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Chrome is Google’s globally popular browser platform, and while the version for Android may not seem as powerful as the full-fledged desktop version, it actually has tons of hidden features, either tucked away behind experimental ‘flags’ or simply not made obvious by Google . Some of them can make switching between tabs quicker, improve your experience on shaky internet connections, or remove unnecessary functionality.
In this post, we’ll go over 15 and tips and tricks for making the most out of Chrome on Android, updated for 2020.
# 1: Enable dark mode
On Android 10, Chrome for Android changes its appearance to match your system theme, but on earlier versions you can only switch themes by going into the Settings. Tap on the menu button, select ‘Settings,’ then tap on ‘Themes.’
Switching Chrome to the dark theme won’t just make the app dark – it makes websites dark too, as long as they have a dark theme available. There’s also an experimental feature that forces all sites to be dark when dark mode is enabled, if you want to give that a shot.
Chrome with ‘web-contents-dark-mode’ turned off (left) and turned on (right)
Just copy and paste chrome: // flags # enable-android-web-contents-dark-mode into the address bar and set the dropdown menu to ‘Enabled’. If you want to turn it off later, just visit the flag URL again and set it to ‘Default’.
# 2: Receive Facebook and Twitter notifications in Chrome
The Facebook app for Android has never been great, and it might not be the best idea to install it given Facebook’s privacy track record. Twitter’s app is less awful, but if you don’t use the service frequently, you might not want the app taking up storage. Thankfully, you can receive notifications from both services through Chrome.
For Facebook, log into the site on your device, tap the menu icon on the top right of the page, and scroll down to ‘Account Settings.’ Then tap ‘Notifications’ and press the ‘Turn on’ button.
For Twitter, log into mobile.twitter.com and tap on the notifications button. You should see an option for turning on push notifications. If not, tap the settings button on the top-right corner, select ‘Push Notifications,’ and then press ‘Turn on.’
# 3: Switch tabs with a swipe
The most obvious way to change tabs in Chrome is by pressing the tabs button and selecting the one you want from the list. But there are two other ways to change the current tab. You can swipe left and right across the address bar, or swipe down on the bar to see the full stack of tabs.
# 4: Try out Chrome Duet
Google has been working on an update to Chrome’s interface for a while, nicknamed ‘Chrome Duet’. Instead of a single address bar at the top of the screen, Duet keeps the address bar at the top and moves commonly-used functions to a bottom bar. However, Duet isn’t enabled for everyone yet, so you’ll have to turn it on with a Chrome flag.
To enable Chrome Duet, copy and paste chrome: // flags # enable-chrome-duet into the address bar and set the dropdown menu to ‘Enabled’. If you want to turn it off later, open that URL again and change the dropdown to ‘Default’.
# 5: Download pages once you’re online
If you need access to a certain page, but you have a spotty connection, constantly tapping reload for a chance to get the information you need can be incredibly frustrating. Thankfully, Chrome offers a solution.
When you’re offline, simply go to any page (either by tapping a link or by entering it in the address bar), and tap the ‘Download when online’ button. As soon as you have an internet connection, Chrome will save the page and give you a notification.
# 6: Close tabs more quickly
If you want to close your current tab without opening the tab overview first, there’s a slightly quicker method. Hold down on the tabs button for a second, and a menu will appear with an option to close the current tab.
You can also create new tabs using this method, but it won’t be any faster than creating tabs through the regular menu.
# 7: Tap a word to search for it
This is a simple feature, but it’s not widely advertised. When you tap on a word or phrase in Chrome, the browser will display an info panel about whatever you selected. Swiping up on the panel will show search results for the selection.
On some devices, a home button is visible in Chrome. This is because some manufacturers include a ‘ChromeCustomizations’ APK in the system folder, which sets default values for bookmarks and the home button. But if that APK isn’t on your device, there’s still a way to add a home button (or remove it, if you don’t want it).
If you don’t already have a home button, paste chrome: // flags / # force-enable-home-page-button into Chrome, select ‘Enabled’ in the dropdown menu, and restart the app twice. Now you have a home button! You can change the address it goes to by navigating to Settings> Home page> Open this page.
If your device came with a home button in Chrome and you want to get rid of it, simply open Chrome settings (menu button at top-right> Settings), tap ‘Home page,’ and set the switch to off. Easy peasy.
# 9: Save pages as PDF files
As mentioned above, Chrome allows you to save pages to your phone for offline viewing. But what if you want to send the saved page to someone, or permanently download it in a format that can be read by other apps? By combining Chrome’s share feature and Android’s ‘Print as PDF’ function, this can be achieved without any additional tools.
Find the page you want to download, and then press the Share button in the main menu. Select ‘Print’ from the share menu, and change the printer to ‘Save as PDF.’ Then just press the blue button to download the file. Since it’s a PDF, the file can be opened on just about any computer, phone, or tablet.
# 10: Tap on emails, phone numbers, and addresses to use them
If you’ve used Safari on iOS, you may have noticed that phone numbers and other data automatically turn into links. For example, tapping on a phone number will open it in the dialer. Chrome for Android has a similar feature, but it’s not as obvious.
When you tap on an email address, Chrome will show a button to write an email (in your default mail app). Tapping on an address can take you to the location in Google Maps, and pressing a phone number will let you call it in one tap.
# 11: Zoom on any website
In many cases, sites optimized for mobile viewing don’t allow the user to zoom in and out manually. This can be annoying at best, and harmful for visually-impaired users at worst. Thankfully, Chrome includes an override in the browser’s settings.
Just open the Chrome settings, tap ‘Accessibility,’ and check the box next to ‘Force enable zoom.’ Now you can zoom on any page!
# 12: Add more search engines
Chrome for Android, like just about any other browser, allows you to change what search engine you want to use. However, not everyone knows that you can add options not listed by default – performing a search on almost any site will make it appear as a search engine option. This includes alternative search engines, shopping websites, and many others.
First, go to any site and search for something. Then, open the Chrome settings and open the ‘Search engine’ menu. Here you can change what engine Chrome will use by default.
# 13: Scroll through ‘Find in page’ results
When using Chrome’s ‘Find in page’ search, you don’t have to press the up / down arrows over and over to go through results. Instead, you can swipe up and down on the right bar to quickly scroll through matches.
# 14: Manage notifications from sites
Sites can ask to send notifications to your device, but it’s not always obvious how to take that ability away later. If you’re sick of a certain site sending you notifications, you can easily stop them from Chrome’s settings.
Tap the menu button at the top-right of Chrome, tap Settings, and select the Notifications menu. From here, you can toggle all of Chrome’s types of notifications, including ones sent by Chrome itself (downloads, media controls, etc.) and ones sent by sites. Easy peasy.
# 15: Mute a website, or block sound entirely
Chrome on Android is supposed to block websites from auto-playing audio, but some sites find methods around this (especially for auto-playing ads). On the flip side, you may want to block all sites from playing sound, except for a select few.
Chrome allows you to universally block or allow sound for all sites, and manage exceptions. For example, you can mute one or two misbehaving sites, or keep all but a few sites from playing anything. To do this, open Chrome settings and go to Site Settings> Sound. There’s a universal toggle at the top, and you can add additional rules by tapping the plus button.