Three ways to get more out of Google Chrome

Give the browser a new look, save clicks by using context-menu options, and save time via keyboard shortcuts.

The browser wars are heating up again. Microsoft's touting the improved performance and security of Internet Explorer 8, dozens of new Firefox extensions are released every day, and, according to Apple, Safari 4 will be even faster than its speedy predecessor. Meanwhile, Opera just keeps chugging along at version 9.64, with version 10 beta 3 now available.

Just a few weeks ago, Google announced its plans to create an operating system based on Chrome . Considering that the browser itself is barely a year old, such plans may be premature. Then again, maybe not. But for right now, I'll keep looking for ways to make the Chrome browser more useful.

Last June, I described ways to change Chrome's default settings . Here's a look at ways to revamp the browser's interface and access some of its useful hidden features.

Themes perk up Chrome's drab interface
Google is famous for its no-frills look, which describes the default Chrome interface as well. You can spiff the browser up a bit by adding one of the 30-or-so themes available for the version 3 beta.

To add a theme, click the options button in the top-right corner (the wrench icon) and choose Options. Under the Personal Stuff tab, click Get themes, or just browse to the Themes Gallery.

Google Chrome Themes Gallery
Add a theme to Google Chrome 3 (the Glow theme is shown). Google

If you get tired of a theme, either select a new one or reopen the Personal Stuff tab in the Options dialog and choose Reset to default theme.

Make the most of Chrome's context-menu options
At first glance, Chrome lacks some of Firefox's most useful options. For example, Firefox lets you view your recently visited pages by clicking the down arrow next to the Back and Forward buttons. You can get the same information in Chrome by right-clicking either button to see a list of the sites you've been to most recently.

Another handy right-click option is to copy a URL and then right-click in the address bar and choose Paste and go. You can also open a link in a new incognito window by right-clicking it and selecting Open link in a new incognito window. And like Firefox's Undo Closed Tab right-click option, if you inadvertently close a tab, just right-click another tab and choose Reopen closed tab. (You can do the same by pressing Ctrl-Shift-T.)

Useful Chrome keyboard shortcuts
I'm a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, and Chrome's got several handy ones (note that some of these shortcuts also work in Firefox and other browsers):

Shift-Escape opens Chrome's Task Manager, where you can view the amount of memory and CPU cycles used by each open tab.

Google Chrome Task Manager
Pressing Shift-Escape opens Chrome's Task Manager. Google

Ctrl-Shift-N opens a new incognito window.
Ctrl-B toggles the bookmarks bar off and on.
Ctrl-Shift-B opens the Bookmark Manager.
Shift-Alt-T moves the focus to the toolbar. Switch buttons by using the left and right arrow keys.
Alt-Home opens your home page.
Alt-F4 closes the current window.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.

     

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