Android Intelligence Advice

4 secret settings for a smarter Chrome Android setup

Supercharge your smartphone browsing experience with these powerful yet completely concealed options.

Chrome Android Settings: Better browsing
Google/JR Raphael

Android Intelligence Advice

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Hey. You. Yes, you there — the one with your overly moist eyeballs pointed at the screen. What if I were to tell you that that the browser you rely on for all of your web-based exploring on Android had oodles of extra features — top-secret settings that'd add awesome powers into your mobile browsing adventures and make wiggling your way around this wacky ol' web of ours meaningfully better?

Well, provided you're using Google's Chrome browser for Android, that's as true as true can be. And best of all, it doesn't take much to uncover all of Chrome's carefully concealed treasures — if you know where to look.

The four settings on this page will make your Android-based web browsing more powerful, more efficient, and generally just more pleasant. They're all just sitting there waiting to be found, too — so really, why not take advantage of what they have to offer?

Before we spelunk any further, though, one quick word of warning: All of these settings are part of Chrome's flags system, which is a home for under-development options that are still actively being worked on and aren't technically intended for mainstream use. The flags system is meant for expert users and other similarly informed (and/or insane) folk who want to get an early look at advanced items. It also evolves pretty regularly, so it's entirely possible some of the settings mentioned here may look different from what I've described or even be gone entirely at some point in the not-so-distant future.

What's more, the flags system has loads of advanced options within it, some of which could potentially cause websites to look weird, Chrome itself to become unstable, or even your ears to start spewing a delightfully minty steam. (Hey, you never know.) So in other words: Proceed with caution, follow my instructions carefully, and don't mess with anything else you encounter in this area of the browser unless you actually understand it and genuinely know what you're doing.

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Got all that? Good. Now, let's give your browser some spiffy new superpowers, shall we?

Chrome Android setting No. 1: A more intelligent browser button

One of my favorite tucked-away Chrome features is the relatively recent addition of a custom button for the browser's toolbar. Have you found that yet?

Once activated, the feature adds an extra button into your browser's top bar — and what makes it especially cool is that the button can be for whatever function you use the most: sharing a page, starting a new tab, or starting a new voice search.

You can also opt to have Chrome decide for you and dynamically change that button based on which of those actions it thinks you're most likely to use at any given moment.

Chrome Android Settings: Toolbar button JR

Here's a rarely realized twist, though: In addition to those three existing commands, you can now expand the Chrome Android custom button's capabilities with two new options — for translating a site on demand and for adding a page straight into your browser's bookmarks, both with just a single tap at the tippity-top of your scriggity-screen.

All you've gotta do is flick a couple quick switches to make those shiny new options available:

  • First, type chrome:flags into your Chrome Android app's address bar.
  • Then type adaptive button into the search box on the screen that comes up.
  • You should see three lines: "Adaptive button in top toolbar - Translate button," "Adaptive button in tip toolbar - Add to bookmarks button," and "Adaptive button in top toolbar customization."
  • Tap the box beneath each of those lines and change its setting from "Disabled" to "Enabled."
  • Tap the blue Relaunch button at the bottom of the screen.

Now, just head into Chrome's settings — by tapping the three-dot menu icon in the browser's upper-right corner and then selecting "Settings" from the menu that comes up — and look for the "Toolbar shortcut" section. (It should be under the "Advanced" heading, toward the bottom of the screen.)

Tap that, and how 'bout that? You should now see the full set of available browser button options, and you can pick whichever one your fancy little heart desires.

Chrome Android Settings: Toolbar button options JR

Now, while we're thinking about improvements that'll affect your entire Android web browsing experience...

Chrome Android setting No. 2: A dark mode upgrade

Android's Dark Theme is a delightful way to make your virtual world a little easier on the eyes, especially in the evening hours or anytime you're in a dim setting — say, a server room deep in the bowels of your company workplace or maybe a gigantic vat of Velveeta after you've been shrunken down to a tiny Lego-character size.

But oddly enough, using the system-wide Dark Theme toggle doesn't actually affect the web. Most sites still show up bright as day and as a harsh contrast to the dim, mellow vibes the rest of Android offers up in that context.

Well, here's the fix:

  • Once again, type chrome:flags into your browser's address bar.
  • Now type dark into the search box on the screen that comes up.
  • See the line that says "Auto Dark Mode for Web Contents"? Change its setting from "Default" to "Enabled."
  • Smack that splendid Relaunch button at the bottom of the screen. (Don't worry. It likes it.)

All that's left is to pull up any ol' website you want, and you'll see the site magically transformed into a dark motif for your viewing pleasure.

Chrome Android Settings: Dark mode JR

Ooh, ahh, etc.

Chrome Android setting No. 3: Zippier zooming

Let's face it: Most of us aren't getting any younger. (I say "most of us" 'cause there's always that one dude who somehow seems to age backwards and look better with every passing year. We're on to you, Josh from accounting.)

And sometimes, certain websites have a tendency of making their text Too Damn Small™ for our aging eyes. (Not that I've ever had that problem or anything...)

Android's got ample options for increasing text size on a browser-wide basis or even across your entire device, but the reality is that text size isn't always the same from one virtual stomping ground to the next. And on the web in particular, one site's squintily sized text standard might live alongside another site's perfectly fine word size choices.

Fret not, though, for I've got your back. Google's Chrome Android app has a new option that makes it exceptionally easy to adjust text size on a site by site basis, as you're working your way around the World Wide Webbitudes:

  • Start by typing chrome:flags into your browser's address bar (feeling familiar yet?).
  • Next, type zoom into the search box on the screen that comes up.
  • Find the line labeled "Accessibility Page Zoom" and change its setting to "Enabled."
  • Tap the Relaunch button at the bottom of the screen.

Now, get this: Once your browser comes back, you can open up any site, anywhere on the web, and look in Chrome's main three-line menu icon to find a new "Zoom" option.

Chrome Android Settings: Zoom JR

Tap that son of a gibbon and tap it good, and you'll get a floating zoom bar right atop whatever page you're viewing.

Chrome Android Settings: Zoom scale JR

Best of all? Whatever changes you make to that site's zoom settings should stick and then continue to apply for that specific site and that site only moving forward.

Chrome Android setting No. 4: Better bookmarks

While we're thinking about easy interface enhancements, let's take a sec to self-apply a hefty upgrade to an area of the Chrome Android app that's long been brushed aside and neglected.

I'm talkin' about Chrome's bookmarks area — a part of Chrome that's been rather blah (to use the technical term) for a good long while now. But don't give up yet! Somewhat amazingly, Google hasn't forgotten about this area entirely.

In fact, El Googaloo's got a whole new look in the works for your Android-based browser bookmarks. And you can fast-track whatever phone you're carrying into that new-and-improved setup by making this quick 'n' easy tweak:

  • Type — yup, you guessed it! — chrome:flags into your browser's address bar.
  • Type bookmarks into the search box on the screen that comes up.
  • Tap the line labeled "Android Visual Bookmark Manager" and change its setting from "Disabled" to "Enabled."
  • Tap the Relaunch button at the bottom of the screen.

After your browser restarts, tap the three-dot menu icon in its upper-right corner and then tap "Bookmarks" in that main Chrome menu. You'll be greeted with a freshened-up Android bookmark view that doesn't look like it was last touched in the prehistoric ages — and you can smugly enjoy the knowledge that you're a step ahead and enjoying under-development features before anyone else even knows about 'em.

And yes, that includes Josh from accounting — that fresh-faced but stale-browsered showoff.

Hey, small victories, right? We'll take what we can.

Ready for even more advanced Android knowledge? Sign up for my free Android Shortcut Supercourse to learn tons of time-saving tricks!

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