Chrome is the world's dominant web browser, but you could be using it more efficiently
Chances are you’re reading this on Google Chrome. Not you? Jog on. If we’re right, keep reading.
Sure, Chrome is easy to use, fast and lets you get on with the important business of wasting endless hours procrastinating rather than working on the very important report that’s due in a few hours. But Chrome can be so much more.
So stop aimlessly scrolling through random Wikipedia entries and start supercharging Chrome. It’s not a waste of time, honest.
First, make the most of your tabs
Right click on a tab, any tab. From this little dropdown menu you can, for example, pin a tab, which means it will stay fixed in one place. It’s handy for making sure you can always access your email or a reference sheet, and if you close Chrome, it’ll pop up again when you open a new browser window. You can also automatically open a link in a new tab by pressing the Alt key, or a Command key when you click on a link.
There are a few other shortcuts you can use to make tabs slightly easier to use – press Ctrl (or Command on a Mac) + Shift + T to open up the tab you most recently closed. Control (Command) + Shift + D will let you save all your tabs into a folder that you can access quite easily – so if you’re in the middle of working on a report, or you’re looking up holiday destinations but need to do something else, you can save your tabs to a folder, with a name.
You can also navigate between tabs by using the Ctrl + Tab keys together – use Control + Tab to navigate them, one by one, and then press Control + 1 to go the first tab (the one that’s furthest to the left) and so on. If you want to move multiple tabs at once, press Control (Command on a Mac) and click on each one, then press Command to deselect them.
First, make a Chrome profile
This might not be for everyone, due to Google’s rampant data collection, but it’s an easy way to keep all your bookmarks, browsing histories and log-ins connected across devices. If you use Gmail, you already have a Chrome profile that comes with this.
You’ll find that your bookmarks and passwords are saved to your account – so if Chrome is your browser on your phone, you don’t have to keep logging into different accounts. This is handy if you have a shared computer – so you can log out of your profile and the person who logs in after you will be able to view their own bookmarks, browsing history and so on.
This is also useful if you want to keep your information across devices – say you want to use a set of pages on your work computer too. Just go to Settings, and then adjust the Sync settings to your heart’s desire. If you want to, you can add a Guest user option in the same location.
Use it as a multimedia player
If you work with different kinds of media, or just want to take a closer look at a photo, you can drag and drop the file into an open and blank tab. Chrome will act as a kind of multimedia player, so unless the file is really big or runs on a very obscure software, you can use Chrome to double check that a file isn’t corrupted or preview a video. You can drag and drop files as attachments – for example, into emails or if you’re uploading content to a website.
Just like your computer has a task manager, so too does Chrome. Press the Shift + Escape keys together, and a task manager will pop up – you can use this to see which tabs are using the most energy, where sound is coming from and whether there are pop ups or tabs that you didn’t realise you had open. You can also see which extensions you still have running, and how much memory they’re taking up.
Depending on which version of Chrome you’re using, the keyboard shortcut may have been removed by Google. If this is the case it can be found by clicking on the three dots in the top right corner of your browser and navigating down to ‘More tools’.
If you find that you constantly open the same set of pages when you use Chrome, you can make them your default start option. Go to Settings, press the Set Pages options and then add as many as you want. It’s probably best not to add anything with audio for your own sake, but it’s useful if you want to check the news and your email first thing in the morning. Pinning certain pages will have the same effect.
Use the Omnibox
It’s not actually a memory guzzling extension. Omnibox is the term for the search bar in Chrome, but it’s much more than just a search bar. It can actually do a lot of things which aren’t just googling the time. You can carry out basic calculations by typing them into the bar, or converting from one currency to another.
You can even use a blank tab as a one-off note taker – enter “data:text/html, ” and you’ll get a quick notepad. The files won’t save, but it’s useful if you want to jot something down quickly. For quick access, save this as a bookmark.
With a few tweaks you can also search your email or Google Drive directly from the search bar. To do this you have to create a new search engine in Chrome – it’s not as complex as it sounds. Right click in the Omnibox and select ‘edit search engines’.
Scroll to ‘other search engines’ and click on add. Here you enter the name of the website you want to search, a keyword that you’ll type into Chrome’s Omnibox, and a URL. The URL should be the search result page of the service you’re setting the system up for.
For instance: a search of your emails could be called Gmail, have the keyword gmail, and then will use the URL: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/%s. (The percent symbol and lowercase ‘s’ represent where your search query would normally be). Once this is saved if you type the keyword (gmail) into Chrome’s search bar and press the Tab key, you’ll then be able to enter the phrase you want to search in your email for. It takes a couple of minutes to setup but can be a time saver. You can create search engines in this way for websites such as Google Drive but also non-Google services such as Amazon.
You should really use a best password managers and the latest versions of Chrome have one built in. But this may not be ideal for everyone, plenty of people prefer to use non-Google password storage systems. But if you’re fully committed to Google, there’s also Autofill. As its name suggests, it will automatically enter your saved details into the website or service you’re trying to login to.
You can manually input your Autofill information – passwords, credit card details, email accounts – so that you don’t have to re-enter it every single time you need it. Go to Settings, then Advanced Settings, and find Autofill Settings. You can update your information there, but you can also delete it if you use a shared computer, or if you’re just feeling a little nervous.
Google Chrome’s extensions and plug-ins store is pretty handy, and it has a huge range of plug-ins which you can use to make your life slightly easier. You can find them by going to the Chrome Store. Some, like CrowdTangle, can be useful if you’re tracking social media stats. Others can increase the volume of any audio playing from your browser, like Volume Booster. OneTab collates all of your open tabs into a folder, and you can press it to open them up again.
If the add-ons become too much, you can right click on their icons in the toolbar and press Hide in Chrome menu. If you want to find them again, press the line of three dots on the toolbar, where the icons will pop up again. Check out our guide to the best Chrome extensions if you want to find more options.
It’s possible to create clickable shortcuts onto your desktop, by clicking on the three dot icon on the toolbar. Press More Tools, then Create Shortcut. This will create Chrome app on your computer than can then be moved to somewhere that’s easy to access. As a result, you can get to some key webpages quickly from your desktop.
There are some other browser shortcuts which you can use without much modification, such as Control (Command on a Mac) + N, which opens up a new browser window; Control (Command) + Shift + N will open up a new incognito window; Control (Command) + J will open up your downloads page; and Control (Command) + H will open up a History page. If you use Control (Command) + D on any page, that’ll automatically add it to your bookmarks, and you can organise it from there.
There’s a couple of easy ways to look at your browsing history – one is pressing the back button on your browser and holding it down. It shows you the pages you most recently visited, so you can navigate to one of them if you’ve taken too many wrong turns. You can also view your whole browsing history by going to the three dot menu and pressing the viewing option.
You’ll know about incognito mode already, but there are a few other steps you can take to protect your privacy while using Google Chrome. (Reminder: Google and your internet provider still see what you browse in ingonito mode. All the mode does is not save your history on the device you’re using).
If you press the padlock symbol to the left of the URL on any web page, you can check what that page is doing – for example, whether it’s tracking your location, using your webcam or how many cookies it’s running. You can also add a Guest Browser option if you really want to go the extra step, particularly if you’re using a work computer or if a shared computer.
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