Google Chrome and smooth scrolling

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
May 26th, 2010 • 10:13 am

I am glad that Apple has some competition in the web browser department and that Google has finally released the first non-beta version of its Google Chrome browser for Mac OS X.

I will definitely give it a try.

But I must say that one of the first thing I noticed as soon as I tried using it to browse various web pages of different lengths is that there is something that is not quite right when scrolling vertically through long web pages.

I am having a hard time pinpointing the exact nature of the problem. The best I can say is that scrolling is not as smooth as it is in either Safari or Firefox.

I am using a regular wired Apple Mouse (formerly known as “Mighty Mouse”) with its one-of-a-kind scroll ball. That scroll ball is different from other scroll wheels not just in that it rotates in all four directions (up, down, left, and right), which is not really relevant here, but also in that it rolls in really tiny increments, which require much less physical effort than the larger increments of a typical scroll wheel.

That makes the mouse feel more “responsive” and “faster” when it comes to scrolling through long documents.

I don’t know if it’s the use of this particular mouse with Google Chrome or if it’s something that people with other USB devices will also notice. But when I roll the scroll ball up or down to scroll up or down a long web page in a Google Chrome window, the scrolling is simply not as smooth as it is in Safari or Firefox. It feels like it’s working in abrupt increments and gives an overall impression of jerkiness.

If I try to scroll by clicking on the proportional blue blob in the vertical scroll bar and dragging it up or down, I do not notice any problems. Scrolling feels as smooth as it does in Safari or Firefox. It’s only when I use the Apple Mouse’s scroll ball. Changing the “Use smooth scrolling” option in System Preferences, under “Appearance,” also does not make any noticeable difference in Google Chrome in this particular case. (It is on by default on my machine anyway.)

Unfortunately, this problem with Google Chrome is typical of those small, yet far from insignificant details that always end up making me want to switch back to Apple’s own software instead of using these third-party options. The lack of smooth scrolling in Google Chrome (at least on my machine) is simply not something that I want to live with in my daily interactions with my computer.

Firefox does not have this particular problem with smooth scrolling, but it has other fundamental user interface problems that have the same effect on me and make me want to go back to Safari.

Of course, Google Chrome is still a very new program and it is quite possible that this is a bug that will eventually get fixed. But the fact that they weren’t even able to get things right with vertical scrolling, i.e. one of those basic things that people do hundreds of times during the day with their software, does not inspire confidence in the overall level of polish of the software.

UPDATE: A reader has written to mention that there is something called SmoothScroll which is apparently a Google Chrome extension that might help alleviate the problem. However, I installed it in Chrome and it does not seem to make any difference. Besides, the fact that a third-party extension might be required for something so basic is utterly ridiculous.

I also experimented further and tried turning off the “Use smooth scrolling” in System Preferences on my machine. After that, sure enough, the scrolling in Safari started behaving the same way as the scrolling in Google Chrome (with more jerky movements). So it looks like it is simply a matter of Google Chrome not supporting Mac OS X’s “Use smooth scrolling” option at all. Which is a pretty basic requirement as far as I am concerned.

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