Customise Chrome’s address box and add new features

The address box in Google Chrome performs two functions and it is used to enter and display website addresses and it is used to search the web. Instead of the normal address box, it can be customised to make it simpler and clearer to use. It just takes a couple of simple tweaks in the hidden chrome://flags settings.

Take a look at the address box at the top of the Chrome browser window before we start. Now enter chrome://flags and a long list of secret settings is displayed. These are normally hidden and some are experimental and may or may not work, but a few are straightforward and have useful benefits.

Scroll down the page until you come to a setting called Origin chip. Click the menu button and select Enabled on all pages from the list of options. Immediately below this setting is Enable search button in Omnibox (this is Google’s name for the address box). Click the menu button and select Enabled on all pages.

 Chrome settings

At the bottom of the settings page is a button to restart the browser. Click it. If Chrome does not automatically restart after quitting, just start Chrome in the usual way and go to a website. It will look something like this:

 Chrome browser

Instead of a long URL in the address box, there will be a shortened URL on a coloured background, grey in the example above. This is the Origin chip referred to in the settings. Only the domain name is shown, such as en.wikipedia.org and the full address of the page you are viewing is hidden.

Page URLs are often long, complicated and hard to remember anyway, so why not hide them and just show the website domain? If you want to see the full URL of the page you are viewing, click the coloured chip and it is displayed.

 Chrome browser

You can now edit the URL or delete it and type in a new one.

If you click in the white space to the right of the chip, it becomes a search box. Enter a word or phrase in the usual way and press Enter or click the new blue search button at the right side of the address box.

 Chrome browser

The result of these two Chrome tweaks is a simpler and cleaner address box, or Omnibox as Google calls it. Complex URLs are hidden, you can see that sites are secure by the green chip, but one click returns you to normal. Searching is simpler and more obvious too.


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