All About Chrome Flags

I find myself mentioning Chrome flags frequently in articles, blog posts, and presentations, so I decided to put together a video and detailed description as a central reference. Here’s everything you need to know about Chrome flags (with Chrome Canary and command line flags thrown in for good measure):


Chrome Flags

Chrome flags are a way to enable or disable functionality in Chrome that may not be fully implemented, standardized, or that might still be a little buggy. Rather than wait until a feature is fully ready to be released, Google can just disable the functionality by default using a Chrome flag. That means developers and particularly curious end users can opt into experimenting with the cutting edge of the web without everyone else’s browsing experience potentially being negatively affected.

To turn experimental features on or off in Chrome, follow these steps:

  1. Open a new tab or window in Chrome.
  2. Type chrome://flags (or about://flags) in the location bar.
  3. Find the feature or functionality you want to toggle on or off. Note that you can use find in page (control/command + f) to quickly locate a particular feature.
  4. Click on the Enable or Disable link.
  5. Click on the Relaunch Now button at the bottom of the page.

Once your browser has relaunched, you can start experimenting with whatever feature or new piece of functionality you just enabled.

Chrome Canary

Another way to experiment with the cutting edge of the web is to use Chrome Canary (as in a canary in a coal mine, but more humane). Chrome Canary has the latest and greatest browser features and functionality that haven’t made it into the main release of Chrome yet. It’s intended for developers and early adopters who are willing to trade a little stability for the chance to play with the most recent web technologies.

One of the things I really like about Chrome Canary is that you don’t have to choose between the stable version of Chrome or Chrome Canary since you can run them both side-by-side (as I often do).

Command Line Flags

If you’re comfortable with the command line, you can also change Chrome’s behavior by launching it with command line flags. For example, the command below launches Chromium (the open-source version of Chrome) and tells it to cycle through the list of URLs in the specified text file, then exit:

/Applications/Chromium.app/Contents/MacOS/Chromium --visit-urls=/Users/cantrell/tmp/urls.txt

You can find a comprehensive list of command line flags (sometimes called switches) on Peter Beverloo’s blog, and an explanation of how to use them in the Chromium documentation.

Other Chrome URLs

For a list of other special Chrome URLs which expose various functionality and information about Chrome, type chrome://about in your location bar.