Chrome 69, which marks the browser’s 10-year anniversary, is a huge release. The slick new theme is the most visible change, but there are more new features. For example, you can now personalize Chrome’s New Tab page with background images and custom shortcuts.
New “Material Design” Theme
You’ll know you’re using the new Chrome because you’ll see a new theme after it updates. Things mostly work the same, although there’s a new profile icon near the menu bar. You can click it to see information about the Google account with which you’re signed in to Chrome, view saved passwords, and manage payment methods and addresses for autofill.
On Windows 10, you can make Chrome’s gray tab bar more colorful by enabling colored title bars, if you like.
If you don’t like the new theme at all, there’s a hidden flag that will re-enable Chrome’s old design. Google will probably remove this option eventually, but it will let you keep using that familiar design for a while longer.
Colorful Backgrounds for the New Tab Page
The New Tab page now lets you select any background image you like without installing a browser extension first.
To set a custom background, click the gear icon at the bottom right corner of the new tab page. Select “Chrome Backgrounds” to choose one of Google’s backgrounds, or click “Upload an Image” to put any background image you like there.
Custom Shortcuts on the New Tab Page
Chrome’s New Tab page previously had a “most visited” section below the search box, showing you the web pages you most frequently visited. That’s now gone.
Instead, the New Tab page lets you choose which shortcuts appear below the search box. You can click the “Add Shortcut” button to add shortcuts to your favorite websites.
You can also rename or remove any of the existing shortcuts. Just hover over any of them and click the menu button that appears on the top right corner of the icon to access options.
This feature could use a little bit more work—for example, we wish we could drag and drop these shortcut icons to rearrange them—but the customization is nice.
Password Generator and Autofill Improvements
Chrome has had a password manager for a long time, but it just got a lot better. Chrome can now automatically generate and save random passwords for you. Just right-click a password field and select “Generate Password.” This feature was previously available but hidden.
We recommend password managers to everyone, but most people probably aren’t going to install a password manager like LastPass. Chrome has a better shot at bringing password managers to the masses, making it easier for everyone to use strong, unique passwords everywhere.
Google has also improved Chrome’s autofill feature. The browser should be better at filling in passwords along with credit card numbers and addresses.
The Omnibox Powers Up
Chrome’s address bar, which Google calls the “Omnibox,” just got more powerful. Many answers to searches now instantly appear in the Omnibox as you start typing, just as they do when searching on Google’s website.
For example, you can type “weather” into the Omnibox to see the weather right there in the box. Other types of answers Google knows should appear here too, including translations of foreign words, details about sporting events, and information about celebrities. Google promises the Omnibox will search your Google Drive files soon, too.
The Omnibox also now makes it easy to switch between tabs. For example, if you have Gmail open and type “Gmail” into the Omnibox, Google will suggest you switch to your open Gmail tab rather than opening a new one. It’s an excellent feature for anyone who likes keyboard navigation—or just has too many tabs open.
Easy Access to Search on Mobile
Chrome’s apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad also just got an update with a new theme and layout. The navigation bar now appears on the bottom of the screen, which makes it easier to use one-handed even as phones keep getting bigger and taller.
There’s also a new search button smack dab in the middle of that bottom navigation bar, making it easier to start new searches—especially one handed.
The “Secure” Indicator is Gone
It’s a minor change you might not notice, but Chrome just dropped the green lock icon and the “Secure” indicator from HTTPS sites. You’ll still see a gray lock icon in the Omnibox on secure websites, but that’s it.
This follows another change made recently: Chrome marks all standard HTTP websites as “Not Secure.” Websites are secure by default unless Google Chrome tells you otherwise. In the future, Google is even going to get rid of that little gray lock icon.
An Easter Egg in an Easter Egg
Chrome’s dinosaur game receives a temporary visual upgrade, too. This is an Easter egg, and it appears when you don’t have an Internet connection. On the “No internet” page that features a dinosaur icon, press the Spacebar (or tap on mobile) to begin the game. You play a dinosaur running through a desert, and you have to jump over cacti. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s something to do while you’re waiting for the internet to come back up.
For September 2018, this game now features a birthday cake the dinosaur can eat, which gives it a party hat. There are also balloons in the background. It’s like an Easter egg inside an Easter egg.
Bonus: Chrome’s Had a Built-in Adblocker Since February
While Chrome 69 offers a significant visual change, Google updates Chrome every six weeks with new features, security updates, and bug fixes. Previous versions of Chrome have had some big changes, too.
The most important one you should know about is Chrome’s built-in adblocker. Chrome now automatically blocks ads on websites that use obnoxious ads like auto-playing videos with audio and huge banners that block your screen.
This gives you a better browsing experience if you use Chrome, and it provides websites a strong encouragement to show better ads to everyone. It’s automatically enabled, and you don’t have to do anything or even think about it.
This change arrived back on February 15, 2018, but it’s easy to miss. It just silently makes the web better.