Chrome secrets: Dig into Google's new browser

A handful of tips and tweaks to get the most out of Chrome

Using the <b>Google Chrome Options dialog</b>, you can tell Chrome to start up by reopening all the tabs you had open when you last closed the browser.

Using the Google Chrome Options dialog, you can tell Chrome to start up by reopening all the tabs you had open when you last closed the browser.

Reload closed tabs

At first blush, Chrome appears to have one very serious shortcoming -- it doesn't seem to be able to reload tabs that you've closed, something that both Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 8 can do. But there are in fact several ways to reload closed tabs.

If you want to reload the last tab you've closed, press Ctrl-Shift-T, and Chrome will open it for you. Want to open the tab you closed before that? Press Ctrl-Shift-T again. You can do this for up to the last 10 tabs you closed.

You can also use the New Tab page to reopen a tab you closed fairly recently. When you open a new tab, you get a page showing thumbnails of your nine most-visited sites, plus blue search and bookmarks boxes on the right. If you closed any tabs within the past few minutes, you'll also see a yellow box containing your three most recently closed tabs, which lets you skip directly to the site you want.

Finally, there's a setting that lets you start up Chrome displaying all the tabs that were open when you last closed it down. Click the Tools icon, choose Options, and on the Basics tab, select "Restore the pages that were open last," then click Close.

From now on, when you open Chrome, the browser will launch and reload all the tabs that were open when you closed it.

Give Chrome a new theme

Themes are a way to change the look and feel of a browser, including the background colors and icons. As shipped, the beta of Chrome doesn't appear to have any way to change themes, but be assured, future versions will.

In the meantime, you can change themes yourself, with a little bit of work. First, make sure that your PC is set to display hidden files via Windows Explorer. (In Windows XP, select Tools --> Folder Options, click the View tab, select "Show hidden files and folders," and click OK. In Windows Vista, launch Windows Explorer and choose Organize --> Folder and Search Options, click the View tab, select "Show hidden files and folders," and click OK.)

Once you do that, you need to locate Chrome's Themes directory. In Windows XP, go to

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\Application

In Vista, go to

C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application

In both cases, substitute your username for username.

When you're in that folder, look for a subfolder that matches Chrome's current version number -- as I write this, the version is 0.2.149.29. (To find out Chrome's current version number, in Chrome click the Tools icon and select "About Google Chrome.") Then look for the Themes subfolder.

So, for example, as I write this, the themes folder in Vista is

C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\0.2.149.29\Themes

In the folder, you'll find a file called "default.dll," which is the themes file. To use a different theme, you'll need to replace that file with a different default.dll, which contains the theme you want to use. There are quite a few of them available on the Internet, as I'll explain in a few paragraphs.

Close Chrome, then rename the default.dll file to something like "originaldefault.dll." Then copy a new theme into the directory, making sure it has the filename "default.dll." After that, launch Chrome, and your new theme will be in place. To revert to your original theme, delete or rename the new default.dll you're using, and rename "originaldefault.dll" back to "default.dll."

Google hasn't yet created themes for Chrome, but plenty of people on the Internet have already. Do a Google search for Chrome themes, and you'll find them. Try the Pitchblack theme at DeviantArt or several found at the Google Chrome themes blog. Another good place to find them is at Chromespot.

If you're a Red Sox fan like me, there's even a Red Sox Chrome theme available. It's a bit flaky, though, and reading the text on the top of your tabs can be difficult. Still, when it comes to rooting for the Sox, sacrifices are always in order.

In addition, there's a beta of a Chrome theme manager called XChrome, which provides a graphical user interface for installing and managing themes. Keep in mind that it's beta, so download and use it at your own risk. The software will also ultimately be available at CTheme.net.

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Preston Gralla

Computerworld
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