10 hidden Google Chrome settings that you need to turn on
There are more ways to tweak and customize Chrome than you might have realized.
There are two settings panels in Google Chrome for desktop: One that appears when you choose Settings from the application menu, and one that appears when you type chrome://flags into the address bar and hit Enter.
These Chrome flags are more experimental settings aimed at power users, but anyone can make use of them. They let you control the appearance of the browser, tweak performance, speed up downloading, and plenty more.
To find the ones that you’re interested in, use the search box at the top of the flags list, and then enable or disable them using the drop-down menus on the right-hand side. Here, we have some suggestions.
1. Force dark mode
When it comes to dark mode, Google Chrome will follow the lead of the operating system you’re running it on by default: If Windows or macOS is set in its dark mode configuration, then Chrome will adapt accordingly.
[Related: How to turn on ‘dark mode’ for all your gadgets and apps]
If you’d rather use Chrome in dark mode all the time, find the #enable-force-dark flag and set it to Enabled. Every site you visit from then on will get the message to show its contents in dark mode, no matter what the rest of your software is doing.
2. Search images with Google Lens
Google Lens is a visual search tool: It can identify landmarks, animals, storefronts, and much more. It’s available in various places, including as a mobile app, and with the right flag enabled you can take advantage of it in Chrome as well.
The flag you need to switch on is #enable-lens-region-search. Once that’s done, right-click on a blank part of any webpage, choose Search Images with Google Lens, and select the image you want to search with.
3. See quick previews of open tabs
Enable the #tab-hover-card-images flag in the list and navigating between large numbers of tabs will suddenly become much easier.
As you hover the cursor over the tab, you’ll not only see the title of the webpage contained within it, but you’ll also see a pop-up thumbnail of the content it’s showing as well.
4. Keep more webpages in the cache
Locate the #back-forward-cache flag, set it to Enabled, and Chrome will keep more pages cached locally on your computer as you make use of the forward and backward buttons in the browser.
This improves browsing speed on slower or less stable internet connections (if you’re going forward and backward a lot, at least), because pages won’t have to be loaded from the web each time.
5. Freeze tabs you’re not using
Chrome supports the grouping of tabs now, to help you manage them better. When you hide a group of tabs under the group header to tidy up your tab bar, that’s known as collapsing a tab group.
When enabled, the #tab-groups-collapse-freezing flag will freeze the tabs in a group when you collapse them. That means they’ll be in a hibernated state and not taking up any system resources until you open them again.
6. Import your passwords
There’s a password manager built right into Google Chrome, which you can find by clicking on the three dots in the top right corner, then choosing Settings, Auto-fill, and Passwords.
Click on the three dots on the right just above the password list and you’ll find an option to export your passwords—if you want to be able to import passwords into Chrome too, enable the #password-import flag.
7. Speed up downloads
Parallel downloading is where an application requests a download several times, which should speed up transfer times in a lot of cases. If you don’t mind the extra bandwidth this can take up, you can switch on the feature by finding the #enable-parallel-downloading flag and switching it to Enabled.
8. Enable Reader Mode
The #enable-reader-mode flag will turn on Chrome’s hidden Reader Mode—a stripped-down, easy-on-the-eye page layout that cuts out adverts and a lot of page furniture to just leave the text and the images of the article you’re looking at.
When this flag is turned on, and you’re on a page that can be converted to Reader Mode, you’ll see a little book icon on the right of the address bar. Click it to turn the more straightforward reading experience on or off.
9. Reduce video data usage
If you’re on an unstable internet connection, or away from home tethered to the data connection on your phone, you might want to minimize the amount of data you’re using through Chrome.
[Related: Stop your streaming apps from eating all your data]
Enable the Chrome flag #enable-lite-video and the browser will request low-resolution versions of videos from the sites that you visit. You’ll lose some visual clarity along the way, but you’ll also be using much less data while you watch.
10. Fill out forms faster
To save you time when filling out forms and making payments on the web, Chrome will keep information such as addresses and credit card details stored for you if you want. By default, it will suggest details as you move through a form, giving you the option to select suggestions as you go.
But if you switch the #show-autofill-type-predictions flag to Enabled then these suggestions will automatically be put in for you, no typing required. Assuming Chrome identifies the form fields correctly, it should save you more time.