Android users are getting at least two long-anticipated user-facing features in the Canary variant of Google Chrome, including both a new tab-grouping feature first spotted by Chrome Story and a page preview tool discovered while Android Headlines was exploring that feature.
The first of the two features is what appears to be a mobile-ready mirror of the experience that’s recently begun appearing in desktop versions of Chrome on beta channels. Namely, by enabling new flags, users should be able to open up their tab UI and see tabs that have been organized into stacks. That provides users who frequently use a lot of tabs with a less-cluttered layout.
To enable the functionality, users will need to be on the Canary version of Chrome, which can easily be downloaded directly from the Google Play Store. Once installed, navigating to the “chrome://flags” URL and searching for the “#force-enable-home-page-button” will get the process started. That flag needs to be set to enabled before the user enables a total of two more flags — “#enable-tab-groups” and “#enable-tab-grid-layout” — that seem to be required to enable tab groups.
Those don’t appear to be completely ready yet and we weren’t able to get them activated but the feature is still incomplete. For the time being, the only way to place a tab into a group appears to be via a long-press on a page from the “New tab” page in Chrome. Users can then select the option to “Open in new tab in group” from the resulting context menu. Groups will then appear as stacks with the most recently visited page from a group visible.
When expanded, tabs show on a card UI complete with options to add new tabs. Icons along the bottom bar UI provide further indication as to what tabs are open within the group.
Page previews in Android!
We weren’t able to get the ‘tab groups’ features working properly on a Samsung Galaxy Note 9. But there also appears to be at least one other feature that’s been added in the most recent updates, which has already been spotted in the desktop versions and should prove equally useful. Namely, users on the Canary variant of the Chrome application can now preview web pages simply by long-pressing a site link from a page.
In the desktop variants of Chrome, similar previews have appeared that apply solely to tabs. Those are aimed at helping users see what’s on any given tab at a glance, reducing the impact of problems that occur when tabs have shrunk too much because the user has dozens of them loaded up. In Android, the idea is to let a user access the entire page without leaving the page they’re already on.
Upon long-pressing the link for a website such as one loaded from a Google search — as shown in the images below — users will see the standard context menu but a new “Preview page” option is available as well. Tapping that loads up the page in question along the bottom of the page. Once loaded, that can be slid up into view with a simple gesture and then interactions and scrolling on the page itself can take place.
Throughout the preview, the previous page remains loaded but darkened in the background. Closing the preview returns that page to the front.
It’s not immediately clear whether the above-mentioned flags are required to enable the feature.
Chrome for productivity
Both of the new features recently added in the Canary version of Android’s Chrome application seem to be heavily weighted toward improving productivity. Each allows users to see content at a glance without having to sort through too much clutter.
With tab grouping, users will no longer need to sift through a lengthy carousel of tabs to find the one they need, instead relying on groups of tabs sorted by purpose. Although it doesn’t necessarily allow much control over that now, that’s bound to change in future iterations and with the final release — if Google pushes each feature through to release. The second feature should help users who often need to access specific pages or sites keep fewer tabs open, to begin with.