Google Chrome and download management

This marks the first blog entry on this website that isn’t related to fan writing, but is more about technology and my experiences with it. I want to write about my struggles with technology here, partly for my own benefit (so that, if I come across a problem again down the line, I can just look on my blog for the answer!), partly to solicit help from others, but mostly because I sincerely hope it might be interesting. Let me know what you think!

I have recently been looking at switching my default browser from Mozilla Firefox to Google Chrome. I am a Mac user, and I have two Macs – a MacBook from 2007 and an iMac from 2010, both running Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). For some reason, on my MacBook, Firefox 5 was horrendously unstable and would regularly crash (Firefox 6 is better, but I’ve still seen the SBBOD way more than I should), and so I began to use Chrome as a solution until Firefox was updated to work properly with my MacBook. As a result, Chrome now occupies the position of default browser; Firefox no longer even resides on the Dock!

There is something making me hesitant, when it comes doing the same with Chrome on my iMac, however. I’ve been using Firefox for a long time (since before Firefox 1.0, in fact) and, before Firefox, I was a Mozilla Suite user. But the brand loyalty isn’t the problem – Chrome has impressed me enough with its adoption of Mac-like UI features to convince me to switch. It was updated with support for Lion’s full-screen mode quickly after Lion’s release, which is a Godsend on my MacBook’s 13″ screen. On my 21″ screen, as well, the fact it maximises to the content displayed (as any other Mac app would) rather than the window (which is what Firefox insists on doing) is a really nice feature. I would dearly like to take the plunge and move to Chrome, so what’s stopping me?

Well, in a word, add-ons. I have many add-ons for my Firefox browser. I have a plugin that brings Safari’s PDF reader interface over to Firefox. I have a plugin for an app called 1Password, which allows me to access all my login data for every website I visit. I have the FlashGot and NoScript plugins, which allow me, respectively, to use the download manager of my choice and block Tynt (the only reason I have NoScript). I also use the Camelizer, which allows me to see graphs of Amazon products’ pricing over time at the click of a toolbar button. And Easy YouTube Video Downloader adds download links to all YouTube videos, allowing me to easily archive content I like.

So, what does Chrome offer? Well, the 1Password team offer Chrome support, so that’s that sorted. The Camelizer isn’t available for Chrome, but their website does the same job, so that’s something I can live without. As Freddie points out in the comments, the Camelizer is available on Chrome, and the UI is actually improved over Firefox. NoScript isn’t available; but Tynt now allow you to opt out of their service from your browser, which is a little less elegant but achieves exactly the same task. Easy YouTube Video Downloader is an available Chrome extension, and I now have it installed. And Chrome has its own PDF reading feature, so I don’t need to hack in the Safari functionality as I do in Firefox.

What does this leave? FlashGot. There’s no FlashGot equivalent for Google Chrome. I currently use FlashGot to feed downloads to Speed Download from Yazsoft. Speed Download is supposed to be able to work with Google Chrome, without FlashGot. However, this involves totally uninstalling the app (using the company’s provided uninstaller) and then reinstalling it, which I dutifully did. Not only did that not fix the problem, it actually introduced a new one – the preference file on my Mac which told Speed Download it had been paid for was removed by the uninstaller, and because I purchased it in a MacHeist bundle, I could not reregister (the developer isn’t keen on those users that didn’t pay very much for his software, which does rather beg the question why he made it available in the bundle in the first place). Cue a trawl through Time Machine to find and restore the appropriate system files to their pre-uninstallation state (for the curious, if you restore com.yazsoft.SpeedDownload.plist both to /Library/Preferences and to ~/Library/Preferences, the app should be satisfied you bought it).

So, FlashGot is unavailable and Speed Download appears to be very tempramental in its support for Chrome. What does that leave me with? Well, I remembered using Leech (from ManyTricks) once upon a time, at which point I promptly Googled it. Turns out that changes in Lion and WebKit mean that, not only does it not support Chrome, but it doesn’t even support Safari any more. And, a perusal of the Speed Download forums revealed that they’re having exactly the same issue – both download managers are only compatible with Firefox at this point (through FlashGot).

So where does this leave me? Well, it means it’s almost impossible to switch to Chrome, from my perspective. I rely on my download manager, and without it I’m unlikely to switch on my desktop computer. But then, I had a stroke of inspiration – if I just put the Speed Download icon on my Dock, I can just drag links to it. This is my current solution to the lack of integration, but some download sites work in such away that this is not a perfect fix to the problem. Yazsoft say they are working on a major new release of Speed Download to get around the problems that Safari 5.1 has introduced for their app. Maybe that will mean that they introduce proper Chrome functionality, rather than the existing solution which seems only to work for a lucky few.

For now, I will be using Chrome, on a trial basis, on my iMac. If I can get by with dragging downloads to the Dock, and the lack of proper integration proves not to be too annoying, then I’ll stick with the browser and hope that Speed Download 6 features better Chrome support. It’s actually rather exciting; it’s been so long since I switched browser that it’s quite nice to have a change!

  • Richard Crawshaw

    Dragging a URL (either from the address bar or a link) from Chrome on Windows to the desktop produces a shortcut. I can’t see anything that would affect this behaviour so I wonder if the absence of it is Mac specific?

  • I literally have no idea why, the first time I tested that, it did not work. As you say, it appears to work perfectly. Thanks! I have edited the post somewhat to make it make sense, in light of this information…

  • Freddie
  • I hereby eat my words – not only that, but it’s got a better UI than the Firefox add-on, which definitely makes me happy. Thanks Freddie!