By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 1:56 am
For all you Macintosh freaks itching to try Google’s Chrome browser, the good news is that Google is working on a Mac version (as well as one for Linux). The bad news is that it’s not saying when it’ll arrive, even though cofounder Sergey Brin is supposedly just itching to get his hands one one. And the surprising news is that CodeWeavers beat Google to it.
Well, not exactly, but it’s still pretty entertaining. Chrome may be a Google product, but it’s Google’s version of an open-source project that the company initiated. The open-source version is called Chromium. And CodeWeavers, which produces software based on Wine, the open-source system for running Windows apps without Windows, decided to try its hand at using WINE to create Mac and Linux versions of Chromium. Both are now available for download. I snagged the Mac version, which takes a few minutes to initiate itself once you’ve downloaded and installed the program. And here it is, looking like the Chrome I’ve been using in Windows. (Actually, looking a bit too much like the Windows version: Those are Windows minimize/maximize/close buttons, not Mac ones.)
In answer to the question “Should I run CrossOver Chromium as my main browser?”, CodeWeavers’ FAQ provides a succinct and honest answer: “Absolutely not! This is just a proof of concept, for fun, and to showcase what Wine can do.” You only need to spend a few minutes with CrossOver Chromium to see that CodeWeavers isn’t being inappropriately modest–fonts and formatting are kind of messed up, and if there’s a way to get Flash working, I haven’t figured it out. As the CodeWeavers blog points out, CrossOver Chromium can’t auto-update itself with security fixes, as Chrome can. And another sign of its Windows origins is the fact that it offers to import bookmarks and other settings from Internet Explorer–even though IE for the Mac is defunct, and Safari is the browser that a new Mac browser would appropriately ask about importing from.
It’s also unclear from CodeWeavers’ blog and FAQ whether it intends to refine CrossOver Chromium or leave it as is. Presumably that’s hard to say: If Google releases Chrome for Mac soon, CrossOver Chromium becomes redundant. But if it’s months and months before Chrome for Mac shows up, CodeWeavers’ browser might have an audience. If the company polishes it up…a lot.
For now, CrossOver Chromium is really a software toy that you’ll likely use for just a few minutes, then put away. But it is fun. And it does whet my appetite for a Mac version of Chrome–one, I hope, that’s even more fully evolved than the Windows one is at this early point in its existence.