Google Chrome has enough features to shake a stick at, or more appropriately, to wave a flag at. One of the less-charted areas of Chrome’s broad repertoire is Chrome Flags where you’ll find a database of experimental features that, while not always fully functional, can boost your browser in ways you wouldn’t have thought possible.
These are the best Chrome Flags for your tweaking pleasure. Also note that the Chrome Flags area has had a visual redesign recently to get in line with Google’s whole “Material” theme, but it all still functions like it used to.
How to Access Chrome Flags
Before you use any of these Chrome flags, you first need to know how to access them. Type chrome://flags in the Chrome address bar and hit Enter. You will see a big list of Chrome Flags with a warning that these features are not stable.
You can use Chrome’s “Find” (Ctrl + F) feature to quickly find the features we have listed below. I will also be adding a URL at the end of each feature that you can directly paste into the Chrome address bar to access that feature without going through the above process.
1. Disable Autoplay Videos
There are few things more jarring and frustrating when browsing online than videos that suddenly start blaring out visuals and sounds that you never asked for. Quite often these videos linger around the edges of the screen too, so it’s not immediately obvious how to stop them.
To stop such videos playing automatically, you need to change the Chrome flags “Autoplay policy”. Find it in Flags, then click the dropdown next to it and select “Document user activation is required”.
2. Enable Parallel Downloading
There are several features on Chrome Flags that can speed up your browsing, many of which are enabled by default. One such feature, which specifically speeds up your downloads, is “Parallel downloading”, which splits each file you download into three separate jobs, speeding up the whole process.
To enable it, in Chrome flags type “parallel downloading”, then click “Default” when it appears in the list, then click “Enable”.
3. Improve Your Privacy
It’s not secret that Google feeds on our data for its lifeblood, and to some extent you using Chrome will always be a trade-off of data for the privilege of the smoothest browser experience around. But you can mitigate some of Chrome’s innate privacy encroachments. Here are two flags that will reduce your footprint for Google to track you with:
Top Sites from Site Engagement: Disabling this will prevent Chrome from tracking your top sites and sorting them in order of popularity on your New Tab page.
Hyperlink auditing: Disable this to stop hyperlink auditing pings from being sent when you interact with certain onsite elements. Essentially, disabling this reduces the amount a given site tracks you.
4. Enable Scroll Anchor Serialization
Back in 2017, Google pushed scroll anchoring to stable releases of Chrome, ensuring that when you were reading a web page, you wouldn’t be interrupted by additional elements loading onto the page and losing your position.
Scroll anchor serialization is similar, this time making the process of navigating back and forwards on a page smoother by using your scroll anchor from that page to restore the position you were on. Clever stuff.
5. Reduce Microphone Echo in Web Chat
If you do a bit of voice chat directly through your web browser using Facebook or any number of web-based VOIP options, you’re probably familiar with the dreaded microphone echo, where the mic picks up external sounds that you don’t want there.
Well, there’s an experimental Chrome flag to help you with that. Search for “echo” in Chrome Flags and enable the WebRTC Echo Canceller 3. It won’t suddenly turn an integrated laptop mic into a high-end noise-cancelling one, but it’ll certainly help.
6. Auto-Fill Forms in One Click
It’s standard procedure on Chrome these days to use stored auto-fill data to fill out address forms, payment forms, and other assorted forms. Here’s a way to speed up this already speedy process.
Select the “Single-click autofill” flag and enable it. That’s it! From now on you won’t need to start typing into forms to bring up auto-fill data; just click the form, and a list of auto-complete options will show up right away.
7. Enable Picture in Picture
This excellent feature allows you to watch videos in their own windows while you get on with other forms of web browsing. Now, it doesn’t work reliably on all the devices we tried it out on, so don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t work (remember the Flags warning), but if it does, then it’s extremely handy if you’d like a dedicated little pane for your videos. To activate it, look for “Enable picture in picture.”
After you’ve restarted Chrome, to get this to work, you need to right-click the video you want to use this feature for (right-click twice in YouTube), then select “Picture in Picture” from the context menu.
8. Show Page Titles in Omnibox Suggestions
If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of space in favor of clarity when you type things into your Chrome Omnibox, this one may suit you. With “Omnibox UI Vertical Layout” switched on, Omnibox suggestions display the page title as well as the URL (over two lines), which makes it clearer what page you’re going to when you make a selection. This doesn’t just apply to top-level pages but pages within the site as well.
Take a look and see if you like it.
9. Automatic Tab Discarding
Having thirty tabs open at once when you’re not using twenty-nine of them is a big waste of system memory, particularly if you have a lower-end PC. Switching on this feature “discards” tabs that you have open but are not viewing in that moment. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean it closes the tabs, and they’ll still be displayed at the top of your browser. It just means that they remain “asleep” and are not using any system memory until you click them again.
10. Enable Smooth Scrolling
As the name suggests, this lets you smoothly scroll through the content. When you scroll in Chrome using your mouse or the arrow keys, there is a little stuttering in the animation. In my experience this makes it hard to quickly go through content and easily read what is important at the same time (bad for content skimmers). With this option enabled, smooth scrolling just feels right and professional.
Just search for “Smooth Scrolling” or type chrome://flags/#smooth-scrolling into the address bar to directly access it. Enable it using the dropdown menu below it.
11. Quickly Mute Tabs
Chrome shows a tiny speaker icon on the right side of the tabs that have audio playing inside. This enables you to quickly find the source of the audio and mute or stop it. By enabling this Chrome flag, the speaker icon will act as a mute button so you can click on it to quickly mute the tab without even moving to it. Of course, you can right-click the tab and select “Mute tab” to mute it, but this is much faster without any distractions.
Look for the feature “Tab audio muting UI control” or type chrome://flags/#enable-tab-audio-muting to directly access it. Click on the “Enable” button below it to enable it.
12. Enable Fast Tab/Window Close
When this flag is enabled, all the tabs and windows you close will be closed instantly without any delay. This doesn’t mean that it lets you skip through the closing process. What it does is hide the tab immediately once it is closed. The closing process still continues in the background without you knowing it.
This definitely speeds up your browsing experience even if isn’t actually speeding up anything. You can quickly close all the tabs you like and continue working while tabs close in the background without being a hurdle in your work.
Search for “Fast tab/window close,” or type chrome://flags/#enable-fast-unload to directly access it. Click the “Enable” button below it.
13. Enable Experimental QUIC protocol
QUIC protocol is a new connection protocol created by Google that is still under development. QUIC is supposed to be a mixture of TCP and UDP protocols that is much faster and more secure at the same time. Usually when we are on a TCP or UDP connection, it takes multiple trips to the server before a connection is stable (which takes time) and ready to exchange data. QUIC protocol’s main goal is to only make a single trip to create a connection and start the data exchange process, thus increasing the overall browsing and data exchange speed.
In Chrome you can enable QUIC protocol to start taking advantage of this protocol right now and speed up browsing. Look for the flag “Experimental QUIC protocol,” or type chrome://flags/#enable-quic to directly access it. Use the dropdown menu below it to enable it.
14. Automatic Password Generation
When this flag is enabled, Chrome will automatically generate a strong password for you when it detects you are on a sign-up page. This is a handy feature that will help you generate a strong password without any help of third-party tools. Search for “Password generation” or type chrome://flags/#automatic-password-generation to directly access it. Enable it from the dropdown menu.
From the same Chrome Flags you can also enable Chrome Offline mode that allows you to access already-visited websites without the need of an Internet connection. I have written a step-by-step guide on How to enable and use offline mode in Chrome; you can check it out if you are interested.
These are just some of the Chrome flags that will enhance your browsing experience. Although there are dozens of other flags to try, we do not recommend you mess with them unless you know exactly what you are doing. These experiments can prevent you from browsing normally and may even lead to data loss, so be very careful and only enable what we have mentioned above.
Do you have any favorite flags that you’d like to see included? Let us know in the comments!
This post was first published in August 2016 and was updated in June 2019.