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The Best Tips and Tweaks for Getting the Most Out of Google Chrome

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Recently, we gathered the best tips and tweaks for Firefox. Google Chrome is another very popular browser, and we have collected some very useful tips and tricks for Google Chrome here. You’ll learn about built-in features and extensions for expanding Chrome’s functionality.


Bookmarks and Toolbars

Add the Home Button to the Toolbar

By default, the Home button is not on the toolbar in Chrome. However, it’s easy to add it. Simply click the wrench button and select Settings. On the Basic page, in the Toolbar section, select the Show Home button check box. Now, you can easily go to your home page with one click.

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Show Only Icons on the Bookmarks Bar

If you bookmark a lot of sites, wouldn’t it be helpful if you could displays the bookmarks on the toolbar as only favicons? This is easy to accomplish. First, make sure your Bookmarks bar is always showing. To do this, click the wrench button, select Settings, and then select Always show the bookmarks bar in the Toolbar section.  Then, it’s easy to reduce your bookmarks in Chrome to only icons.

NOTE: You can also list your existing bookmarks easily by entering “chrome://bookmarks” (without the quotes) in the Omnibox and pressing Enter. Then, you can right-click on a bookmark and select Edit.

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Here are some additional tips about toolbars and bookmarks:


Tabs

Pin a Tab to the Tab bar

You probably have sites that you visit every time you open Chrome. You can easily pin these sites to the tab bar permanently, so they will open automatically every time you open Chrome. To do this, visit the desired site on a tab, right-click on that tab, and select Pin tab from the popup menu. The tab shrinks to show only the favicon for the site and is moved to the far left side of the tab bar.

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Open Multiple Websites When Chrome Starts

Another way to automatically open sites you visit every time you open Chrome, is to specify several URLs in the settings. To do this, click the wrench button, select Settings, and click the Open the following pages radio button in the On startup section. Enter a URL in the edit box and either press Enter or click outside the edit box to accept it. Add as many sites as you want. You can also visit each site you want to open automatically on separate tabs, and then click Use current pages to quickly add them to your list. The sites are opened on separate tabs, in the order you entered them, when you start Chrome.

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Manage Many Tabs Easily

You can also manage your tabs easily with the TooManyTabs extension. It shows you all your opened tabs, allows you to search through your tabs, sort your open tabs on the TooManyTabs display by creation time, domain, or title, and restore recently closed tabs. You can also suspend tabs you are not currently using to save memory. If you have used TooManyTabs in Firefox, you can import your data from that extension in Firefox.

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Reopen Recently Closed Tabs

If you don’t need all the functionality available in TooManyTabs, and you just want to be able to reopen tabs you’ve closed recently, there are built-in, easy ways to do that. The New Tab page has a Recently closed link in the bottom, right corner that displays a list of links to websites from recently closed tabs. If you only want to reopen the last tab you closed, you can either right-click on any tab and select Reopen closed tab or press Ctrl + Shift + T.

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Reopen All Tabs Open in Previous Chrome Session

You can also reopen all the tabs you had open when you last closed Chrome, which is handy if you had a lot of tabs open and Chrome crashed for some reason. One way to do this is to open Settings from the wrench menu and select the Reopen the pages that were open last radio button on the Basics page in the On startup section.

You can also save your Chrome sessions and load them whenever you want, using the Session Manager extension. You can save groups of tabs as sessions and rename and remove sessions from the session library. This is handy if you have pages you visit every time you open Chrome and for saving pages you found when doing research and you’d like to go back to them at a later time. You can also use Session Buddy to manage your Chrome sessions.

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Customize the Way Tabs Open and Activate

By default, new tabs in Chrome are opened to the right of all your other tabs. However, you can use an extension called, Tab Position Customizer, specify where to open new tabs, which tab to activate when you close a tab, and whether to create a new tab in the foreground or background. You can also choose to convert a popup window to a tab in the parent, or current, window.

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Open a Link at a Specific Location on the Tab Bar

When you right-click on a link, and select Open link in new tab, the page opens in a new tab next to the current tab. However, you can choose to open the page from the link at a specific location on the tab bar. To do this, click and hold the link and drag it to the desired position on the tab bar. A small arrow indicates where the new tab will open to the specified page.

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Detach a Tab to a New Chrome Window

If you decide you want the page on a tab open in a separate Chrome window, simply drag the tab anywhere outside the current browser window. A new Chrome window opens to the web page that was open on that tab. The tab is removed from the window in which is was open. You can also drag it back to the original Chrome window. If the tab you drag off of a Chrome window is the only tab on that window, the window automatically closes.

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Here are additional ways of using and managing your tabs in Chrome:


Omnibox/Search

Paste and Go / Paste and Search

If you copy a URL from a program outside of Chrome and want to go to that site in Chrome, you would generally paste the URL into the Omnibox and press Enter. However, you can quickly go directly to that site by right-clicking on Chrome’s address bar, or Omnibox, and selecting Paste and go. If you’ve copied text from outside of Chrome for which you want to search in Google, you can right-click in the Omnibox and select Paste and search. Results in Google display on the current tab.

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Quickly Search for Selected Text

If you come across a word or phrase on a site with which you are not familiar, you can quickly and easily search for it on Google. Select the word or phrase, right-click on the selection, and select Search Google for from the popup menu. A new tab opens with the Google search results.

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Get Quick Calculation Results from the Address Bar

You can not only use the Omnibox to do Google searches, but you can also use it to do simple calculations and conversions. For example, you can type in “7 * 20” or a conversion like “2 miles in km” (without the quotes) and wait. Within a second or two, the results display in a drop-down box.

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Change the Search Engine Used in the Omnibox

You can change the default search engine used when search using the Omnibox. To do so, right-click on the Omnibox and select Edit search engines from the popup menu. The Settings open on a new tab and the Search Engines page displays. Default search engines are listed in the top box. When you use a search box on a specific site, such as How-To Geek, that site is added as a search engine under Other search engines. You can choose to make one of the default search engines or other search engines the default when using the Omnibox to perform a search. Simply move your mouse over the desired search engine and click the Make default button that displays.

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Omnibox Icon Guide

When you start typing something in the Omnibox, a list of different results drop down. There are different icons that indicate the type of results that display.

  • bookmark- bookmarked sites.
  • history- sites from your browsing history.
  • search- searches, including related searches if you have the prediction service turned on.
  • predicted sites- related sites when you have the prediction service turned on.
  • App – web apps you’ve installed from Chrome Web Store.

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Web Apps

Use and Customize Google Chrome Web Apps

Chrome web apps are actually regular web sites optimized for Chrome. They are installed in the browser and display on the New Tab page with a nice icon. Most web apps are free, but some can be purchased through the Chrome Web Store. We have previously explained how to use and customize Chrome web apps, including how to create shortcuts to web apps on your desktop.

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Profiles and Syncing Settings

Sync Your Chrome Settings to Your Google Account

If you use multiple computers, the sync feature in Google can come in very handy. You can sync your bookmarks, extensions, themes, and more to your Google account, so all your settings will be available in Chrome on whatever computer you use. You must sign in to your Google account to be able to sync your Chrome data. To do so, click the wrench button, select Settings, and click Personal Stuff on the Settings menu on the left. Click Sign in to Chrome in the Sign in section. Enter your Gmail address and password and click Sign in.

NOTE: We will show you later in this article how to choose what Chrome data to sync and not sync.

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Delete Your Synced Browser Data from Google

If you would rather not leave your data online with Google, you can delete your synced browser data by going to the Google Dashboard.

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We’ve also shown you how to sync your Chrome bookmarks with your Android phone and how to use multiple profiles in Chrome.


Incognito Window

Browse Privately Using the Incognito Window

If you share a computer with others or if you’re using a public computer, you may not want your browsing activities to be recorded. Chrome offers a private browsing mode, called Incognito. Any web pages you open and files you download while in incognito mode are not recorded in the browsing and download histories. Cookies created when in incognito mode are deleted when you close the incognito window. However, any changes you make to any settings or any bookmarks you add, remove, or edit are saved.

To open an “incognito” window, click the wrench button and select New incognito window from the drop-down menu. A special window displays. Enter a URL in the Omnibox to visit a site. Your browsing and download history and cookies from any sites visited in this window will not be saved.

NOTE: You can also press Control + Shift + N to opens an a new incognito window.

You can open a link on a web page in an incognito window by right-clicking the link and selecting Open link in incognito window from the popup menu.

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Automatically Start Chrome in Incognito Mode

If you often use incognito mode, you can set up a Chrome shortcut to start Chrome in incognito mode automatically. We recommend you make a copy of your regular Chrome shortcut so you can quickly start a normal Chrome window or an incognito window. Right-click on the copy of the Chrome shortcut and select Properties from the popup menu. In the Target edit box on the Shortcut tab, after the command for starting Chrome, enter a space and then “-incognito” (without the quotes). Click OK to save your change. Clicking this new shortcut will open Chrome in incognito mode.

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Privacy

Delete Cookies and Browsing History

Cookies can be useful for keeping you logged into a website by storing ID information. Cookies can also be used to store shopping cart information. However, not all cookies are benign. They can also be used to track your online activities. Managing cookies is part of a set of simple actions you can take to protect your information and your privacy. If you haven’t used incognito mode and you want to delete cookies manually, it is easy to do. Click the wrench button and select Settings from the menu. Click Under the Hood in the Settings menu on the left of the Settings tab. In the Privacy section, click Clear browsing data. A popup window displays. To delete cookies, select the Delete cookies and other site and plug-in data check box. You can also clear your browsing historyon this screen. Select the time period for which you want to delete the selected items from the drop-down list. Once you’ve made your selections, click Clear browsing data.

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Delete Cookies for an Individual Tab

You can also delete cookies for a web site on a specific tab, using the Tab Cookiesextension. This extension deletes all cookies created by a website on a tab when you close the tab. Note, however, that all tabs open to that website must be closed for the cookies to be deleted. If the cookies for a tab you closed are being used by other tabs, they are not deleted until those tabs are closed as well. If you decide you want to keep the cookies for a website you’re currently viewing, click the cookie icon in the Omnibox while on the tab open to that site.

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Choose What You Want to Sync

As we talked about earlier in this article, you can sync your Chrome settings with your Google account so you can use the same settings on multiple computers. When you sync your Chrome settings, your Omnibox history (everything you’ve typed into the address bar, including URLs and searches) is synced along with your bookmarks, passwords, and extensions. However, if you’re concerned about your privacy and would rather not sync certain data, you can choose which data you want to sync and which data not to sync. To do this, click the wrench button and select Settings from the menu. Click Personal Stuff from the Settings menu on the left. In the Sign in section click Advanced.

NOTE: You must be signed in to Google to sync your settings.

If you want to choose to not sync certain data, select Choose what to sync from the drop-down list. By default, all the settings are selected to sync. Select check boxes for items you don’t want to sync to remove the check marks for those items. You can also specify whether you only want to encrypt your passwords (if you choose to sync them) or to encrypt all synced data. By default, your Google account password is used as the passphrase to encrypt your data. If you want to specify a different password, select the Choose my own passphrase radio button and enter your desired passphrase in both edit boxes that display. Click OK to accept your changes and return to the Settings tab.

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Assign a Password to the Chrome Browser

Another level of security is to assign a password to the Chrome browser itself, requiring that password to be entered to open the browser. This is useful if you share your computer with other family members, friends, or co-workers. To do this, install the Simple Startup Passwordextension. To specify a password, click the wrench button and select Tools | Extensions from the menu. Click the Options link for the Simple Startup Password extension, enter the desired password and click Save. Now, you’ll have to enter that password every time you open Chrome. There is no password reminder, so don’t forget it!

NOTE: Be very careful who’s around when entering your password. A drawback of this extension, is that the password is shown in plain text on the dialog box.

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Chrome Settings

View and Change Settings Using Chrome URLs

You can easily view and change some of your browser data and settings using special Chrome URLs, starting with “chrome://”. Entering “chrome://about” displays a list of all the Chrome URLs. You can view your browsing history, downloads, bookmarks, extensions, and find other hidden features using these URLs.

NOTE: Do not enter the quotes when entering the Chrome URLs.

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Browsing History

Clear Your Browsing History

Chrome, just like any other web browser today, keeps track of the websites you visit. This makes it easier to visit these sites again, using the auto-complete functionality built into Chrome. However, if you meant to do some private browsing and forgot to open an incognito window (discussed earlier in this article), you can easily clear your browsing history. To access your browsing history, you can either select History from the menu accessed using the wrench button, or you can press Ctrl + H. You can also enter “chrome://history” in the Omnibox and press Enter. However, there is an easy way to access your browsing History with one click using a toolbar button.

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Get a Quick History List

To get a quick, short list of the previous sites you have visited, either right-click on the Back button or hold it down. A short list of recent sites is listed on a drop-down menu with a Show Full History option at the bottom that opens the History page.

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Downloads and Uploads

Remove an Item from Your Downloads Page

To access a list of items you’ve downloaded, you can either select Downloads from the menu accessed using the wrench button, or you can press Ctrl + J. You can also enter “chrome://downloads” in the Omnibox and press Enter. To remove an item from the Downloads list, click the Remove from list link below the item.

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Specify Where to Save Downloaded Files by Default

By default, Chrome downloads files to the Downloads folder in your user account. If you would rather save them to a different location, you can easily change it. Click the wrench button and select Settings from the menu. Click Under the Hood in the Settings menu on the left of the Settings tab. Scroll down to the Downloads section and click Change to the right of the Download location box.

Instead of specifying a location for saving downloaded files by default, you can have Chrome always ask you where you want to save downloaded files by selecting the Ask where to save each file before downloading check box.

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Drag and Drop Downloaded Files to Other Folders

Once you have downloaded a file, you can quickly and easily move it to another location by dragging and dropping it from the Downloads list in Chrome to a folder in Windows Explorer or any other file browser you are using.

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Google Docs

Get Instant Access to Google Docs in Chrome

If you create a lot of Google Docs, there is a useful extension, called Docs Quickly, that allows you to create Google Docs while on any website in Chrome. Simply click a button on the toolbar. The Google Docs site (docs.google.com) is automatically launched and a new document created.

NOTE: If you’re logged in to both a Google Apps account and a consumer Gmail account, your new documents will be created under the Gmail account.

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View Documents, Presentations, and PDFs in Chrome

If you spend a lot of time in Chrome and you view a lot of PDFs, you can save yourself some time and use Chrome as your default PDF reader. There’s a way to use Chrome as your default online viewer for documents and presentations, as well as for PDFs.

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Use Chrome to Take Screenshots of Web Pages

You can use Chrome to take screenshots of any web page. The following How-To Geek articles describe a few of the Chrome extensions available that allow you to take screenshots of the current web page and even edit the images.

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Miscellaneous Features and Extensions

Chrome’s Task Manager

Each tab in the Chrome browser is listed as a separate process in Chrome’s own built-in Task Manager. This allows you to forcefully close any tabs that are giving you problems without having to close Chrome. The Task Manager displays the open tabs and installed extensions and shows you the memory and CPU resources used by each tab and extension. Access the Task Manager by clicking the wrench menu and selecting Tools | Task Manager. To close a troublesome tab or extension, select it in the list and click End process.

NOTE: You can also right-click on the top border of the browser window and select Task Manager from the popup menu or press Shift + Esc.

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Drag and Resize Text Box on a Webpage

You’ve probably encountered multi-line text boxes on websites that are too small and you wish you could make it bigger instead of having to deal with a scroll bar. In Chrome, you can resize multi-line text boxes. In the bottom, right corner of the multi-line text box, you’ll see two slanted lines. Click your mouse button on those lines and drag it to resize the multi-line text box.

NOTE: You can only resize multi-line text boxes, not single line ones. Simply look for the slanted lines to know which text boxes you can resize.

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Copy and Paste Only Text Within Chrome

Have you tried to copy text and paste it somewhere else in Chrome, such as into a new Gmail message or a Google Docs document, on another tab? You probably found that a bunch of unwanted HTML and CSS code or links came along with the copied text. You can fix this with a very useful, hidden Chrome feature. Copy the text normally from one web page. However, when you are ready to paste it somewhere else within the Chrome window, press Ctrl + Shift + V, instead of Ctrl + V to paste it. Any links, HTML code, or CSS code will be removed and you’ll be left with the plain text.

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Edit Any Web Page Within Chrome

Chrome allows you to edit web pages directly within the browser. To do so, right-click on a web page and select Inspect element from the popup menu. Edit the HTML source code and press Enter to view your changes.

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Make Google Chrome Your Default Browser

When you first install Google Chrome, you are asked if you want it to be your default browser. If you answered no at the time, and you’ve now changed your mind, you can easily change that setting. Click the wrench button and select Settings from the menu. Click Basics in the Settings menu on the left, if that screen is not active, scroll down to the Default browser section, and click Make Google Chrome my default browser.

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Here’s some information about additional miscellaneous, useful features and extensions to enhance Google Chrome.


Chrome Keyboard Shortcuts

Here are some handy keyboard shortcuts to make browsing in Chrome quick and efficient.

  • Alt + F – Open the wrench menu (i.e., the main Chrome menu)
  • Ctrl + J – Open the Downloads window
  • Ctrl + H – Open the History window
  • Ctrl + Tab – Navigate through your open tabs in order
  • Ctrl + 1, Ctrl + 2 .. Ctrl + 9 – Jump to different open tabs. Ctrl + 9 takes you to the last tab.
  • Ctrl + T – Open a new tab
  • Alt + Home – Go to your Google Chrome home page
  • Ctrl + U – View source code of the current page
  • Ctrl + K – Search quickly in the address bar (you can also use Ctrl + E) – A question mark displays. Enter your search term and press Enter.
  • Ctrl + L – Highlight the URL in the address bar. Use this to copy and paste a URL quickly.
  • Ctrl + N – Open a new Chrome browser window
  • Ctrl + Shift + N – Open a new incognito window (for private browsing)
  • Ctrl + Shift + B – Show/hide the Bookmarks bar
  • Ctrl + Shift + T – Open your most recently closed tab. Press Ctrl + Shift + T again to open the tab closed before that one. Chrome remembers the last 10 tabs you’ve closed.
  • Ctrl + W – Close the current tab
  • Alt + Left Arrow – Go to the previous page from your history
  • Alt + Right Arrow – Go to the next page from your history
  • Space bar – Scroll down the current web page

All these features and extensions should help enhance your browsing experience in Chrome. However, we have one more tweak. If you’re bored with the standard Chrome icon, you can enable the secret gold icon.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 05/12/12

Comments (22)

  1. Jay Massey

    Excellent Chrome tips!

  2. Mike Poole

    Thanks very much! I was going to write that the short-cut list is excellent, but then I started looking more carefully through the rest of the post and realised that I still have a lot to learn about Chrome. Thanks again!

  3. Mod

    But what I really missing from chrome – truly smooth mouse gestures.
    I’m using on FF fire gestures for ages and really enjoying it.
    Tried mostly all gestures on chrome and all honestly… just sucks. Can’t live without it.
    FF begins piss me of – if leave opened google reader tab, after some time it begins slows downs (freezing) – eg. switching to another tab in can take up to 3-4 even more sec.!
    What I really wish, that chrome dev makes by them mouse gestures, not on chrome store.

  4. zef

    Alt + D is much more comfortable alternative to Ctrl + L

  5. jasray

    No mention of Terminal for Chrome? Odd . . .

  6. Arston

    And not mentioning one of my most favourite features – search engines. There are cool ways to use them.

    About the mouse gestures – I’ve tried only one extension which had all the functionality one would need, but I didn’t because I’m using my own shortcuts with AHK.

  7. mad.madrasi

    Whoa! Fantastic. Even after couple of years with chrome, I never knew about presentations and documents viewer in Chrome – though Chrome is my ‘default’ pdf viewer for some time.

    a couple of tips (not clarified above) though:
    1) Get Quick Calculation Results from the Address Bar – this will only work if ‘prediction service’ is checked on. (Wrench -> Settings -> Under the Hood -> Use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed in the address bar)

    2) Show Only Icons on the Bookmarks Bar – try this only if the bookmarked site has ‘favicon’ – else you will get the drab, uninformative, default icon (4) – ‘related sites when you have the prediction service turned on’ – from the ‘Omnibox Icon guide’ mentioned above.

    otherwise, great tips.

  8. Scott

    Clicking the wrench and find is okay, but is there a good “search page” or find text on page extension?

  9. Ben

    This is a pretty comprehensive list of the cool & useful things you can do within Chrome, thanks!

  10. Seyyed

    Thank you a lot!

  11. cam2644

    It’s good that you’ve referrred to the opt outs from Google collecting your data. It’s amazing how many people do not realize that they are allowing this to happen and how it distorts your Google searches later with specified advertising.
    Chrome is good but like many others I don’t like being totally under the Google umbrella and that’s one of the reasons I prefer Firefox.

  12. Arston

    You can control what information you send. That’s not a very good reason to stick with Firefox.

  13. MichaelK

    Also, Shift+Space scrolls up

  14. Zaigham

    Very helpful.

  15. larry ray

    Last time I tried, I still couldn’t just open-view a video or power point file in my email using Chrome. It was still necessary to download it to your download files…then go find the file in downloads…open it, view it, and then delete it. My Google searches were that Google had that on the list of things to fix…but not high on their list. Is there a fix with an option to view for that yet?

  16. George

    That was Very Good Info, RE: Google Chrome. I will Be Using Some Of that Info. Thank You.

  17. Citrus Rain

    Oh goodie. I was trying to find a good screenshot tool a few weeks ago. But I could not find any that would take what was not entirely on the screen. (Was actually looking to find one that would take the contents of a div tag, but what you posted still get more than Shutter)

    @cam2644
    If you download chromium, all data sharing to google is off by default. But if you want a reason to stick with firefox, use “Support competiton between rendering engines.”

  18. Jim

    What’s this Google Docs you speak of?

    I think you mean Google Drive :)

  19. Karlen

    @zef and F6 is much more comfortable alternative to alt + D :)

  20. Tommy

    If you type about:about in the address bar press enter you get a list of clickable internal under the hood settings and info, you can drag this into the bookmarks toolbar i have it set as an capital A, you can do the same thing with Firfox as well.

  21. kseve

    Wow I must really be a geek…I knew all of these already

  22. Khan

    Not very helpful. I was specifically looking for:
    - How to automatically delete browsing history when we close chrome (I don’t want incognito mode).
    - How to reload all the tabs opened.

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