This post was first published in Aug 2016, and was updated in Jun 2017.
Google Chrome has enough features to shake a stick at, or perhaps more appropriately, enough features to wave a flag at. Say what you will about the brisk browser and its tendency to snoop on you and lock you into Google’s ecosystem (there’s always Firefox or Tor Browser if you’re concerned), but for raw extensions, customizability and functionality, it has no equal.
One of the less-charted areas of Chrome’s broad feature set is Chrome Flags where you’ll find a database of experimental features that, while not always fully functional, can boost your browser in ways you wouldn’t have thought possible. Here are seven favorite Chrome Flags for your tweaking pleasure.
How to Access Chrome Flags
Before you use any of these Chrome flags you first need to know how to access them. Type
chrome://flags in the chrome address bar and hit Enter. You will see a big list of Chrome Flags with a warning that these features are not stable.
Here you can use Chrome’s “Find” (Ctrl + F) feature to quickly find the features we have listed below. I will also be adding a URL at the end of each feature that you can directly paste in the Chrome address bar to access that feature without going through the above process.
1. Automatic Tab Discarding
Having thirty tabs open at once when you’re not using twenty-nine of them is a big waste of system memory, particularly if you have a lower-end PC. Switching on this feature “discards” tabs that you have open but are not viewing in that moment. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean it closes the tabs, and they’ll still be displayed at the top of your browser. It just means that they remain “asleep” and are not using any system memory until you click them again.
2. Use The “Material Design” Interface
The Material Design UI that graces modern stock Android phones is awfully pretty, inspired by paper cards to offer an interface that looks much more tactile than your standard UI. There are well over ten Chrome flags in total that change different elements of Chrome to the Material Design look including your history page, extensions, bookmarks, and policy page, as well as one that extends the Material Design to “the rest of the browser’s native UI.”
The best way to look for all of these in Flags is to hit “Ctrl + F” on the flags page, then type “material” into the find box and flick through them that way.
3. Enable Smooth Scrolling
As the name suggests, this lets you smoothly scroll through the content. When you scroll in Chrome using your mouse or the arrow keys, there is a little stuttering in the animation. In my experience this makes it hard to quickly go through content and easily read what is important at the same time (bad for content skimmers). With this option enabled, smooth scrolling just feels right and professional.
Just search for “Smooth Scrolling,” or you can type
chrome://flags/#smooth-scrolling in the address bar to directly access it. Enable it using the drop-down menu below it.
4. Quickly Mute Tabs
Chrome shows a tiny speaker icon on the right side of the tabs that have audio playing inside. This enables you to quickly find the source of the audio and mute or stop it. By enabling this Chrome flag, the speaker icon will act as a mute button so you can click on it to quickly mute the tab without even moving to it. Of course you can right-click the tab and select “Mute tab” to mute it, but this is much faster without any distractions.
Look for the feature “Tab audio muting UI control,” or type
chrome://flags/#enable-tab-audio-muting to directly access it. Click on the “Enable” button below it to enable it.
5. Enable Fast Tab/Window Close
When this flag is enabled all the tabs and windows you close will be closed instantly without any delay. This doesn’t mean that it lets you skip through the closing process. What it does is hide the tab immediately once it is closed. The closing process still continues in the background without you knowing it.
This definitely speeds up your browsing experience even if isn’t actually speeding up anything. You can quickly close all the tabs you like and continue working while tabs close in the background without being a hurdle in your work.
Search for “Fast tab/window close,” or type
chrome://flags/#enable-fast-unload to directly access it. Click the “Enable” button below it.
6. Enable Experimental QUIC protocol
QUIC protocol is a new connection protocol created by Google that is still under development. QUIC is supposed to be a mixture of TCP and UDP protocols that is much faster and secure at the same time. Usually when we are on a TCP or UDP connection, it takes multiple trips to the server before a connection is stable (which takes time) and ready to exchange data. QUIC protocol’s main goal is to only make a single trip to create a connection and start the data exchange process, thus increasing the overall browsing and data exchange speed.
In Chrome you can enable QUIC protocol to start taking advantage of this protocol right now and speed up browsing. Look for the flag “Experimental QUIC protocol,” or type
chrome://flags/#enable-quic to directly access it. Use the drop-down menu below it to enable it.
7. Enable Password Generation
When this flag is enabled, Chrome will automatically generate a strong password for you when it detects you are on a sign-up page. This is a handy feature that will help you generate a strong password without any help of third-party tools. Search for “Password generation,” or type
chrome://flags/#enable-password-generation to directly access it. Enable it from the drop-down menu.
From the same Chrome Flags you can also enable Chrome Offline mode that allows you to access already-visited websites without the need of an Internet connection. I have written a step-by-step guide on How to enable and use offline mode in Chrome; you can check it out if you are interested.
These are just some of the Chrome flags that will enhance your browsing experience. Although there are dozens of other flags to try, we do not recommend you mess with them unless you know exactly what you are doing. These experiments can prevent you from browsing normally and may even lead to data loss, so be very careful and only enable what we have mentioned above.
Do you have any favorite flags that you’d like to see included? Let us know in the comments!