Chrome 26 beta released with improved spell checking, dev tweaks

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The stable version of Chrome 25 hasn't even been out for a week and Google has already promoted the next build to its beta channel and plans to roll out a completed version for Windows, Linux and Chrome OS "in the coming weeks" with Mac to follow soon after. Along with various developer-oriented tweaks (listed below), Chrome 26 brings improved spell checking with updated dictionaries and fresh support for Korean, Tamil and Albanian. Additionally, you can now sync custom dictionaries across devices.

Besides revamping the default dictionaries, Google is also adding support for grammar, homonym and context-sensitive checking -- the same technology you're likely already using in Google search and Google Docs. The engine will even correct proper nouns, such as the misspelling of Stephen Spielberg ("Steven" is correct). This feature is currently limited to English users who enable the "Ask Google for suggestions" spell check option, but Google plans to support additional languages in the near future.

Other noteworthy changes:

  • Developer preview of app launcher on Windows.
  • Forced compositing mode and threaded compositing on Mac.
  • Desktop shortcuts for multiple users (profiles) on Windows.
  • Updated UI styling of menus on Windows.
  • Asynchronous DNS resolver on Mac and Linux.
  • The
  • CSS Transitions allow CSS property changes to occur smoothly rather than abruptly.
  • The calc() function allows you to use basic mathematical expressions anywhere a length or number is required by a CSS property.
  • The activeTab API allows your Chrome extension to interact with the currently active tab when the user invokes your extension – for example by clicking its browser action or hitting a keyboard shortcut. Since the activeTab API requires a user action to activate, it does not cause an install-time permissions warning.
  • The HTML element can be used to represent the main content of the of a document or application.
  • CSS pseudo elements (like ::before and ::after) can now be animated and transitioned.
  • Encrypted Media Extensions allow you to play protected audio and video content on the Web.
  • Enable the Experimental JavaScript flag in chrome://flags to try Object.observe(), which lets you add a listener to any JavaScript object that gets called whenever that object or its properties change.

Folks who are feeling even more adventurous may want to check out Chrome's Canary release, which contains a feature that adds a small visual indicator to tabs playing audio. More specifically, it places an animated equalizer over the site's favicon. Among other benefits, the feature would make it easy to find and close tabs with noisy ads or other annoying sounds. It's unclear if or when this feature will make it to a stable version of Chrome. Of note, Chrome Canary is mostly for developers and can be unstable.

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