10 Google Chrome flags you need to turn on right now

There are two settings panels in Google Chrome for desktop: One appears when you choose Settings from the application menu, and one pops up 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 use of them. They let you control the appearance of the browser, tweak performance, speed up downloading, and plenty more.

To find the ones you’re interested in, use the search box at the top of the flags list, and 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.

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. 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.

3. Keep more web pages 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.

4. 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.

5. Browse faster

Any type of snag or delay can ruin your browsing experience, which is why you should turn on the #enable-quic flag. This setting activates Google’s QUIC protocol whenever you go to a website that supports it, which can result in speedier navigation. 

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A warning, though—QUIC protocol is an experimental tool, so you may stumble upon a well-known but not serious error when enabling this flag. If that happens to you, disabling it should easily return Chrome to normal. 

6. 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 #how-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 time.

7. Get more privacy with incognito mode

Google Chrome’s incognito mode allows you to surf the web at your leisure without leaving any trace in the cache, history, and other browsing information. But when you’re playing a piece of audio or video, your device’s media player gets involved, and it might disclose the content you are consuming to others via your gadget’s lock screen, for example. 

To keep your operating system out of the equation, enable the #hide-incognito-media-metadata flag and ensure your incognito session is actually as private as it can be. 

8. Enable live captions on Chrome

There are several apps out there with their own live caption capabilities, but for everything else you play on Chrome, you can use the ​​#enable-accessibility-live-caption flag. This setting will generate captions for media playing on Google’s browser, even if the website you’re visiting doesn’t support them. 

This feature is only available in the desktop version of Google Chrome, which means you cannot use it on your mobile device. Luckily, if you have an Android phone, you won’t have to worry about that because these gadgets have a built-in live caption feature you can use.

9. Optimize Chrome for touchscreens  

Some laptop models include touchscreens, turning these devices into computer-tablet hybrids. Unfortunately, not all desktop programs and apps, including Google Chrome, are optimized to work on touchscreens. 

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This is where the #top-chrome-touch-ui can help. The setting bridges the gap between your shiny new touchscreen laptop and the desktop version of Chrome, making scrolling and navigating more fluid. 

10. Restore old flags—temporarily 

As we mentioned at the beginning of this story, Google Chrome flags are experimental. This doesn’t just mean that they might glitch, but also that they come and go: Some become part of the browser’s built-in features, while others disappear into oblivion. 

Currently, Chrome allows you to turn back the clock when you turn on the #temporary-unexpire-flags-m114 and the #temporary-unexpire-flags-m115 flags. As you can see by their names, enabling either or both of these flags will temporarily bring back settings that might have been discarded in the browser’s two latest updates, like reader mode. 

Google hasn’t been upfront about what “temporary” means exactly, but when you miss a feature, any extra time you can have with it is a gift. 

This story has been updated. It was originally published in 2021.