When Chrome first burst onto the browser scene in 2008, it promised to make surfing the internet faster and simpler than ever before. Over time though, this stripped-down, streamlined browser has started to add a number of extra features that can improve the browsing experience in one way or another.
So while Chrome is still nippy and lightweight on the surface, behind the scenes there are all kinds of tricks and tweaks you can try out. If you spend a lot of time on the web then it pays to know your browser back-to-front, and with this collection of Chrome tips you’ll be able to master Google’s application in no time.
1. Recall forgotten passwords
If you’re choosing to have Google Chrome remember all your login details, then you can delve into the Settings page to remind yourself of the password or username for a particular site (click Show advanced settings then Manage passwords). You’ll be prompted for your Windows or Mac user account password as an extra security step if you try and display any of the passwords Chrome has stored.
2. Cover up your tracks
A more personalised browser means you can speed around the web more quickly, but there might be times when you want Google to forget all about you (if you’ve been borrowing a friend’s computer perhaps). From the Settings page, click Show advanced settings, then choose Clear browsing data – you can delete cookies, history, cached data and more from the past hour, day, week or month (or from “the beginning of time”).
3. Launch the Task Manager
Did you know Google Chrome has its own Task Manager? Just like the Task Manager in Windows you can use it to keep an eye on the apps currently running and close down any that are proving troublesome. To get to the Task Manager, open the Chrome menu, choose More tools and then pick Task Manager from the list. To close down a tab that’s taking up too many resources, select it and click End process.
4. Talk to your browser
Everyone’s getting into voice control these days – Google, Apple, Microsoft – but Chrome has had the feature for longer than you might realise. Go into the Settings page and tick the box marked Enable “Ok Google” to start a voice search. You can say the phrase on the Google website or on the New Tab page, then run a search using your voice, just as you can on the most recent Android devices.
5. Choose a different theme
You don’t necessarily have to settle for the default browser theme Chrome gives you. As with Gmail, you can change the look of the browser quite easily – from the trusty Settings page, click Get themes to head to the themes section of the Chrome Web Store (you can also go directly to the store itself). The simple interface lets you search by rating or by category, or you can just click around to see what you like the look of.
6. Mute noisy tabs
A browser tab blaring out music or an auto-played video is one of the most annoying drawbacks of browsing the web, but Chrome now lets you mute tabs with a click: you need to open the chrome://flags/#enable-tab-audio-muting page in Chrome, then click Enable. You can then quieten down tabs by clicking on the audio icon on the tab or by right-clicking on the tab and choosing Mute tab.
7. Check a site’s credentials
The small icon to the left of a web URL tells you quite a lot – it turns green for secure HTTPS connections, for example. Whatever the design and colour of the icon, click on it to see the permissions requested and the cookies it’s leaving on your computer. Over on the Connection tab of the pop-up, the site’s security credentials appear, and you can even check when you first visited it.
8. Change the channel
There are actually four Chrome ‘channels’, which each get progressively more experimental and less stable as you go: Stable (probably the one you’re on now), Beta, Developer and Canary. You can switch between them via this page. If you’re prepared to put up with a few bugs and crashes along the way, these alternative channels let you get a sneak preview of new Chrome features ahead of time.
9. Use Chrome as a media player
Chrome can open audio tracks, video files, photos and more besides displaying web pages. Drag a file saved in a popular format into a New Tab window and you can play it right inside your browser – it’s a useful alternative to have if you don’t want to launch a fully fledged media player. You can browse your computer too – type “C:” (or “file:///” on a Mac) into the address bar to explore your system.
10. Act like a pro using keyboard shortcuts
If you really want to make it look like you know what you’re doing with Chrome, throw around some keyboard and mouse shortcuts. Ctrl+W closes the current tab, for example, and you can use Ctrl+click on links to force them to open in a new tab; hit Ctrl+H to see your browsing history and Ctrl+F to find something in the current page. There’s a full list available in the Google Chrome help pages.