Google’s web browser has many hidden and experimental features for testing purposes. But with a few settings and precautions, anyone can access them to try them out!
Since its release in 2008, Chrome has continued to evolve. In the twelve years of its existence, dozens of major versions have followed one another: not counting the intermediate maintenance updates – builds, in the jargon – we are already at version 87 in January 2021. And Google continues to improve its Web browser, fixing bugs and flaws and, above all, adding new features regularly.
Where can you find the experimental features of Chrome?
For the average user, the new features of Chrome are only visible and operational when a major version is officially released. But most new features are already available before that. You just have to activate them in a special menu, hidden, but accessible to everyone. These are always experimental features, intended for testing. Depending on the case, after a period of testing and validation, some of them are then integrated into a major version, while others disappear, due to lack of interest or stability. This is how, for example, recent functions (thumbnail view of pages, groups of tabs, searches in open tabs, export of saved passwords, etc.) were tested and refined before appearing in an official version.
All versions of Chrome are affected by this continuous improvement program, including those for Windows and macOS as well as those for Linux, Chrome OS – Google’s operating system for laptops -, Android or iOS. But not all these functions are available in all these versions, some being reserved for particular versions. So there’s no way to try to make an exhaustive list, especially since they appear and disappear without warning.
If you are a bit curious, you can perfectly well examine and activate functions available in the version you are using to test them. This will allow you to access the hidden settings of the browser, which are hidden by default, as they are reserved for experienced users. Warning: you should be aware of their experimental nature. Google clearly states this in a warning. It is possible that some functions may cause crashes, data loss or even privacy problems. You might as well be warned of the risks involved! However, unless you activate all the experimental functions simultaneously, the risk remains low. And it is especially the opportunity to preview features that are often very interesting!
How to activate Chrome’s hidden features?
To discover and try the experimental features of Chrome, you have to go through a hidden menu, inaccessible through the usual channels. In addition, everything is in English, which does not make it easy for novices to discover, especially since much of the information is very technical.
- To access the hidden menu, launch Chrome and type chrome://flags in the address bar, then validate with the Enter key on the keyboard.
- A new tab opens, with a warning from Google about the experimental nature of the proposed functions.
- In essence, the list of experimental functions proposed in the hidden menu of Chrome is constantly changing, depending on Google’s needs, and it is not possible to keep a complete list with a precise description. But the principle is always the same.
- Each function displayed in the list is presented by its name with a brief description of its role and the compatible environments (Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, iOS). To the right of it, there is a button giving access to a pop-up menu.
- When the button displays Disabled, it means that the function is disabled by default. To enable it, click on the button and select Enabled from the menu.
- In other cases, the Default status is displayed. Click on the button to see the list of options and select one of them. Be careful, this is where you will find the most technical and often obscure titles… If you don’t know what the options are, copy the exact name of the function and do a Google search for explanations.
- Browse the list – which is very long! – to find out which features are available and whether or not you can activate them. It is advisable, as a precaution, to change only one feature at a time.
- When you have made all your settings, click the Relaunch Now button in the banner at the bottom of the page to confirm your choices and restart Chrome immediately.
- If, after testing, you are not convinced of the value of a feature, return to the hidden menu and disable it by choosing Disabled or Default. If you have enabled several features, you can disable them all at once by clicking the Reset all to default button at the top of the page. Everything will return to normal!