What's in the latest Chrome update?

Chrome 69 for Windows, macOS and Linux offers the first major UI changes in two years, with an emphasis on top-of-window elements, such as the browser's tabs, and a minimalist overall look.

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Rob Schultz

A decade after Google launched the first iteration of Chrome, this week the company updated the browser to version 69, touting a freshened user interface (UI), an enhanced password manager and a more informative address bar.

Google also patched 40 security vulnerabilities in the browser and paid bug bounties to researchers who reported the flaws.

Chrome updates in the background, so users can usually just relaunch the browser to install the latest version. To manually update, select "About Google Chrome" from the Help menu under the vertical ellipsis at the upper right; the resulting tab either shows the browser has been updated or displays the download-and-upgrade process before presenting a "Relaunch" button. New-to-Chrome users can download it from this Google site.

The Mountain View, Calif. company updates Chrome every six or seven weeks. It last upgraded the browser on July 24.

10 years after

Chrome debuted Sept. 2, 2008, putting an end to years of speculation that the search company would go head-to-head with Internet Explorer (Microsoft), Firefox (Mozilla) and Safari (Apple). Ten years later, after mercilessly pummeling the competition, Chrome is the browser pick for two-thirds of the world's population that went online from a personal computer.

Saying that "our 10th birthday update is bigger than normal," Google ticked off the top-of-list changes in version 69.

"Our newest update includes a refreshed design that lets you navigate the web faster (and) a completely revamped password manager," Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, the executive who leads the Chrome and Chrome OS teams, wrote in a post to a company blog. "And Chrome's search box (the 'Omnibox') gives you more information directly as you type, saving you even more time."

First UI changes in two years

Chrome's UI changes, the first in two years, focus on the top-of-window elements, such as the browser's tabs. Those have changed from their earlier trapezoids for rectangles with slightly-rounded upper corners, and the active tab has been brightened to make it stand out more than before.

Chrome 69's address bar - some at Google still call it by its oldest name, "Omnibox" - has also been rounded, replacing its flat left end with a curve. Even the icons in the new tab page representing frequently-visited sites have been altered; they're much smaller and enclosed within small circles.

The overall effect is to steer Chrome toward a simpler, even more minimalist design that generally can't overpower a page's contents.

Passwords, please

Another improvement to Chrome 69 trumpeted by Google is its enhanced password manager.

"When it's time to create a new password, Chrome will now generate one for you (so you're not using your puppy's name for all of your passwords anymore)," said Ellie Powers and Chris Beckmann, two Chrome project managers, in a post to a Google blog. The password manager will automatically fill in the username and password - whether the latter is generated by Chrome or by the user - with a single click in the site's sign-on form.

Password creation has been long available from third-party password management apps such as LastPass - and the browser add-ons those apps rely on - but not within browsers themselves. Apple's Safari, for instance, has this capability, thanks to ties to the operating system's credential manager, but Microsoft's Edge and Mozilla's Firefox do not.

Score one for the Omnibox

"(The Omnibox) will now show you answers directly in the address bar without having to open a new tab," said Powers and Beckmann.

google chrome v69 Google

Chrome 69's Omnibox now provides answers directly in the address bar.

The new functionality offers answers to some questions - what does heute mean in English, for instance, or the current weather in Boston - within the address bar, or Omnibox, itself, saving the time it would take to generate a search results list or display an answer on the browser page.

It was hit or miss in Computerworld's testing, with some systems demonstrating the feature, others not (perhaps because the feature has not yet been enabled on all copies of Chrome 69), and in-Omnibox answers not provided for all questions. Although Chrome's Omnibox gave up the score of the Seattle Mariners' most recent game - 5-2 over the Orioles - it could not do the same for the minor league Bees of Salt Lake City.

The Omnibox will also sniff out an open tab and switch to it if the search string matches part of the URL; alternately, the user can open the site in a new tab. (Computerworld wasn't able to verify this feature on either a Mac or a Windows 10 system.)

But wait, there's more!

Google also patched 40 security vulnerabilities in version 69, including seven marked as "High," the second-most serious ranking in the company's four-level system. The Mountain View, Calif. company cut checks totalling $31,500 to researchers for reporting 16 of the bugs.

In another security move, Google also removed the "Secure" label from the address bar when displaying sites using HTTPS encryption, as it had promised to do. With the next release, Chrome will mark all HTTP pages with "Not secure" when users enter any data.

Chrome's next upgrade, version 70, will reach users the week of Oct. 14-20.

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