Google Chrome is by far the world’s most used web browser, but it’s pretty light on features compared to some of its rivals.
However, many of Chrome’s better features are tucked away in an experimental settings menu, called flags. Here you will find dozens of features waiting to be enabled. Many of them are highly technical under-the-hood changes that will make no difference to your day-to-day browsing, but there are several that are genuinely brilliant additions to the browser.
Below, I’ve listed six of the best Chrome flags. It should be noted that Google classes these as “experimental features” and warns that enabling them “could lose browser data or compromise your security or privacy”. None of the six mentioned below should affect browser security or privacy, but as experimental features there is always the chance they won’t work perfectly on every system, and there’s no guarantee these features won’t be suddenly removed or changed.
How to switch on Chrome flags
To find these features in Google Chrome, type the following into your Chrome address bar:
Here you’ll be presented with a long list of the experimental features that you can switch on in Chrome. To quickly find any of the five highlighted below, type its name in the search bar at the top of the flags setting page.
When you’ve found the setting you want, click on the drop-down menu next to its listing and select Enabled.
Once enabled, you will need to restart the browser using the blue button at the bottom of the page. This will reload any tabs you have open currently, but don’t leave any unsaved data in web forms etc as that will be lost.
If you don’t like any of the features or they cause a conflict in your browser, you can disable them individually by repeating the process above and selecting Default or Disabled. If you want to switch them all off and return to the default Chrome settings, select Reset All at the top of the flags page.
One more tip: if you use a browser that, like Chrome, is based on the Chromium engine – such as Microsoft Edge or Vivaldi – the flags should be available in them too. Beware, however, that these browsers may already have similar features switched on by default and you may cause conflicts.
Tab groups are an excellent way to stop the browser getting overrun with tons of open tabs. As the name suggests, it allows you to group tabs together. You might, for example, keep all news sites in one tab group or all of your social media tabs.
Rivals such as Vivaldi already offer this feature, but this implementation allows you name and color-code the groups, which makes it easier to work out what you’ve got hiding in them.
The screenshots below show how the tab groups help to keep the browser tidier. Here, you can see a website open in one tab, with a group of news sites tucked away in the green tab group to the right:
Only when you click on the group’s name are all the tabs within that group expanded, as you can see below:
PDF Viewer Update
The PDF viewer update adds to the rather basic list of features available when you open a PDF document in Chrome.
With this flag enabled, you’ll see new button to fit the PDF to the page (or screen size), as well as an option to rotate the document, making it easier to read content from printed brochures at a different orientation.
Perhaps the most useful additional feature is tucked behind the extra settings (marked by three dots) to the right of the PDF menu, where you can switch on two-page view. This puts pages side-by-side, which is often preferable on the widescreen monitors most laptop and desktop computers come with.
Almost all of Chrome’s rivals have an immersive reader mode, where the adverts and other on-page distractions are hidden from view, and you’re just left with the basic text and images.
Now you can have it in Chrome too, simply by switching on the reader flag. When this flag is enabled a little book icon will appear in the address bar on any page that can be put into reader mode.
Tab Hover Cards & Tab Hover Card Images
These two flags are related and should be used in unison. With both enabled, when you put your mouse cursor over a browser tab you’ll get a little thumbnail image of the website in question as well as a full description of the site/page title. When you’ve got a dozen or so tabs open and the tab labels disappear, this can really help you find the tab you were looking for.
Force Dark Mode for Web Contents
This one is a bit of a sledgehammer, but potentially useful if you’re sick of being dazzled by bright white backgrounds on websites.
This flag forces all sites into dark mode, whether they officially support it or not. It can lead to some text being hard to read, depending on the site, but it generally seems to work quite well. Note that when you go to enable this flag, there are a range of options to choose from in regards to the handling of images, which you might like to experiment with.
Scrollable Tab Strip
This is a feature for those who end up with so many tabs open, they don’t know whether they’re coming or going!
Instead of continuing to shrink the space afforded to each tab until the point it becomes impossible to see what they are, this feature lets you use the side-scrolling feature on a mouse to navigate between them. In effect, tabs run off the side of the browser window, but you can reach them by nudging the browser’s scroll wheel to the right.
You will, of course, need a mouse that supports side-to-side scrolling.