Tweaking Google Chrome

When Google released Chrome the web browser quickly became a popular choice, first among tech people, and then spreading to average users. Much of it’s appeal is it’s ability to be customized and it’s minimalistic appearance. Tweaking the web browser to your personal liking and tastes can make your user experience even better.

There are a number of ways to go about this, but the first, and easiest, place to start is in the basic Chrome settings. From there you can move on to more customized areas and even to user scripts, which can get a bit more complicated, but should not scare off an experienced computer user.

Chrome Settings

There are two ways to access the settings page in Chrome. You can click the Tools option — those three line at the top right of the browser window. Alternatively, you can also type “chrome://chrome/settings/” into the URL bar.

The Settings page may look fairly stark, but there are a number of things you can do here.

The first thing I always do is connect my Google account and that is the first option you will see as well. This will allow you to access your tabs, history, and sign-in information from other computers.

You can set how Chrome opens — it can open exactly where you left off, including all of your previously open tabs. Alternatively you can open with simply a New Tab page or to a specific page or set of pages.

Users can also set themes, add users and change the default search options.

At the bottom of the page there is an option to open Advanced Settings. Here you will find settings for privacy, network, background apps, download location, Google Cloud Print and a few other things.

However, if you have used Chrome then you probably know all about the Settings. You came here to get more in depth, so here we go.

Chrome URL’s

As you saw above you can enter Chrome Settings by means of a URL. However that is only one of a fairly lengthy list of web addresses that can be used to access various options in the web browser. For a full list try entering in “chrome://chrome-urls/”. This will display virtually ever option, including bookmarks, downloads, extensions, history, plugins and host of other things. I will go into a bit of detail on a couple of the more useful ones below.

Chrome Flags

When you visit “chrome://flags/” (again, type into the URL bar) it will immediately appear to be a scary and intimidating place. That is mostly due to the warning that Google posts at the top of the page — “WARNING These experimental features may change, break, or disappear at any time. We make absolutely no guarantees about what may happen if you turn one of these experiments on, and your browser may even spontaneously combust. Jokes aside, your browser may delete all your data, or your security and privacy could be compromised in unexpected ways. Any experiments you enable will be enabled for all users of this browser. Please proceed with caution.”

Don’t worry. Anything you can enable here can just as easily be disabled. And there is quite a bit you can do from here — add a search bar to your New Tab page or add suggested sites (labeled here as “Discovery”) to it. There are countless features here that you can use to enhance your browser.

Chrome Memory

Visit “chrome://memory” to get started here. From here you can get a detailed view of exactly how much memory each extension and each open tab is using. That is handy if you are experiencing problems with your browser being slow. Now you know what is causing the problem and can fix it by closing a tab or killing an extension.

TamperMonkey

While Greasmonkey is a well known Firefox add-on, and a name that many of you will recognize, Chrome users have “Tampermonkey” to perform essentially the same things.

GreaseMonkey scripts can work with Chrome, but they are made for Firefox and are not tested under other browsers for compatibility. That means that such a  script might work with Chrome but the results are never guaranteed to work forever, or even at all.

Once installed, you will find the icon in your menu bar. Clicking it will provide a wealth of options. Just click the icon and choose “Get new scripts” and you will be taken to userscripts.org where you will find new scripts being added almost every hour.

Scripts without TamperMonkey

You do not necessarily need an extension like TamperMonkey to run a user script. It just makes the process a bit harder to do without it. You see, a  script will not install directly since Google has blocked third party site script installations in the browser. You will need to click on Settings > Tools > Extensions and drag and drop the downloaded file to the extensions list. You will get the installation prompt that you need to follow to install it in the browser. Then you will probably need to reload the browser, or at least the web page, for the change to take place.

Conclusion

Chrome, like its rival Firefox, is almost infinitely hackable. There are numerous user scripts and countless other settings that you can access from the above mentioned URL link. There also many online resources that can point you in the right direction or help you fix things up when something goes wrong.

As I said previously, all of these things can be undone, so don’t panic if you do something that appears to break your browser. Also, always set Chrome to sync all info just in case you need to delete and re-install. That really should not happen though.


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