A new feature for Google's Chrome is now available in the Canary Channel that could point to much deeper control and customization of the browser's New Tab page in a future update.
First spotted by TechDows, and tucked behind two flags in the experimental branch of development, the aptly titled "Chrome Colors" feature centers around a revised theming UI but that isn't all. Its more advantageous change will arguably be the added ability for users to alter shortcuts that appears on the new tab page in Chrome by default.
While the former change allows a few solid color options to be selected, giving the browser's home page more personality, the latter change will make the new tab page more useful or more private, depending on the user. For clarity, those are the links that appear as icons just below the search bar when a new tab is opened in the browser.
Prior to the change, users only really have had access to four options when selecting the current "Customize" button located at the bottom-right-hand side of the New Tab UI. Summarily, the menu allows "Chrome backgrounds" to be chosen or for an image to be uploaded. Then there are two other options to "Restore default shortcuts" or to "Restore default background."
The new UI functions like a pop-out menu, not entirely unlike the standard Chrome settings menu, separating customization out further. Under the "Background" and the "Color and theme" submenus, users can either select or upload a custom background image for the page or set a solid color in the latter menu.
In the Shortcuts subheading, users will now be able to showcase shortcuts based on apps or websites they visit frequently. Conversely, they can also choose to set their favorite pages or those they know they'll need regularly. That's almost a new take on a bookmarks bar that's made more accessible when it might be needed most, at the launch of a new tab. The shortcuts can be turned off too for those who want a little more privacy on a shared device.
Turning on the new theming options
Turning on the new options isn't difficult but does require access to the hidden Chrome flags menu located by navigating to the 'chrome://flags' URL. Users will also need to be in Chrome Canary for the time being since that's where the feature is presently accessible. For the desktop environments that the new feature is designed for, Canary can be downloaded directly from Google and functions as a separate browser.
After navigating to that page, there are two flags that need to be set to "Enabled" via their respective drop box and both can be found easily using the search bar at the top of the experimental settings page. The first is called "NTP customization menu version 2" and activates the new tab page customization menu, stepping things away from the present context menu-style UI. The second is called "Chrome Colors menu" and activates the colors features.
Once activated, Chrome will need to be relaunched by clicking the associated blue-colored button that appears at the bottom of the browser window after each flag setting has been enabled.
Playing the long game
Google's browser is currently on version 75 and Chrome 76 is just around the corner in July. The new theming options are being tested in Chrome 77, which seems to indicate that's the version they'll be released widely for. So it's not unlikely Chrome Colors will land at that update's scheduled launch on Sep 10. It might also be released earlier if everything goes smoothly.