The next version of Google’s browser has been promoted to beta status. You can now download Chrome 6 beta and start testing it out on multiple platforms.
The biggest new features? There’s a simplified user interface in Chrome 6, a new autofill feature for completing web forms, and better syncing, including support for autofill data and extensions. If you’ve been using the dev channel or canary releases of Chrome, you’ve seen these features showing up one by one over the last few weeks.
The browser’s skin has been tweaked slightly to streamline the tab and button layouts, and there’s a new unified button that marries the old Tools and Menu buttons found in previous versions of Chrome. The new menu button holds all the most popular controls, as well as some oddly placed buttons for zooming pages, launching fullscreen mode, and performing copy/paste tasks. I don’t think any of us are going to be abandoning keyboard shortcuts for these options any time soon.
The autofill feature is integrated with the sync feature in Chrome 6 beta, so all of your instances of Chrome (home, work, laptop) will be able to share not only preferences, extensions, browsing data and themes, but also form data. You can autofill forms with the same information — provided you’re logged into Google using the same account in each location. Chrome can remember, store and sync any set of common information you’d normally put into a web form (names, e-mail, mailing addresses, phone numbers). You can simply select which data set to choose from when the autofill feature takes over.
Chrome can also remember credit card numbers, but you have to explicitly add them in the autofill feature’s preferences.
This version of Chrome will likely move from beta to a general stable release in a few weeks. We should expect the next version of Chrome to follow along only six weeks after that, as Google has sped up its release cycle to put a new version of its browser out every month and a half.