Five tips to soup up Chrome for Android

Google's browser had a lot to offer if you know where to look.

For the first few years of Android's existence, the stock browser was a WebKit-based affair that was only updated when the OS was. Now, Chrome ships on nearly all Android phones and tablets, and it's updated at near light speed via the Play Store. It's gotten a lot better over the years, but many of the best features are not immediately apparent, and a few need to be toggled on. Here's what you need to know to get the most out of Chrome on Android.

Advanced gestures

chrome android tips gestures

Gestures save you multiple taps.

Most people know that you can drag down to refresh pages in Chrome, but do you know how to switch tabs with a swipe? Probably not. If you swipe left and right across the address bar, you can move instantly from one open tab to the next.

The quick tab switching is great when you've got a handful of open tabs, but if you've got more, you'll probably want to get into the full tab list. Don't just go for that button, though. You can drag down from the address bar, opening the tab list and scrolling through it in one swipe. If you just need to peel at what you've got open, you can drag right back up to close the tab list without even releasing the screen.

Make reader mode more useful

chrome android tips reader mode

Focus on the content when a page isn't mobile-friendly.

Chrome has included a "reader mode" for the last couple years, which is designed to make non-mobile web pages more friendly on your device. Reader mode strips out all the ads, social buttons, sidebars, and so on. What you're left with is just the content. A banner will pop up at the bottom when you can activate reader mode. However, Chrome is very conservative about when it offers you the option of engaging reader mode. You can expand its usefulness with a quick flag edit, though.

To access Chrome's flags, simply type "chrome://flags" into the address bar. This lets you control which features are active and when—it's all the stuff Google doesn't want to put in the main app settings, because if you don't know what you're doing you might break something. So, be careful. The flag you're looking for is called "#Reader mode triggering." By default, reader mode will only be an option when Chrome thinks a page is especially poor on mobile. You can choose to have it always be an option, which can be annoying, or just when Chrome detects something with an article-like layout.

Tap to search

chrome android tips tap search

Get quick answers without leaving the page.

The internet is a big place full of wonder and a great many confusing things. If you're ever in need of a little context while browsing, Chrome has a very useful way to search for things. Simply long-press to highlight a word or phrase, and you can instantly search for it without even leaving the page you're on.

The text you highlight appears in a Google bar at the bottom of the screen—maybe you've seen it a dozen times and never thought to investigate further. Tap it or drag up and you'll get a Google search page. It starts just partially open so you can see if there's a handy knowledge graph card at the top. You can continue sliding it up to get a regular page of search results for the words you highlighted. When you're done, just slide it back down and you're where you started.

Scroll anchoring

chrome android tips anchor

Never tap an ad by mistake again.

One of these most aggravating experiences in mobile browsing is when you attempt to tap a link as a page is loading only to have the page jump. Best case, you tap an open space. However, you'll often end up tapping an ad instead. You can stop that from happening again by enabling scroll anchoring.

This will involve another trip into the Chrome flags, but this time you're looking for a flag called "#enable-scroll-anchoring." Flip it to enabled and prayers won't jump during loading anymore.

Recent tabs

chrome android tips recent

Find all the tabs from all your devices in one place.

One of Chrome's most powerful features on Android isn't exactly hidden, but the generic name bellies it's awesome usefulness—recent tabs. This isn't just the games recently open on your phone or tablet, but on all your Chrome devices.

This feature works automatically, you just need to take advantage of it. You'll find the recent tabs list in the overflow menu and at the very bottom of the new tab page. Open it, and you have recent tabs from your current device, but below that is a collapsible list for watch phone, tablet, and computer with Chrome installed and logged into your account. You never have to worry about emailing yourself a link again.

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