Chrome Actions are the most useful browsing tool you’ve never heard of

Learn Chrome's hidden shortcuts.
Google Chrome Actions displayed on Apple Safari
Let Chrome do the heavy lifting for you. David Nield

Many of us spend a lot of time inside a web browser these days, so any way in which you can speed things up is likely to have a significant impact on your productivity.

Enter Chrome Actions—functional shortcuts you can run directly from the address bar at the top of the Google Chrome interface. They give you access to features and settings that are also available through the browser’s menus, but now you can get at them more quickly.

Some of the most useful Chrome Actions include opening up a new incognito window, managing your passwords, and clearing your browsing history. Once you start using these shortcuts you might wonder how you ever did without them.

All you need to get started is the 87th or newer version of Chrome installed on your computer. To see which version you’re using, click the three dots (top right) inside Chrome and select Help and About Google Chrome.

[Related: Five simple tricks to speed up your browser]

To use this feature, click inside the address bar and start typing. If what you type matches a recognized Chrome Action, then you can click the corresponding button that shows up just below the address bar to complete the task.

Below, you’ll find a list of some actions you might find useful. You’ll notice that these commands have several alternatives. This is because if you phrase something close to one of these actions, Chrome will usually be able to work out what you mean.

“Clear browsing data”

This brings up the dialog that lets you wipe all traces of cookies, history, passwords, cached files, and other data from Chrome over a period of your choosing—from the past hour to all time. You can also use delete history or clear cache for this action.

“Translate page”

Google makes a fine translation engine as well as a browser. This action brings up a small Google Translate box just below the address bar, enabling you to translate the site you’re on from one language into another. Change language page or translate this will also work.

“Update Chrome”

Updating your browser regularly is vital for patching security bugs and keeping your computer safe. You can set this up so Chrome handles it automatically, but you can also force a manual update. The alternative commands update browser and Chrome updates have the same effect.

“Manage passwords”

If you’re using Google Chrome to manage your logins, this Chrome Action will bring up the password management page, where you can review your credentials and change them if you need to. You can also type in edit passwords or update credentials if you prefer.

“Manage payment methods”

You might also be storing credit and debit card info in Chrome. Use an action to manage this data just like you would your passwords. Alternative commands including edit credit card and update card info will also bring up the payment methods screen in Settings.

“Open Incognito window”

Private, incognito windows can come in handy for all kinds of reasons—from hiding your browsing history to blocking cookies. You can open up a new window by typing launch incognito mode or just incognito.

“Manage cookies”

You can use this action to control the cookies that individual sites save on your computer to store your location or preferences. Block all cookies and allow all cookies also takes you to the same privacy control screen in Chrome.

“Manage site settings”

Speaking of controls for specific websites, this action lets you set which sites have permissions to use your location, webcam, microphone, and other features. You can type in alternatives like control site settings and change permissions instead.

“See Chrome tips”

If you didn’t know, Google has compiled a host of useful tips for its browser. This action displays them for you—everything from organizing your tabs to clearing your browsing history. The alternatives learn Google Chrome features or Chrome features work too.

“Run Chrome safety check”

Chrome has a built-in safety check feature that looks at your saved passwords, site settings, and installed extensions for any potential problems. You can use this Chrome Action, as well as security check or run safety check to launch it.

“Manage sync”

Google Chrome does a great job of keeping your browsing data synced between different computers, but you might not always want this to happen. This command (or edit sync or change Chrome sync) brings up the panel for changing these settings.

“Change Google password”

As well as controlling Chrome with actions, you can also interact directly with various Google services, and you can even change the password associated with your Google account. You can use “change gmail password” or “reset Gmail password” as alternatives for this one.

“Create event”

Use this Chrome Action to open up Google Calendar in your browser. This will immediately show you the event creation screen, ready for you to enter the title, date, location, timings, and other details. The commands create Google Cal invite and new Google Calendar invite work just as well.

“Create note”

As well as Google Calendar, Chrome Actions give you direct passage to the standard create note page of Google Keep. If you don’t want to use the default command, you can also try new Google note or start Workspace note instead.