Chrome Flags come and go at a rapid rate. These features have been aptly renamed to “Experiments” by Google because they let you enable, disable and customize various features that are yet to make it into the mainline Chrome release. Quite often, these features never end up making it into the full version of Chrome.
But there are some real gems in Chrome flags which can really enhance your browsing, so we’ve put together a list of the best of them for you here.
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. Focus Mode
Perhaps not quite what you think it is, Focus Mode lets you really zoom in on a specific tab you have open by opening it isolated from the address bar, extensions bar, and other UI features that can distract you from focusing. Essentially, it creates a dedicated window for your chosen tab.
You can enable it by seeking out “focus mode” in Chrome flags. Once it’s enabled, relaunch your Chrome browser, then right-click an open tab at the top of the window and click “Focus this tab.”
This will open that tab in a new UI-less window, effectively as its own app.
2. Tab Groups
Slowly being rolled out to the latest Chrome builds, the long-awaited Tab Groups feature isn’t with everyone yet, but if you don’t have it you can grab it through Chrome Flags.
Once you have it enabled, you just right-click the tab you want to add to a group, and you can choose to add it to a new group (at which point you create the group) or an existing one. It makes tab management a whole lot neater, removing that dreaded pile-up of tabs that we’ve all been struggling with for years now.
It’s not yet as robust as certain third-party tab grouping extensions (Toby springs to mind), but it’s a start.
3. Pull to Refresh on PC
Android Chrome users will be well-acquainted with the pull-to-refresh gesture by now, which lets you drag your finger down the screen when you’re at the top of a web page to refresh that page.
This Chrome flag lets you do the same thing on PC by using your scroll wheel or touchpad to scroll up when you’re at the top of a web page. If you have a touchscreen PC, you can enable this flag for touchscreens only.
4. Zero-Copy Rasterization (Desktop/Android)
Rasterization is the process Chrome uses to organize website data into the pixels and tangible information you end up seeing on the screen in front of you. It does this by organizing each page into “Tiles,” at which point it effectively paints in the information in each one to add up to the whole you see in front of you.
There are a few things you can do with rasterization through Chrome flags, but one of the best is zero-copy rasterization, which can ease the load on a low-end GPU by not uploading every tile change to it, offloading it instead onto your device’s memory.
This can be particularly helpful on mobile devices, with the potential to reduce battery usage when you browse the Web.
5. 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, 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!
6. 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, click “Default” when it appears in the list, then click “Enable.”
7. 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. 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 drop-down menu below it.
8. 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 drop-down menu below it to enable it.
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. Check out this step-by-step guide on How to enable and use offline mode in Chrome 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.
For more help in the online realm, see our guide on watching videos online with friends in real time. And for something super-fun, see our list of the best hidden Google games you can find on Chrome, Android and elsewhere.
This post was first published in August 2016 and was updated in July 2020.