Windows users denounce Chrome scrollbar changes that mimic Chrome OS

Windows users denounce Chrome scrollbar changes that mimic Chrome OS

Take Google to the woodshed for messing with navigation

Users of Google's Chrome have stormed onto the company's support forum to complain about the latest release, Chrome 32, furious about a non-standard scrollbar that makes it harder for them to navigate pages and saying they can no longer run the browser in Windows' "Metro" mode.

Google launched Chrome 32 on Tuesday, touting it as a major revision with multiple new features.

One big beef that drove Windows users to Google's support forum was related to what they called unusable vertical scrollbars that had popped up in version 32.

CNET first reported on the complaints.

The grievances focused on two issues: Chrome's scrollbars are now significantly thinner and Google dumped the scroll arrows, also called "steppers," within the scrollbar. Both, said users, are not only contrary to accepted practice in Windows, but make navigating long pages more difficult, if not impossible.

While the complaints go back months -- in those cases from users of preliminary builds -- the volume accelerated after Chrome 32 launched.

"This is ridiculous. Please use the native controls/UI elements of the OS your application runs on," wrote one user on a Chromium bug report thread Wednesday. "I will switch back to Firefox or IE if this is not remedied in a timely manner."

Chromium is the open-source project that feeds code into Chrome itself.

In that same thread, Google developers acknowledged that the changes were designed to make Chrome on Windows mimic the look of Chrome OS, and that there was no simple way to reverse the decision.

"There is no easy way to go back to the previous scrollbars," said a Chromium developer identified only as Carlos. "There was a big change in the graphics stack from Chrome 31 to Chrome 32 which meant to unify 3 platforms: Windows, Chrome OS and Linux, and that includes a shared widget theme. I understand how it upset some people and we respect that, but we decided to go ahead because: 1) Many sites already customize the scrollbars [and] 2) IE in Windows 8 has also a non-classic widget theme."

"Widget" is the term for a graphical user interface element, like a scrollbar, a radio button or a download progress status bar.

Some wags took shots at Google for saying that it had shipped Chrome 32 to "millions" -- a reference to the edition reaching users running the Beta build -- and "did not get significant negative feedback."

"Maybe the lack of negative feedback was due to an inability to scroll to the complaint button," retorted one angry but witty user. "You could remove the power switch from your devices too, then you'd never get any feedback at all."

Earlier this week, however, Google seemed to be rethinking its no-changes stance.

"For the Windows Scroll bar update, we understand that arrows are an important part of the scrollbar for many of you, so we are re-evaluating our design and assessing how we may re-incorporate them in the future," said Google employee SarahMM.

The scrollbar wasn't the only target of users' ire.

Google modified the Metro version of Chrome 32 to make it resemble Chrome OS, the operating system that powers Chromebooks, with the ability to open multiple browser windows, run Chrome apps such as Any.DO and Pocket, and manage a taskbar -- called the "Shelf" -- that's automatically populated with icons for YouTube, Gmail and other Google services.

Essentially, Chrome subverted the Metro UI in Windows 8 and 8.1, a move that has drawn criticism from some pundits.

Metro, also called "Modern," is the tile-based, touch-centric, app-model user interface (UI) in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 that vies with the traditional Windows-style desktop in those operating systems.

But some of those who wanted to try Chrome 32 on Metro have been unable to get it to launch in that mode on a wide range of Windows devices, according to a quickly-lengthening thread on Google's support forum.

"Stinks. I want to see how the Metro mode looks," said Robby Payne on Tuesday, adding his voice to the clamor from others who were unable to open Metro Chrome after version 32 reached their machines.

As often happens on support threads, users posed solutions they said worked for them, followed by others who reported those tips had been insufficient on their PCs or tablets, including Microsoft-made Surface devices.

On Wednesday, SarahMM, who has been busy stamping out complaint fires on the Chrome support forum, referred users to a known-problem page (found under "Hardware issues"), where the company spelled out two situations that block Chrome from running in Metro, indicating that Google is aware of the problems and presumably working on them.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is

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