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Simple ways to shine up Google's Chrome browser

Change the start page, add a Home button to the toolbar, import your Firefox and IE settings, and open downloaded files automatically.

Chrome has quickly earned a reputation for being lightweight and fast. It can't offer anything like Firefox's useful extensions—yet. Still, there are plenty of ways to tweak Chrome's default settings to make it work more like you do.

Open to your home page
I never could get used to Chrome's New Tab page, which is the browser's default start page. It shows big thumbnails of several of the sites you've recently visited. Some people will like starting with this minihistory, but I've grown accustomed to seeing my home page when the browser opens.

To change this setting, click the Tools menu (the wrench icon in the top-right corner) and choose Options. Under the Basics tab, select Open this page and enter the URL of your preferred start page.

Google Chrome Basics dialog box
Set Chrome to open to your preferred start page rather than the New Tab page by changing this setting. Google

You can also set Chrome to start where it left off by choosing Restore the pages that were open last in the "On startup" section of this dialog box.

Put a Home shortcut on the toolbar
I return to my start page frequently during the day, so I like having a shortcut to that page on the toolbar. Chrome lacks this option by default, but you can return the familiar Home icon to the right of the address bar by selecting Show Home button on the toolbar under the Basics tab of the Toolbar Options dialog box.

Add bookmarks, history, passwords, and search settings from Firefox and IE
Some people have folders and subfolders full of bookmarks, many of which are gathering dust; I've got about a half dozen I return to all the time. Moving them from Firefox and Internet Explorer to Chrome took all of about a second and a half. You can also import your search-engine settings, saved passwords, and browsing history.

Google Chrome Import Bookmarks and Settings dialog
Move your bookmarks/favorites, search settings, passwords, and history from Firefox and IE to Chrome. Google

Open certain downloaded file types automatically
It's probably safer not to let most types of the files you download to run automatically, especially when it comes to EXE files, PDFs, and nearly all media files. But I frequently download Word documents and Excel files from Google Docs and Spreadsheets, among other Web applications, and I prefer that they open without having to be double-clicked.

To set Chrome to open specific types of files automatically after they download, simply click the arrow to the right of the file in the download bar at the bottom of the screen and choose Always open files of this type.

Google Chrome file-download options
Set specific file types to open automatically after you download them by selecting this option on Chrome's download bar. Google

Bonus tip: Keep Chrome up-to-date
Chrome updates are pushed to your browser automatically, but there may be an update available that you can apply manually. Click the Tools icon and select About Google Chrome. If you see an Update button, click it to download the latest version. Restart the browser to apply the update.