12 time-saving tips for the Chrome Android browser (with video)

Become a mobile browsing pro with these little-known tips for Google's Chrome browser for Android.

Mobile Web browsing is all about finding what you need quickly and with as little hassle as possible -- at least, in theory. In the real world, the experience of surfing sites from your smartphone or tablet is often anything but enjoyable.

From sites that have not-so-friendly mobile interfaces to browser commands that take too many steps to execute, hopping around the World Wide Internuts from a handheld device leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Fear not, though, my fellow finger-tappers: There are things you can do to make your touchscreen surfing a smoother ride. Try these tips and tricks for Google's Chrome browser for Android, and get ready for a much better mobile browsing experience.

(Note that a few of these tips work on either a phone or a tablet, but not both. I've indicated "on a phone" or "on a tablet" when that's the case.)

1. Search the simple way

Ever find yourself reading a Web page and wanting to learn more about something you see? On a phone, just press and hold your finger to the area of the text in question, then use the sliders that appear to adjust what words are selected.

Once you've done that, you'll see a white bar containing those words and a Google logo at the bottom of your screen. Tap the bar, and you'll get an overlay window with search results for that very term -- right there on the page.

Chrome browser for Android - tap to search

Chrome's tap-to-search feature lets you get quick info without leaving the page.

You can tap any link in the results to open it as a new tab, slide the window upward to make it bigger, or slide it downward to dismiss it and return to your original full-page view.

2. Take back your right to zoom-a-zoom zoom zoom

For some inexplicable reason, lots of websites prevent you from zooming in on your mobile device. And for a variety of reasons -- whether you want to make the text larger or get a closer look at, ahem, something that catches your eye in an image (like, you know, an innocent little birdie) -- there are bound to be times when you want to get in close.

Thankfully, Chrome lets you take back control. Head into the app's settings (by tapping the menu icon in the upper-right corner and selecting "Settings"), then look for the section called "Accessibility" and find the option within it labeled "Force enable zoom."

Activate that option, and get ready to zoom to your heart's content -- whether the website you're looking at wants you to or not.

3. Find your favorite way to zoom

Speaking of zooming, you're probably familiar with the now-standard pinch-and-spread method to zoom out and in on mobile devices. But in Chrome, you've got a couple other choices -- both of which can be quite useful when you're using your phone with a single hand.

First, on many devices, you can simply double-tap anywhere on a page to zoom into that specific area and have it take up the full width of your display.

Second, you can double-tap and then leave your finger down -- so tap once, lift, tap again, stay down -- and then drag downward to zoom in or upward to zoom out. (See the video at the top of the page for a demo.) It sounds a bit strange, but give it a whirl. You'll be a pro in no time.

(Note that these advanced zooming methods won't work on all Web pages; generally, if a site is optimized for mobile viewing, you'll be limited to the regular ol' pinching action. But more often than not, the need to zoom comes up when a site isn't optimized for mobile viewing, so these techniques can still come in handy.)

4. Return your tabs to their original home

Most devices with Android 5.0 or higher allow you to view your various browser tabs within the main system Overview list -- you know, the app-switching thing that pops up when you press the button next to your Home key. But that Overview list can quickly become overloaded and difficult to manage.

If you'd rather handle your tabs within Chrome itself, as you did in the pre-Lollipop years, all it takes is a simple switch to get things back to that more traditional setup. Provided your device supports the feature, you'll find the option under the "Merge tabs and apps" line in Chrome's settings.

5. Master Chrome's hidden gestures

Feel like saving some time? (Who doesn't?) Chrome for Android has some hidden gestures that'll let you take care of common tasks quickly and efficiently. (Note that on devices running Android 5.0 or higher, these gestures work only if you manage your tabs within Chrome, as described in the previous tip. You can see all these gestures in action in the video at the top of the page.)

On a phone, swipe down from the browser's address bar to see all your open tabs as cards on the screen. Tap on any tab to jump right to it, or swipe sideways to close it.

Swipe downward on Chrome's menu button, meanwhile, to move right into the menu without ever lifting your finger. Just keep swiping down until you reach the option you want.

And finally, swipe downward from anywhere within the main browser area to reload the currently opened page. (You'll need to be scrolled all the way to the top of the page in order for it to work.) Once you see a circle with an arrow appear, you can let go, sit back, and relax. Refreshing, isn't it?

6. Get your tabs in order

If you're using Chrome on a tablet -- and if you manage your tabs within the browser, as described in tip #4 -- you can move tabs around into any order you like. Just touch and hold the top of the tab and then slide your finger left or right to place it in a new position.

Chrome for Android - close all tabs

Chrome has an option for closing all tabs -- if you know where to find it.

7. Kill all your tabs in one fell swoop

Make note of this for those times when you've got tons of tabs open and want to close 'em all at once: With Chrome on a phone, use the swipe-down gesture we learned in tip #5 to view all your open tabs. (Once again -- yup, you guessed it -- this'll work only if you're managing your tabs within Chrome.)

With all the tabs visible, tap the menu icon in the upper-right corner. There, you'll see an option to "Close all tabs."

Sweet sassy molassey, knockin' out websites has never felt so good.

8. Pick up where you left off

One of Chrome's most powerful features is one that you might not even know exists: The browser always keeps all of your tabs synced and available across devices -- which means you can open up Chrome on your phone or tablet and get to the same tabs you left open on your laptop or desktop computer.

All you've gotta do to take advantage of it is tap the small clock icon at the bottom-right of the New Tab screen. Once you do, you'll see a list of tabs open in Chrome on any other device where you're signed in -- computer, phone, tablet, you name it. You can then tap any of those tabs to pull it up where you are right now.

9. Find that site you surfed to earlier

Maybe it's not an actively open tab you need but one you had open a while ago -- say, a page you were viewing from your laptop last night, before you shut it down and put on your favorite pink footie pajamas.

Well, no problemo: Just like we did in the last tip, tap the clock icon in Chrome's New Tab screen. See that section called "Recently closed" at the top? Tap the line inside it labeled "Show full history."

There, you'll find a full list of pages you've had opened on any device where you've been signed into Chrome -- including both regular computers and other mobile devices. You can browse through the pages chronologically or even search for keywords using the box at the top of the screen.

This might be a good time to remind you about the existence of Chrome's incognito mode for the type of Web surfing you don't wish to have kept on record. And don't forget, you can also always clear your full browsing history from Chrome on any device if the need ever arises. (Don't worry -- I won't ask for details.)

Join the Computerworld newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about Google

Show Comments