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The Complete Guide to Being Faster in Chrome

George Halachev
Apr 3, 2017 · 22 min read
image source
Table Of Contents1. Search Engines
2. Bookmarks
3. Hotkeys
4. Extensions
5. Mouse Gestures
6. Eliminate Pop-ups
7. Incognito Mode
8. Make Chrome Run Faster
9. Experimental Options

I’m always amazed watching people work in their browser. It’s the most used app on the computer, yet nobody takes the time to optimize and tune it up.

It’s like being a musician and playing with an instrument that is out of tune. How good do you think your performance will be? How much are you going to enjoy the experience? The same thing happens when you’re working with a browser that is out of tune.

Investing just a few minutes upfront to tweak it, can save you a lot of time every day. The whole browsing experience will be much more satisfying too.

There are two aspects that we’ll take a look at in this guide:

I. Using tools and options that help us control the browser faster. Becoming a Chrome Master means getting more work done with fewer clicks and less thinking.

II. Making Google Chrome run faster and more efficiently. A faster Chrome will eliminate the dead spots in your day — waiting for websites to load.

1. Search Engines

The biggest time saver for me are the built-in search engines in Chrome.

When you use the search bar on a website like Amazon, your browser automatically saves that address in the Search Engine settings. So if you want to search that website again later on, you can call it directly from the Chrome’s main address bar, without opening the Amazon website first.

When you start typing the URL of the website you want to search, a convenient message shows up on the right of the address bar to press Tab. When you press Tab the search bar is converted into the Amazon search bar and it looks like this.

An even easier way to call the custom search is by setting a specific keyword for each website. The keyword can be just a single letter, like “a”. So in the example above all you have to do is type “a” and press Tab (or space) and the search engine function will be activated.

Add New Search Engines and Keywords

For most websites it’s pretty straightforward. Just do a single search in a website, go back to the “custom search engines” page (Settings > Search > Manage search engines…) and it will automatically show up in the list. Then all you need to do is assign a keyword and you’re good to go.

If a website is not added automatically, you can do it manually in the search engines page.

At the bottom of the custom engines page, you’ll find three fields to enter a new engine, as illustrated in the screenshot with my custom engines list below. The first two fields are simple: add a name and a keyword for the new engine. The tricky part is the third field, that’s where you have to tell Chrome what to do with that engine.

First, we need to get the URL from the new website search. Let’s use AliExpress.com as an example. Go to the website and do a test search, for let’s say “kindle.” Once the search page loads the URL in the address bar will change. Here is how it looks for me:

Now all we need to do is replace the search word “kindle” with the placeholder that the browser uses, in this case “%s”. So the end result looks like this:

https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=0&initiative_id=SB_20170317132000&SearchText=%s

Then paste that code in the third field and you’re good to go.

Now every time you type “ali searchword” Chrome will replace the %s with that search word and will open the link directly. It looks awesome in the address bar too:

How much time can you save?

Say I want to do a search in Wiki Dictionary. All I have to do with my Chrome is press alt+d to go to the address bar (more about that in the hotkeys section below) and type “wd + spacebar + searchword.” It takes about 2–3 seconds.

Let’s compare that to what the typical Chrome user does:

  1. [2 sec] Google the Wiki Dictionary website (because who even bothers remembering URLs nowadays?)
  2. [2 sec] Wait for the search to load.
  3. [2 sec] Click on the Wiki Dictionary link from the search results.
  4. [2 sec] Wait for the Wiki Dictionary home page to load.
  5. [2 sec] Look for the search bar.
  6. [3 sec] Type the search terms that you need.

Why would you go through all that trouble for every search that you do? You can jump straight to step 6 and save yourself 10 seconds every time. Think about how many searches you do every day and how much faster you can be if you save 10 seconds per search.

2. Bookmarks

It’s such a simple and well known tip, yet most people don’t have an effective Bookmarks bar.

To use your bookmarks effectively, you have to prioritize and organize them a little bit. A hodgepodge of randomly saved links doesn’t really help to be more effective.

Also, the bookmarks bar is in front of your eyes for hours every day. Think of how much distraction all that clutter brings to your mind. It’s the equivalent of having a really messy and cluttered desk.

Here is how my bookmarks bar looks at the moment:

Let’s look at some of the methods that I’ve used to optimize and make it look nice and organized.

Use folders

You have limited space on your Bookmarks bar, so use it wisely.

Clicking on a folder in your Bookmarks bar opens a nice little drop-down menu. It takes one extra click to get to the stuff inside, but it’s still very easy.

Group similar links or links that you don’t use often in folders.

Use separators

If you don’t want to use folders for everything but still want your links to be organized, use separators.

You can get a great looking separator at separator.mayastudios.com by just dragging their link to your toolbar. See how the separator looks on my toolbar above?

It’s a great way to sort the links logically. For example, all my scheduling tools are in one group, and all my coaching tools are in another.

Name your links

When you save a link, by default it’s titled with the full page name. That’s just a waste of space and looks terrible.

Instead, use short and descriptive names that don’t take a lot of space but are still meaningful. For some links, you don’t even need a name, just the icon wll be enough to recognize the website.

Don’t use the bar as a to-do list

Something that I see very often is people using their bookmarks for a “to-read” or “to-do” list. It’s convenient to drop the current page in the bookmarks bar but that solution creates a lot of clutter and is very distracting to have your to-do list in front of you the whole time.

What would happen if you did that with your working desk? Instead of drawers or cabinets, pile everything on the desk just because it’s easier. That’s not what the desk is for, nor is the bookmarks bar. Instead, it should be only a shortcut to the websites you use the most.

A much better solution to save random links is an extension like Todoist or Pocket. Both of those allow you to store the links just as quickly and neatly tuck them away for later.

If you don’t want to add extra extensions, make a “Temp” folder on the bookmarks bar so you can dump random stuff in there. That way at least the clutter won’t be in front of you all the time.

Other bookmarks

Besides the folders you create yourself, there is one default folder named “Other bookmarks” which always appears at the end of the bar.

This folder is great for links that you visit only occasionally. I use it for statistic pages or online tools that I use once a month. For example, Google Analytics, statistics spreadsheets, Fiverr, and font sites.

Bookmarks Bar Hotkey

It’s worth mentioning the hotkey for hiding the bar. If it disappears suddenly it means that you probably hit the toggle hotkey accidentally.

You can turn it back on by hitting CTRL+Shift+B (⌘+ Shift+B on a Mac) without going to the settings menu.

3. Hotkeys

Hotkeys are another aspect of browsing that most users ignore. With hotkeys, you can skip most tedious, time-wasting mouse clicks. They’re even more effective if you’re on a laptop and have to use a track pad.

By default, we’re not very accurate or fast with a mouse, at least not as much as we can be directly with our fingers. The mouse is just emulating pointing on the screen that is much harder to control than our fingers. Hitting a button on a keyboard is much easier than hitting one on the screen.

So you might have to put in some effort to learn the hotkeys, but in the long run it’s going to save you a lot of time.

Here are the hotkeys that are going to speed up your work with Chrome the most. You’re not going to remember many with just one glance, so feel free to save the images below as cheat sheets.

Window and Tab Management

If you’re like me, jumping between a lot of tabs, this section is especially important.

Specific Pages/Tools in Chrome

With new versions of Chrome the positions of the menus change often. The hotkeys rarely change, so if you remember the hotkeys you’ll be future proof.

Zoom and Navigation

It’s important to be able to navigate and control the size of a page quickly. Everybody knows about zooming in and out but few people use the Home and End button. Very useful for long pages that would otherwise require a lot of scrolling.

Mouse Shortcuts

If your keyboard is broken, or you’re just too lazy to move your mouse hand, these are for you. Just a few simple tricks with the mouse that make controlling the browser a bit easier.

The Exhaustive Hotkey List

The images above show the most useful hotkeys for speed. If you’re looking for the list of all Chrome hotkeys you can find it here.

4. Extensions

The beautiful thing about Chrome is that there are thousands of developers creating extensions that make your life easier. You can find extensions for just about anything on the official Chrome Web Store page.

Here are the most useful ones that will help you to be faster and save time.

Video Speed Controller

Add to Chrome
A very convenient extension that lets you speed up or slow down videos directly in your browser. It works with most videos online (HTML5) and it’s great if you’re watching tutorials or educational videos. Sometimes I speed up some videos x3 times, and I can still understand what’s being said.

YouTube already has an implemented function to speed up their videos, but the advantage of this extension is that you can do it with a keyboard shortcut. Much better than clicking the YouTube menus.

The default hotkeys are “S” to decrease speed and “D” to increase speed. And if you want to reset to the default video speed just hit “R”.

Adblock

Add to Chrome
This one should be included in Chrome by default in my opinion. It saves you so much clutter and distraction on pages that have ads. Not to mention that ad-heavy web pages will load much faster.

Some websites nowadays try to guilt trip you into turning off your ad blocker, just because ads are their primary income source. However, if you installed an ad blocker in the first place, you’re probably not going to click on the ads anyway.

Other websites are even more extreme and block your access to the whole site if you have an active ad blocker. If that’s the case, you can always “pause” it temporarily.

BehindTheOverlay

Add to Chrome
Tired of annoying pop-ups asking for your email? Yeah, me too. Some of them don’t even have a close button. This extension lets you get rid of them with one click.

Also, it’s another option to deal with sites that block your access when you have an active ad blocker. Most websites that do this show a pop-up that is not removable, and you can’t read the content behind it like the one below.

Use BehindTheOverlay to get rid of the pop-up without pausing your Adblock or white-listing. You can learn about more ways to deal with the ad blocking problem here.

Lazarus: Form Recovery

Add to Chrome
I can’t tell you how many times this extension has saved my butt after a browser crash.

It automatically saves everything that you type in text fields in Chrome. So if your browser crashes or you accidentally close it mid sentence, Lazarus will “resurrect” your message with a click of a button.

Lazarus shows up as a very unobtrusive ankh icon on the top right corner of the text fields. Clicking on the icon will show a menu with the most recent messages you’ve written in the browser.

Evernote Webclipper

Add to Chrome
If you’re an Evernote user, there is no better way to save notes from your browser. It’s one of the best tools I’ve seen to do research and studying on the internet. With one click you can save screenshots, images, text or entire pages to Evernote and synthesize them later.

In case you’re using OneNote, there’s also a similar clipper for it here.

Todoist

Add to Chrome
If you use Todoist (one of the best to-do apps) this extension is a must have. It lets you add new tasks with one click. You can also add web pages and emails directly to your to-do list and access them easily later. The extension keeps the URL of the website as well so you can get back to it with a single click.

If you use Wunderlist instead, you can find it’s extension here.

Images On / Off

Add to Chrome
Have you ever wanted to turn off all images on a website? Either to make it faster or just to focus on the text?

With this extension, you can disable all images on the page with just a single click. It’s great when you’re on a metered connection and you want to save some traffic as well.

Noisli

Add to Chrome
Noisli doesn’t directly make your browser faster or easier to work with, but it will help get you in the zone.

It creates amazing white noise sounds that make it easier to concentrate. If you can’t focus while listening to music, but you still want something to play in the background, this one is for you.

Speed Dial 3

Add to Chrome
The default “new tab” page of Chrome is just a search bar with the most recently visited pages. Unfortunately, you don’t have any control over the links that show up on that page.

SpeedDial3 lets you design your own “new tab” with the pages that you want. It’s much like saving Bookmarks, but instead of having the links in the Bookmarks bar, you’ll have them when you open up a new tab.

Here’s an example of how it looks:

Cut Unnecessary Extensions

While the new extensions can add a lot of functionality and optimization to your workflow, some of them are quite heavy and take up a lot of the computer’s resources.

Similarly to the bookmarks, make sure that you have installed only the extensions that you need. It’s helps to review the “Manage extensions” page every month or so and remove all unnecessary extensions to keep your browser light. You can open the manage extensions page by going to the settings menu or typing “chrome://extensions” in the address bar.

Check out the Chrome Task Manager section below to see how much resources each extension is using.

5. Mouse Gestures

To use mouse gestures you also need an extension, but this one deserves to be in a category of its own. If I had to choose only one type of Chrome extension, it would be for mouse gestures.

Using gestures means making pre-recorded movements with the mouse that the browser recognizes and converts to commands. Why? It’s much easier and faster.

As we talked about in the keyboard hotkeys section, our mouse accuracy is not good for hitting small buttons. However, we’re much better at drawing an estimate of a line with the mouse.

How to use gestures?

There are many extensions that help you with gestures, but my favorite one is CrxMouse. It’s got all the functionality that you’ll ever need and at the same time, it’s easy to set up and start with right away.

The way you make the gesture with your mouse is by clicking the right button and dragging the mouse in a specific direction. So for example, if you need a new tab, don’t click on the new tab button or use the keyboard hotkey, just hold down the right mouse button, drag down and let go of the button. Boom, the new tab is created.

Here are some of the default mouse movements, or gestures, that the extension recognizes.

← : back
→ : forward
↑ : scroll up one page
↓ : open a new tab
↓→ : close current tab
↑↓ : refresh
←↑ : reopen closed tabs
→↓ : scroll to bottom
→↑ : scroll to top

The gesture doesn’t have to be very accurate either. The blue line in the example above will work perfectly fine to trigger the “close current tab” command. See how much easier it is?

The commands above are recognized by default, but you can assign just about any Chrome command to any gestures.

6. Eliminate Pop-ups and Dialogs

A big time waster in Chrome are all the pop-ups and dialogs asking you for information like shipping addresses, passwords, permissions, etc. Since “answers” to the pop-ups will be the same, you can save yourself some time by defining those in advance. Here are the frequent ones.

Autofill & Credit Cards

You know when you type your shipping address in a website and the browser “remembers” it so you can use it again next time? Well, that’s basically the Autofill function. Except that it can remember other things as well, saving you the time it takes to type them every time.

Passwords and forms

You can edit the information that Chrome uses for autofill by going to the “Passwords and forms” section in the settings menu.

This feature can save you a lot of time, especially if you are shopping a lot. However, it comes with some privacy concerns.

If other people that you don’t trust have an easy access to your computer I wouldn’t recommend using that feature, especially the credit card information.

It’s also pretty risky if you lose your device since all your payment info will be saved on it.

Save Passwords

Similar to the shipping information, saving your credentials in Chrome will save you a ton of time as well. This one comes with even more privacy concerns, though, since somebody with access to your computer can steal all your passwords very easily.

A great way to increase the security if you save your passwords in the browser is to use two-factor authentication, for example, a code set as a message to your phone. Most websites nowadays offer that feature.

Downloads Folder and Automatic Save

Tired of telling Chrome where to save the file every time you open a PDF document? Yeah, it can be very tedious.

Instead of having to deal with the “Save as” menu every time, just create a temp folder and set it as a default download location in Chrome. Then remove the “Ask where to save each file before downloading” checkbox and the files will be downloaded there every time without asking.

If you want to bypass that function for specific files (like large archives that you want saved in a specific directory) just right click on the link and use the “save as” button. That will pop up the “save as” dialog again.

Another great feature is the auto-open the downloaded files. After you download a certain file type like PDF you can tell Chrome to automatically open all PDFs after the download is finished.

Permissions

A lot of websites will ask you for permission to use your devices like a microphone, a camera, or to send you browser notifications.

In most cases you don’t want to give the site permission, so you will be better off setting the “Do not allow” function by default for all websites.

In the rare cases where you actually want to allow the website to use your devices, like when you’re on a web conference call, you can easily add the URL to the exceptions list.

Blocking all notifications and permissions saves you from all the distracting and annoying pop-ups and it also increases your privacy.

Languages

If you happen to speak more than one language, make sure you add it in the Languages settings. That way you can avoid the annoying questions to translate a page that you can already understand.

You also have the option to disable the translation service completely, though translation is pretty useful if you happen to open a website in an unknown language.

7. Incognito Mode

You can open a Chrome window in Incognito mode from the settings menu or by hitting Ctrl+Shift+n (⌘+Shift+n on a Mac).

Besides the obvious function of incognito to protect your privacy, it’s a great tool to use for quick testing.

Check if a link works for everybody or just you

A lot of websites have specific viewing permissions and the content is available only if you’re logged in. So if you share a link that is specific to you, nobody else can open it.

Since Incognito doesn’t use any login information, you can quickly test if everybody can see the link by opening it in Incognito Mode.

Open a page without cookies/cache

Another great use of Incognito is that it opens pages without using the already saved cookies and cache. Clearing the cache/cookies is usually the first thing you should do when you start seeing problems with a web page.

Instead of wiping out your entire browser’s cache, however, you can just open it in Incognito mode and see if the problem persists.

Open a page without any extensions

Another reason for having problems with some web pages are iffy extensions. If you have many of those installed, it’s tedious to disable/enable them all just to see if the problem is fixed.

Incognito mode opens a window without the extensions, so you can do the test quickly without enabling/disabling anything.

8. Make Chrome Run Faster

So far most of the options and tweaks we’ve talked about are to make you faster when working with the browser. Let’s see how we can make Chrome itself run faster.

Chrome task manager

In order to make Chrome faster, first we should take a look at some metrics. A great tool for that is the Chrome Task Manager (Shift+Esc).

It shows how much resources each extension and website is using. If you have a slower machine with little memory, it’s pretty important to pick only the extensions that you need. You can also monitor how much internet traffic each item generates.

The task manager is also a pretty useful tool if an extension or a tab or is not responding. You can kill it easily with the “End process” button.

Make sure it’s up to date

Google Chrome has a great update service that runs in the background and most of the time you don’t have to think about it. It automatically updates Chrome and runs the new version when you restart the browser.

However, Chrome can be out of date if you have a firewall or an anti-virus blocking the update. To make sure that your Chrome is running the latest version go to the about page from the help menu or type “chrome://help” in the address bar.

If everything is working correctly you should see a text “Google Chrome is up to date.”

Sync between devices

An amazing function of Chrome is that it automatically syncs up everything between your devices. All you have to do is log in with your Google account and all your bookmarks, passwords, history, settings, and extensions will be saved on the cloud.

When you log in with your Google account on another computer, everything is exactly the same as you set it up on the original machine.

So before you start setting up your Chrome browser make sure you’re logged in with your account first.

Use Google’s web services

When using Chrome you also have some options that take advantage of Google’s amazing web services, like spell checking and AI.

For maximum performance make sure the following links are checked in your browser.

  • Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors

This one is great if the website you’re trying to access is temporarily down. Instead of a 404 page, Google uses its web service to find and offer you similar websites that you can use.

  • Use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed in the address bar

Another great option that takes advantage of the Google’s amazing prediction technology. It offers suggestions for completing your search or website when you’re typing in the address bar directly.

  • Use a prediction service to load pages more quickly

This option is also called “prefetch.” It automatically searches through the links on the page you’re reading and loads the linked pages in the background. That way when you click one of the links it works much faster because it’s already pre-loaded.

  • Use a web service to help resolve spelling errors

Use Google’s amazing spell correction directly in Chrome. Although for serious editing and writing you’d be better off with an extension like Grammarly, this default spell correction works perfectly well for everyday tasks like writing emails.

Use Hardware Acceleration

By default, Chrome uses the computer processor (CPU) to render the graphics on your browser. However, the graphics card processor (GPU) is usually much faster. With this option you allow Chrome to use the GPU for completing certain tasks to make it faster.

For maximum performance make sure the option is turned on. You can find it again in the settings menu “chrome://settings” under System.

9. Experimental Options

If you’re the adventurous type and like tweaking and tinkering with things, this section is for you. Chrome offers a bunch of experimental options under the hood that can optimize your browsing experience even further.

However, since it’s all experimental any of these may break your browser or lose your data. So only play with these if you don’t mind bad things happening from time to time.

That being said, you can open the experimental features by “chrome://flags” in the address bar. It’s a pretty daunting list with nearly 200 options, so let’s look only at the ones that affect the browser’s speed.

Since it’s a big list, feel free to use the find function (ctrl+f) to locate each of the options.

Fast tab/window close

Enables fast tab/window closing — runs a tab’s onunload js handler independently of the GUI. #enable-fast-unload

By default, it takes a while for Chrome to close a tab, especially if the website is heavy. With this feature enabled, Chrome will close it immediately allowing you to continue clicking away, while it works in the background to clear it from your computer’s memory.

Smooth Scrolling

Animate smoothly when scrolling page content. #smooth-scrolling

This feature uses an animation to make the scrolling experience more smooth and gradual. I personally like the smoothing off since the scrolling feels more snappy.

Overlay Scrollbars

Enable the experimental overlay scrollbars implementation. You must also enable threaded compositing to have the scrollbars animate. #overlay-scrollbars

This option gets rid of the “docked” scrollbars on the right and bottom of the page and replaces them with thinner ones that auto-hide when you are not scrolling. It takes a while to get used to the new scroll bars, but if you are using a small screen you might enjoy the few extra pixels of screen space.

Experimental QUIC protocol

Enable experimental QUIC protocol support. #enable-quic

QUIC (Quick UDP Internet Connections) is a new protocol developed by Google that allows some pages to load faster.

GPU rasterization

Use GPU to rasterize web content. Requires impl-side painting. #enable-gpu-rasterization

Similar to the “Use Hardware Acceleration” option with this feature you can use the GPU to work on the rasterization (turning geometric lines and shapes into the pixels/dots that you see on a monitor).

GPU rasterization MSAA sample count.

Specify the number of MSAA samples for GPU rasterization. #gpu-rasterization-msaa-sample-count

The more MSAA samples you use the smoother the rasterized shapes are going to look but also the slower the browser will be. For maximum performance keep the samples to 0.

Scroll prediction

Predicts the finger’s future position during scrolls allowing time to render the frame before the finger is there. #enable-scroll-prediction

Default tile width/height

Specify the default tile width. #default-tile-width

In practice this option lets Chrome run faster but it uses more memory.

Simple Cache for HTTP

The Simple Cache for HTTP is a new cache. It relies on the filesystem for disk space allocation. #enable-simple-cache-backend

This feature will reduce latency by reducing the amount of time it takes to revalidate the cached files.


This looks like a big list of options and features and it might take a few hours to read through everything and set up your browser. However, considering how much time you spend with a browser every day it’s worth the effort.

Don’t rely on the default settings to provide you with a great browsing experience. Don’t play with an out of tune browser anymore. Take a few hours, optimize it and the internet will look like a much nicer place.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Thanks to Coach Tony

George Halachev

Written by

Online coach and blogger focusing on productivity and building better habits. www.georgehalachev.com

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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