Windows 8 allows third-party browser to replace Internet Explorer in the Metro environment — except on Windows RT. You can use Google Chrome in Metro today, and Firefox for Metro is on the way.
When Windows 8 is released, changing your Metro browser will be as simple as installing Firefox or Chrome and setting it as the default browser. Getting Firefox for Metro at this point would involve compiling it yourself.
Downloading Chrome for Metro
To set Google Chrome as your default browser in Metro, you’ll have to grab the “Dev channel for Windows” release of Chrome from Google’s Chrome Release Channels page.
Firefox Metro integration work is ongoing – I couldn’t get any of the current –elm branch builds to function in Metro at this point. If you really want to play with Firefox for Metro and help out, you can check out the Windows 8 Integration page on the Mozilla wiki for instructions on compiling it yourself – not for the faint of heart!
Activating a Browser in Metro
Only your default browser will be available in Metro. In other words, if you set Google Chrome as your default browser, you’ll lose access to the Metro version of Internet Explorer. If Internet Explorer remains your default browser, you won’t be able to use the Metro version of Google Chrome, even if it’s installed.
You’ll be prompted to set Chrome as your default browser after installing it. Click the Next button and select Google Chrome in the list.
You can change this setting later from the Default Programs window. Type Default Programs at the Start screen and press Enter to open it. From the Default Programs window, select the Set your default programs link.
Locate Google Chrome in the list and click the Set this program as default option. To re-enable Internet Explorer as your default Metro browser, select Internet Explorer in this window and set it as your default browser.
Using Your New Metro Browser
After setting a browser as your default, you’ll notice its icon on your Start screen has changed to a special Metro version. Internet Explorer’s Metro icon will change to a desktop icon, and will launch the desktop version of Internet Explorer when clicked. If you launch Google Chrome from the desktop, it will launch the desktop version instead of the Metro version.
Currently, the Metro version of Google Chrome uses the same interface as the desktop version, but with a full-screen interface. Google says they’ll be “smoothing out the UI on Metro and improving touch support” before the release of Windows 8. (Source) Still, it’s interesting how close Google is sticking to the desktop version’s interface – which also looks similar on Android tablets – in comparison to Microsoft’s drastic interface changes between the desktop and Metro-style versions of Internet Explorer.
Chrome for Metro is integrated with the charms, so you can mouse over the top or bottom right corners of your screen and use the standard charm options. For example, you can use the Settings charm to access Chrome’s settings or the Share charm to share links from Chrome with other apps, such as the Mail app.
Chrome also supports Metro’s snap feature, so you can use it side-by-side with another Metro app.
If you find a bug in the Metro version of Chrome for Windows 8, Google encourages you to file a bug report.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 07/23/12