “The scrollbar should get fixed in canary tomorrow if not tonight. Will disappear till you start scrolling. Fullscreen needs more work and we will add it to the list and get it fixed but will take some more time. In general, we care abt a great native experience on every platform and so the team is pushing hard to get a great stable version for Lion. Can’t wait to try it all out…,” he wrote.

Sure enough, the latest Canary build of Chrome has the scrollbar fix in place — it looks and works great. Canary is the early test channel for Chrome and over time the changes found here will roll out to the other channels. Look for this in the coming weeks.

But as Pichai notes, fullscreen support will some more time. Apple offers a new fullscreen API for Lion, and the Chromium project (the open-sourced version of Chrome) has been thinking about how best to implement it for some time as you can see in this thread. The latest talk is that it’s “much more work”. And Google has decided to pull the fullscreen button (which existed in previous versions) until it’s perfected.

As you probably know, Chrome has had fullscreen functionality for a long time. And while it somewhat works in Lion, it’s not the same as say, the fullscreen functionality of Safari. Gestures to get into and out of Mission Control don’t work properly, for example. And to leave fullscreen, you have to use a keyboard shortcut or go into the menus (instead of the built-in button found in other Lion apps). Notes a Chromium developer:

We had a conversation with one of our designers, and what we’re going to do right now is remove the fullscreen button so we don’t advertise a behavior that we don’t really implement. That change just landed and will hit Canary/Dev channels soon.

Long-term, we’re going to implement a proper fullscreen interface for Lion. In this interface, we’ll also experiment with having a collapsable toolbar. Until then, fullscreen will operate as it does on Leopard/Snow Leopard.

As for the two-finger swipe functionality that Safari now has, but Chrome does not, it’s still being debated in the Chromium threads. The consensus seems to be that Chrome should work just as Safari now does with the gesture defaults, but work has not yet begun on it. The work-around for now is to set swipe-between-pages to 3 fingers and swipe-between-full-screen-apps to 4 fingers in the settings of Lion. Not ideal, but it works for now.

Anyway, it’s good to see the Chrome team committed to supporting a new operating system even though it competes with their newest baby, Chrome OS.