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Screenshot of Chrome Beta silent extension disabler

Chrome Beta captures speech, but that's not the best part

Google’s recently released new Beta for its Chrome Browser  includes two major features, one of which will get a lot of attention even though the other probably deserves more.

The talk, as it were, of the new browser is Web Speech API, which will help JavaScript developers create new Web apps that involve speech recognition. Yes, this will be a boon to mobile users who aren’t used to typing on tiny keyboards, and any advancement in speech recognition will mean doing many things a lot faster.

Users will be able to compose e-mails and documents verbally and control the device with voice commands. Mobile users — which are increasingly common in the public sector — could find speech-to-text capability very handy, assuming Chrome can interpret your words without too many slip-ups.

In a quick test, a demo  for dictating an e-mail did well with simple sentences. It correctly transcribed “Four score and seven years ago,” though using numerals (“4 score and 7 years ago”). It substituted an adjective for the name, and left out some punctuation, in writing, “It's not personal sunny it’s strictly business.”  And it nailed “These are not the droids you're looking for.”

But as helpful as text-to-speech can be, I think the other feature will be a boon for IT administrators and employees who occasionally work on their personal machines. 

The Chrome Beta will automatically disable some extensions on Windows that may have been added by third-party programs without obtaining explicit user permission. Originally, the idea was to allow useful extensions to be installed along side of applications, asking users to opt-in before the extensions were installed. But lately, many companies have evaded that requirement, installing the extensions silently.

As a result, Chrome can become a bogged-down mess for users or admins who aren't diligently policing and disabling unwanted extensions. Unapproved extensions also create a security threat that public-sector employees using their devices for work.

Google says the Chrome Beta will disable these extensions and give users a single notification in case they actually want some of them. For users, this could speed up browsing with Chrome considerably. For IT staff, it could cut down on browser administration headaches.

Give the new Beta a spin and let us know which feature you find more useful.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Jan 22, 2013 at 9:39 AM


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