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 tweaking the browser on both computers and mobile.
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.
1. Tab Freeze and Discard
Replacing the flag formerly known as “Automatic tab discarding”, Tab Freeze and Discard gives you more control over how little memory is used by inactive tabs in your browser.
Find the “Proactive Tab Freeze and Discard” flag in Chrome, then you can select whether you enable tab freezing, discarding or both.
Tab freezing prevents that tab from continuing to use memory but retains it in its present state, while discarding essentially means that clicking that tab again will reload the entire page you were on, meaning that it doesn’t use any memory in the meantime.
2. Chrome Duet (Android)
On Android, Google has been experimenting with a “Duet” interface for a few years now, which places most of the options like tabs, search, home, and the options menu at the bottom of the screen instead of the top.
This feature’s not for everyone, but if you want to try it then search for “Chrome Duet” in Chrome flags.
Here’s the strange thing: Setting Chrome Duet to “Disabled” actually seems to enable it for us, while setting it to “Enabled” disables it. So if it doesn’t work, try doing the reverse of what you think you should do!
3. 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”.
4. 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”.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 August 2019.