With a plethora of browser options available out there, Chrome is, undeniably, one of the most preferred browser choices for many — be it on a smartphone or personal computer. Although the browser, in itself, offers a variety of features and is constantly updated with performance improvements and new features, users, who want to get even more out of the browser with UI and performance tweaks, can do so using flags. So, if you use Chrome for surfing the web, and are interested in customizing your experience, in this article, we have curated a list of some of the best Chrome flags you should check out.
What are Chrome flags?
Before delving straight into our recommendations for the best flags, let’s first address what flags are and how you can install/add and remove them on your browser. For the uninitiated, Chrome flags are essentially experimental tweaks buried deep down (and not instantly visible) on the browser that add more functionality, be it related to the UI changes or performance improvements. Moreover, in some cases, these flags even allow you to test out features before they officially hit Chrome.
How to access Chrome flags?
To access flags, open Google Chome, and in the omnibox/address bar, enter “chrome://flags” and hit enter (or return). Once done, you will see a list of various flags. Here, you can see all the flags currently supported on Chrome, with details on what they do and the platforms they support. You can look for specific flags by entering their name in the Search flags box, or alternatively, append the flag identifier to the following URL,
chrome://flags/#flag identifier here]. To add a flag, tap on the drop-down menu next to the flag name, and select Enable. Similarly, you can also disable a flag from here, and in some cases, mark them as the default. However, do remember that once you enable or disable a flag, you need to restart the browser to apply the changes.
However, a word of caution before you hop on and start adding flags to your browser left, right, and center — this is an experimental feature, meaning, you might face some random bugs/issues or even encounter privacy and security issues with some flags. As a reason, instead of enhancing your browser’s functionality, you could end up having a bad experience. So to simplify the hunting process, here are some of our recommended flags.
Best Chrome Flags
1. Enable Reader Mode
As you can guess by its name, the Enable Reader Mode flag allows you to view a webpage in Reader Mode, which in case you are unaware, puts emphasis on the body of an article/story over visual elements. By doing so, it gets rid of the unnecessary clutter that may cause distractions, and in turn, helps you focus on the text.
2. Smooth Scrolling
A lot of the times, when you are browsing through a long article or sifting through long and endless forums, you might notice some stutter while scrolling the page. While some of the popular browsers do manage to reduce this considerably, you can even get a smoother scrolling experience using the Smooth Scrolling flag, which speeds up the animations and transitions.
3. Force Dark Mode for Web Contents
Over the past couple of years, several apps, services, and even operating systems have started adopting the dark interface — something that has a sizeable following and has been embraced widely. For those unaware, dark mode essentially inverts the color scheme between the background and the font color, so you have a black background across the UI with a discernible choice for the font color. So, if you like dark mode and want to force all websites to have a dark scheme, you can do so using the Force Dark Mode for Web Contents flag that automatically renders all web content with the dark theme.
4. Tab Hover Cards
If you use the peek-in functionality available on smartphones, which essentially allows you to take a quick look at the content without having to open it, the Tab Hover Cards flag offers something similar, but for your open tabs. Basically, if you have numerous tabs open in the browser at once, it can sometimes become difficult to sift through each of them to quickly lookup for what it contains. And even though Chrome offers some information about the tab when you hover over it, it is still not that effective with multiple tabs. So, to get a better peek into a tab’s information, enable the Tab Hover Cards flag, which offers a visibly-large popup with information when you hover over a tab.
5. Omnibox tab switch suggestions
At times when you have copious amounts of tabs open at once, looking up for one can be quite troublesome. However, with the Omnixbox tab switch suggestions flag, you can look up for the tab much effectively. To do this, click the Omnibox/address bar and search for the tab (you are looking for). If it is already open, the flag will pull up the result along with a Switch button on the right. You can then simply click on this button to go to that tab.
6. Tab Groups
Tab Groups is another must-have Chrome flag for better tab management. It allows you to create groups and add multiple tabs to these groups to make the tabs more accessible and easier to work with when you have upwards of 10-12 tabs open at once. For using the flag, you need to first create a group, give it a name, assign a color, and add similar kinds of tabs to this group. Once done, you will get a grouped section for your tabs highlighted in different colors, which you can then move around and edit to your preference.
7. Parallel downloading
For those who often download large files off of the internet, a download manager is a must-have utility on your computer. Generally speaking, a download manager/accelerator helps speed up the download process by breaking down a large file into multiple segments and then downloading each one of them simultaneously. However, if you do not wish to download a separate software and want to save a few extra steps, the Parallel downloading flag helps you achieve just that. So, once you enable it on the browser, it breaks down the file into multiple segments to accelerate the download speed. [Note – the most noticeable change in download speed can be experienced when you download large files.]
8. Global Media Controls
Global Media Controls, the name in itself, is a giveaway here, as all that this flag does is, put media controls in the browser toolbar. So, if you have multiple tabs open, with one of them playing some media (music or video), you can hit the media controls button from the toolbar and control the media, without having to go to the tab. The media controls differ for different websites and the type of media.
9. Accelerated 2D canvas
By default, Chrome performs the 2D canvas rendering using software, which in turn, utilizes the CPU. While, in general, it works perfectly fine, there are times when the processing can be a little slow. However, if your machine has a high-performance GPU, you can use it for rendering instead, since it is more specialized in performing such tasks. To do this, first, check the current status of canvas acceleration by typing “chrome://flags” in the omnibox/address bar. If the status displays software accelerated, you can proceed further and enable the Accelerated 2D canvas flag on your browser.
10. GPU rasterization
In much the same way as you can use GPU for canvas rendering, you can also leverage it for rasterizing the web content on your browser. For the uninitiated, rasterization is the process of converting an image in vector format to its equivalent raster image that comprises of dots, pixels, and lines. By bringing the GPU in for rasterization, you are essentially shifting a large part of the workload to GPU, which as you might know, is ideal for performing such operations. So go ahead and enable the GPU rasterization flag.
11. Extensions Toolbar Menu
If you find yourself struggling to keep up with the ever-growing cluttered extensions list on your browser toolbar, the Extensions Toolbar Menu flag is all you need to stay organized. Once you enable the flag, it puts an extension button in the toolbar (right where the extensions live), which you can click to view all installed extensions on your browser. And from here, you can tap on an extension to run it, just how you would use it otherwise.
12. Heavy Ad Intervention
It is well established that Google Chrome is one of the most resource-intensive browsers of the lot. Open multiple tabs — anything upward of 10-12 tabs — and you can start noticing your machine firing up on all cylinders. It gets even worse when you visit websites with heavy ad-integration, as now you can see your computer working on its peak levels with as few as 4-5 tabs. Although you can use ad-blockers or browsers with ad-block protection built-in to deal with ads, it is not a fair deal for the host, which primarily relies on ad revenues for the site’s functioning. So, a way around this is to use the Heavy Ad Intervention flag, which works by unloading/disabling only the resource-intensive ads on a page, rather than blocking all ads on a website.
13. Secure DNS lookups
To prevent third-parties from spying on what you do on the internet, Mozilla has recently adopted DNS over HTTPs (DoH) protocol to increase user privacy and security. If you are on Chrome, you can enable something similar using the Secure DNS lookups flag. Once enabled, the flag makes sure that the DNS queries made by the browser are encrypted and done over HTTPs, rather than plain text, which can be easily eavesdropped upon or intercepted. However, in order to use this functionality, you need to make sure the DNS you are using supports the DoH protocol since it is relatively new.
If you use Google Chrome for browsing, you should definitely check out the Chrome flags listed above to add more functionality and improve your overall experience on the browser.