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Google's Chrome Web Store: A Hands-On Tour

Google's new Chrome Web Store offers hundreds of apps that run right in your browser. Here's a first look at how it all works.

Meet Google's Chrome Web Store

Google's Chrome Web Store is officially open for business. Google introduced the Chrome Web Store during a media event on Tuesday. The store offers an array of Web-based apps that install on, and run entirely within, Google's Chrome browser.

Many of the Chrome Web Store's apps are designed to take full advantage of modern Web technologies, including 3D graphics and offline capabilities; as such, they have the potential to offer drastically different experiences from what you find on typical Web sites.

Here's a hands-on tour of the Chrome Web Store and some of its standout features.

The Chrome Web Store Storefront

You can access the Chrome Web Store by visiting chrome.google.com/webstore or by clicking on the new "Web Store" icon in Chrome's blank tab screen. When you first load the store, you'll see a landing page with a selection of featured and popular apps, along with options to browse by category or search for specific keywords.

In addition to apps, the Chrome Web Store provides access to Chrome extensions and themes, both of which were previously available through a separate site. Apps, extensions, and themes from the Web Store can all be synced between multiple computers using Chrome's browser sync utility.

Selecting Apps in the Chrome Web Store

When you click on any app in the Chrome Web Store, you'll be taken to a page with detailed information about the program. There, you'll find a full description along with screenshots, user reviews and ratings, and other pertinent information. It's a pretty similar setup to what you see in most mobile app markets.

If you decide you want the app, you simply click the "Install" button on the page. Within a few seconds, it'll be in your browser and ready to use.

The New Chrome App Menu

Once an app is installed in your browser, it'll appear as an icon in a newly added "Apps" section of your browser's blank tab page. You can click the icon to run the app, or click on a toolbar icon to access program-specific options and uninstall if you so desire.

Google Chrome App: The New York Times

Apps appear in regular Chrome tabs, just like Web sites do, but they may not look like normal Web pages. The New York Times Chrome Web Store app, for example, allows you to completely take control of how you view content. You can change the way stories are displayed by selecting color schemes and picking from a variety of customized page formats.

The New York Times app, like others in the Chrome Web Store, offers offline viewing functionality as well. Even if your computer isn't connected to the Web, you have the ability to read text-based stories within the app.

Google Chrome App: ChromeDeck

The number of apps available in Google's Chrome Web Store is expected to grow quickly. Already, developers such as the team behind TweetDeck have prepared their programs for the Chrome Web Store format. TweetDeck for Chrome links to your regular TweetDeck account and provides you with the same column-based Twitter experience that you get in the desktop application. You can even drag and drop columns to make the app perform the way you want.

Google Chrome App: Advanced Image Editor

Advanced Image Editor by Aviary gives you a relatively robust image editing tool right in your Web browser. You can upload files from your hard drive or load files via URL, then use a variety of tools to manipulate them and improve their quality.

Google Chrome App: Amazon Windowshop

Amazon's Windowshop provides a user-friendly graphical interface that makes standard Web-based shopping feel instantly outdated. To browse through items within the app, all you do is drag your mouse around the screen to slide through items -- no need to ever click through multiple pages to find what you need. When you come across something that strikes your fancy, you simply click on it, and it instantly appears in an overlay on your screen.

Google Chrome App: Weather Window by Weatherbug

Weather Window by Weatherbug shows off some of the graphical capabilities the Chrome Web Store's selections can offer. The Weather Window app shows what appears to be a live, active window to the outdoors right on your screen. On a sunny day like today, clouds drifted by with the sun shining in the background. The display adjusts to match the current conditions wherever you are, with the full forecast information always showing beneath the virtual window.

Google Chrome Web Store: Games

Games are expected to be a big focus of Google's Chrome Web Store. A representative from Electronic Arts spoke at Google's launch event and showed off a Chrome Web Store version of its "Poppit!" game. Other EA titles, including "Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online" and "FIFA Superstars," are already in the store. Dozens of games from other developers are now available as well.

Chrome Web Store and Paid Apps

While many Chrome Web Store apps are free, some do have prices; in fact, Google said one of its main goals with its Chrome Web Store was to provide people with a place where they could safely buy applications without having to worry about quality or security. Paid applications in the Chrome Web Store are handled as either one-time payments or as subscription-based fees, depending on the developer's preference. All transactions go through Google's Google Checkout protocol. Some paid apps offer limited free trials, and all purchases can be refunded within 30 minutes if you change your mind.