There are several new features and tweaks in Chrome OS 86 that are unfortunately not part of the default Chrome OS experience. They are likely not stable enough to be kept enabled for everyone. Some of these experimental features are tucked behind a page where they can be manually switched on or off. You can find these switches, or “flags,” for trying experimental features by typing chrome://flags in Chrome’s URL bar and hitting enter. Here is a list of Chrome flags I recommend trying out.
Android Wi-Fi sync
Here is a tweak to bring a useful Wi-Fi sync feature to your Chromebook.
- Are you constantly forgetting every single network password that you used to connect your Android phone? Enable this Chrome flag to sync Wi-Fi network configurations between your Chromebook and your phone so you don’t have to remember your complicated passwords.
Fix Bluetooth audio cuts
It’s no secret that Google has a rough history with Bluetooth. While the Bluetooth situation on Chromebooks is improving thanks to recent development, many of us who pair bluetooth to our Chromebooks like wireless earbuds will know that the wireless experience isn’t perfect. The following flag may help improve your Bluetooth.
- Bluetooth stuttering on Chrome OS has been a significant issue for a lot of people on Chrome OS. Just recently, Google is working to shrink the Bluetooth packet size to improve audio quality and reduce stutter. Enable this Chrome flag to try out Google’s attempt to fix Bluetooth, though you may need to change this back to default if it hurts the Bluetooth audio experience.
Bring pointer lock to Linux (Beta)
Linux (Beta) is an operating system that runs in a container under Chrome OS, giving you access to a large collection of Linux apps like Inkscape, Audacity, and Steam. The following flag will help improve your experience in running Linux apps.
- Unable to play games on your Chromebook due to the frustrating cursor? Enable this Chrome flag to allow Linux applications to request exclusive use of the mouse pointer. This is necessary when playing Linux games on Chrome OS.
Tweak Chrome and Chrome OS UI
Want to toggle on some new flags that bring cosmetic changes to Chrome and Chrome OS UI? These sets of flags will round corners and slightly change other UI elements.
- Google is now testing adaptive icons to bring app icon consistency to apps on Chrome OS. Enable this Chrome flag to bring adaptive launcher icons to Chrome OS, which puts a circular shape under the application icon.
Adaptive icons add a circle shape behind app icons. Left: default. Right: flag enabled.
- Did you know that rounded corners are easier on your eyes than sharp edges? Rest your eyes a bit by enabling picture-in-picture rounded corners.
Rounded corners make picture-in-picture look much nicer.
- Enable this Chrome flag to change the corner radius of the dialogs to be slightly more rounded.
- Bothered by how much the shelf moves upwards when viewing your windows in overview mode? Enable this Chrome flag to keep the shelf where you swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
The shelf won’t move when swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
- Currently, the Omnibox color on the New Tab page doesn’t adapt to any Chrome themes. Enable this flag to make the Omnibox color consistent with the theme.
The Omnibox in the New Tab page will adapt to the Chrome theme.
- Currently, the language settings page looks sloppy on Chrome OS. Google knows this, and it decided to clean it up. Enable this Chrome flag to see a revamped language page that looks clean and organized.
Improve productivity in Chrome OS
Chrome OS offers several hidden tricks up its sleeve to make it more productive to use. These sets of flags will increase your productivity on your Chromebook.
- This Chrome flag brings massive usability improvements to the partial screenshot experience. Enable this Chrome flag to resize or move the partial screenshot selection before taking a snapshot.
Movable partial screenshot makes capturing a snippet of your screen less frustrating.
- Bothered about not being able to adjust your mouse and touchpad scroll sensitivity? Enable this Chrome flag to show settings to enable or disable scrolling sensitivity for mice and touchpad. You can also adjust the sensitivity of scrolling.
- Want to save vertical space in the file manager’s navigation pane? Enable this Chrome flag to convert the media type buttons from the navigation pane into file-type filters in Recents. To learn more about this feature, check out our awesome coverage on it.
Save vertical space in the file manager by turning media type buttons into filters.
A convenient way to see a list of things copied on your Chromebook
- Your Chromebook gives you different options for connecting to the web. However, not every network provides unlimited access to data. Chrome OS used to let you specify if a network was metered or not, but it went away due to pending issues. Enable this Chrome flag to bring the toggle back.
- When dragging an app around in the launcher app drawer, an outline of where the app icon will be placed when you let go. Enable this flag to improve the app dragging usability in the launcher.
App grid ghost shows you where the app icon will be placed after lifting your finger.
- Let’s be honest, moving apps to different pages in the Chrome OS launcher feel slippery and unpolished. To improve the launcher’s usability, Google is working on launcher app paging, making it easy to see where your app icons are going when moving them to different pages. Enable this Chrome flag to see some of the improvements the developers are working on.
Launcher app paging makes dragging apps to different pages less frustrating.
Notification indicator brings Android’s notification dots to Chrome OS.
- The current Alt-Tab experience can be annoying, especially when several applications open across multiple virtual desks. Enable this Chrome flag to limit Alt-Tab to the active desk.
- Similar to the current Alt-Tab experience, managing several applications across multiple virtual desks can be annoying, especially when launching apps from the shelf. Enable this Chrome flag to limit shelf apps to the active desk.
- Currently, Chrome OS doesn’t offer a quick and easy way to activate picture-in-picture. Enabling this Chrome flag puts a picture-in-picture button in the media controls so you can quickly watch videos in a floating window.
- Prefer not to set your Chromebook into developer to test the Web Authentication API? Enable this Chrome flag to activate the Chrome OS platform authenticator without having to powerwash your Chromebook.
- Want your PWAs to launch automatically on startup? Enable this Chrome flag to launch your PWAs automatically after you log into your account. You should see a new checkbox on the PWA installer dialog to opt into this feature.
Chrome productivity enhancements
Google Chrome is a web browser that runs on Chrome OS. It is the default browser that is tightly integrated into Chrome OS. Here is a list of flags to enhance the web browsing experience.
- Currently, Chrome makes you click and drag to select a word on a webpage. Enable this Chrome flag to autoselect any word under the cursor when right-clicking it.
- If you duplicate tabs often, you probably have a ton of tabs with similar names on them. Enable this Chrome flag to show a preview of the web page when hovering your cursor over a tab, which is useful for sorting tabs.
Hovering your cursor over your Chrome tab will show a preview of that tab.
- Tab search can help you easily find your tab when the tab strip is a mess. Enabling this Chrome flag will put a handy dropdown arrow next to the New tab icon so you can quickly search for the tab you need.
Find your tabs in a snap with tab search.
- Currently, Chrome only allows PWAs to be a single window, which can be a bit annoying if you want to be productive with them. Enable this flag to add Chrome’s tab strip to PWAs to help speed up your workflow with multiple Chrome tabs.
Tabbed PWAs in Chrome OS makes it easy to multitask in PWAs.
- Currently, launching a new tab in a PWA will create a new instance of Chrome, breaking your focus. Enable this Chrome flag to fix links in PWAs. This feature is best paired with the flag bulleted above.
- Need a certain PWA to launch after clicking on a link? Enable this Chrome flag to show a checkbox to always launch your PWA.
- If you find yourself managing your Google Account often, enable this Chrome flag to put a convenient shortcut to your Google account settings on the Chrome toolbar.
Avatar toolbar button in Chrome provides easy access to your Google account.
- Having trouble hearing what people are saying on your screen? Live Caption brings Android’s machine learning feature to Chrome so you can read dialog without cranking your volume all the way up. Enable this Chrome flag to try out Live Caption on your device.
Live Caption automatically captures speech on your device.
Optimize Chrome for tablet mode
Google has been working hard on delivering a better tablet mode experience to Chromebooks. One of the improvements is bringing a better touch experience to Chrome. While this feature rolled out to Chromebooks in Chrome OS 86, some people still see the old, bulky design. Enable these sets of flags to make Chrome easier to use while using your Chromebook as a tablet.
WebUI tab strip brings a better tablet mode experience.
- This Chrome flag completely overhauls the Chrome UI to be more touch and gesture focused when your Chromebook is set to tablet mode. Instead of the bulky tabs that take up vertical space, the new WebUI tab strips tuck the tabs in a convenient button reminiscent of the Chrome tabs on Android. Alternatively, you can swipe down from the top to reveal your tabs. Enable this flag to improve the Chrome tablet mode experience on Chrome.
- This Chrome flag brings better integration to Chrome OS by allowing you to drag tabs out of Chrome while your Chromebook is using WebUI tab strips. Enable this flag to improve the tab dragging experience.
Improve scrolling in Chrome
Does scrolling feel rough when browsing through webpages using Chrome? Thanks to the Microsoft Edge developers, the scrolling experience will be much smoother with flags. These flags should be enabled together.
- This Chrome flag changes the touch inertia in Chrome to behave similarly to Microsoft’s Edge browser. Enable it to smooth the flinging experience.
- As the next step in porting Microsoft Edge’s scrolling improvements into Chrome, the Edge developers introduce percent-based mouse scrolling. This system fixes an issue where free-floating scroll wheels (like on a Logitech MX Master) would not correctly scroll. Enable it to fix free-floating scroll on Chrome OS.
- Impulse scroll animations are a new system to change the dynamics of the scroll momentum. Enable this Chrome flag to make scrolling feel more responsive to your Chromebook.
Impulse scroll animation changes the scroll momentum. Left: with impulse scroll animation. Right: without impulse scroll animation.
Get better performance on Chrome OS
Working with a slow machine can be frustrating, especially when the battery doesn’t last very long. One of your Chromebook’s strengths is its lightweight nature, making the system feel more nimble than most. There are a few flags you can adjust to help optimize your Chromebook even further.
- Are you frustrated with how stuttery the Chrome OS launcher is on your Chromebook? Rendering blur is computationally more demanding compared to a layer that has transparency. Disable this feature flag to turn off blur in the launcher and shelf so your Chromebook will feel smoother. Keep in mind that the shelf quick settings may be slightly hard to read when opening it over a busy background.
- Although hyperthreading was switched on for a few people using an Intel-based Chromebook, it’s still disabled on some devices thanks to an MDS vulnerability with the CPU. You can manually enable hyperthreading with this Chrome flag, but Chrome OS will force it off even with this flag enabled if you launch Linux (Beta).
Improve Chrome’s performance
The Chrome web browser is designed to be agile and robust, but some people complain about its performance on their Chromebook. These sets of flags should slightly improve Chrome’s performance.
- Laggy scrolling performance while Chrome is under load? Enable this Chrome flag to move a portion of the service worker code in the browser process from the IO thread to the UI thread. This is part of a big initiative to simplify Chrome’s IO threads, which can boost performance.
- Sluggish video calling performance? Previously, the display compositor would be updating more frequently than the video stream. This Chrome flag resolves the composition rate to adjust based on the video’s actual framerate. Enable it to improve WebRTC performance while saving battery.
- Previously, media content was cached to disk during acquisition and playback. Keeping the disk active during this process increases power consumption and can prevent certain lower-power modes from being engaged in the operating system. Enable this Chrome flag to prevent caching certain media content to disk to improve users’ device battery life.
- Running into performance hitches when you have several Chrome tabs opened in tab groups? Enable this Chrome flag to optimize Chrome’s performance by sleeping the tabs inside a tab group after collapsing it.
- Running out of memory on your Chromebook? Enabling this Chrome flag will allow Chrome OS to reclaim memory from any target process when your Chromebook is low on memory. This system is better than killing apps to reclaim memory, which can cause you to lose data.
That’s about all of the useful Chrome flags I found in Chrome OS 86 that I recommend you try. I personally cannot wait for these features to roll out to everyone, and I’m excited to see Chrome OS evolving every day.