Chrome tab previews have taken another step closer with flag settings to enable the feature now officially available in the Canary Channel of the development cycle across all desktop platforms, based on recent reports. The feature, which takes the place of the usual tooltip popup, enables users who activate the feature to hover their mouse over a given tab to get a quick snapshot view of the underlying page in question.
Activating the feature is relatively straightforward but, as noted above, requires users to be on a Canary build of the desktop variation of the browser. For those on Windows, macOS, or Linux systems, getting started only requires a download of the beta version of the browser from Google.
Chrome OS users can access the feature as well but may want to wait for an official release to the Stable Channel since the process is much more involved and requires a complete powerwash — factory reset — of the device in question. The beta channels of Chrome are generally unstable, making it unsuitable for the average user in terms of using it as a daily driver on a Chromebook or other Chrome OS gadget.
Like the channel itself, flag settings are also experimental and can cause bugs.
Turning on the flags
Once the Canary version of the software is installed, users will need to click or tap on the Omnibox and navigate to the "chrome://flags" URL address. There are a total of two flags that need to be turned on to activate the tab preview feature. Those can be found by using the search bar at the top of the page.
The first flag replaces the tooltip pop-up that already appears when hovering over a given tab with a web page's title and sometimes the site title itself. That can be found by entering the search term "tab-hover-cards" on the Experiments page. The dropdown menu will be set to "Default" and needs to be changed to "Enabled."
The second flag can be found under by searching for "tab-hover-card-images" and enables the overlay for the preview image of a site when a mouse hovers over an open tab. That needs to be switched over to "Enabled."
After enabling the flags, users will need to click the "Relaunch now" button that appears at the bottom of the page to close out and relaunch the browser with the new settings turned on. Reverting to the prior settings effectively requires users to follow the above steps and switch the settings back to "Default."
Another solution for a browser with entirely too many tabs open
There will undoubtedly be plenty of bugs or glitches that still need to be worked out before the new feature lands on the Stable Channel. There is a chance that the setting will remain in flags for quite some time after it lands there too. But it should be useful for those who typically have a large number of tabs open since it will allow a quick hover to see what's on a given page in a sea of tabs.
Tab previews aren't the only incoming feature intended to address that issue either. Also presently found in the Canary Channel, Google is hard at work testing and adding the ability to group tabs by user-defined categories. Used together, the two setting changes should go a long way toward addressing productivity issues related to how tabs display once more than a dozen or so are opened in Chrome.