Google Chrome this week inched past Internet Explorer to become the world's most popular Web browser, according to StatCounter, a Web analytics firm.
Chrome still lags in the U.S., however, where 24 percent of people use Chrome compared with nearly 38 percent who use the Microsoft alternative (Firefox trails both browsers in the U.S. and worldwide). Yet, Chrome is the only browser that has been steadily gaining in the U.S. over the past four years.
What makes Google's browser so popular? Speed, security, minimalist design and an extensive store with apps and free plugins have won over users.
Here are five of our favorite features:
1) In-browser apps. Chrome is the only browser that can run actual applications, as a smartphone or tablet can, reducing the number of programs on your desktop. Currently, the most popular apps are YouTube, Gmail and "Angry Birds." To view the Web store, and the apps you already have, simply open a new window or tab and click the "Apps" link at the bottom center of the page.
2. A single text-entry box. Chrome's omnibar allows you to type either a search term or a URL in the same box. Google's prediction feature automatically suggests what it thinks you're looking for as you are typing — based on your history and on popular searches.
3. Easy sync across devices. Chrome can automatically synchronize your open tabs along with other browser settings, apps and bookmarks. So when you leave one computer, you can pick up on another — or on your Chrome-equipped phone (if it runs the newest Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" software). The Firefox browser has similar syncing, but involves a lot more work on your part. 4. Setting startup pages. With Chrome, you can specify multiple pages to open each time you log on. Maybe you want to start your day with Gmail, Pinterest and Facebook. Click the wrench icon on the upper right of the window, select "Settings" and then choose "Open a specific page or set of pages." You can add as many pages as you want — each will open on a new tab when you launch Chrome. Alternately, you can have Chrome always open where you left off or start with a single blank page. 5. Tricked-out Google search. Google is rolling out more detailed search results that provide facts as well as links. But the DuckDuckGo extension is handier. Add the free DuckDuckGo Zero-Click Info plugin from the Chrome Web Store. Now when you search in Google, you'll see a brief sentence or two with key facts about the term at the top of your search results.