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How To Disable Chrome Tab Groups & Grid On Your Android Smartphone

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In Chrome version 88 for Android, Google introduced tab groups alongside a new grid view for open tabs. And, although there are benefits to turning it on and using the feature, it’s not going to appeal to everybody. In fact, some users are undoubtedly going to hate being forced to learn new navigation in Chrome. Especially since it’s effectively turned on by default. Fortunately, there is, for now, still a way to disable the grid view and, subsequently, tab groups for Chrome on Android.

And that’s exactly what this guide is here for. If you don’t like the latest UI and feature introduction from Google in Chrome, this guide will help you turn it off, without giving up everything else that arrived in the update.

Plenty of reasons to disable tab groups in Chrome for Android

Among the biggest complaints that are likely to arise from the appearance of tab groups in Chrome for Android, prompting users to disable it, comes back to usability. The previously-used view for open tabs — tucked behind a tap on the numbered-icon at the top-right of the UI — is straightforward. Users simply open their tabs and scroll through to find what they want. With near-fullscreen previews for what’s on each page.

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Now, those thumbnails are relegated to relatively tiny previews tucked into little squares. And, when multiple tabs are grouped together, those squares get even smaller. Every group occupies the same space as a standard tab. So finding a specific tab, all but impossible by icon alone, can be a chore.

But the reasons for wanting to disable tab groups and grid view extend beyond that personal preference. In fact, one of the biggest reasons to turn it off is the way the long-press UI has changed in Chrome. Now, when users long-press an in-page link, the entire UI has been changed. Among the most common complaints, “Open in new tab in group” is the first option. Making it the most likely to accidentally be chosen as users try to reassign muscle memory for sharing, downloading, and more.

An accidental tap on that option results in multiple tabs opening up within the same space as one tab in the open tabs UI. And assigns the new tab to a group, changing all of the on-screen UI. Making it easier, for many users, to lose track of their tabs.

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And, of course, there is a number of other reasons to disable it too. With those reasons varying from user to user.

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Here’s how to disable the tab groups and grid view in Chrome on Android

Taking a closer look at exactly how to turn off and disable tab groups and grid view in Chrome on Android, the process isn’t difficult. But, of course, most users may not even know where to look. And that’s because Google turned the feature on using a hidden experimental setting. With that said, if you know where to look, it isn’t too challenging to accomplish.

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  1. Open up a new tab in Google Chrome on Android
  2. In the URL Omnibox, type in “chrome://flags”
  3. The resulting page will showcase all of the underlying experimental features of Chrome for Android. However, it’s a good idea not to mess around too much with those, as indicated by the warning message appearing on that page. There are undoubtedly going to be some tempting but browser-breaking features to be found there. Bearing that in mind, the quickest way to get to the setting we want is by typing “Enable tab” in the search bar at the top of the screen
  4. Locate the “Tab Grid Layout” option. It should be the top option on the page, denoted by a hashtag reading “#enable-tab-grid-layout”
  5. In the dropdown menu just below the feature’s description, the selected option should read “Default.” Switch that to “Disabled” by tapping the box and then the radial dot next to the “Disabled” option
  6. Restart Chrome using the “Relaunch Chrome” button that appears at the bottom of the page. You may need to relaunch Chrome more than once, by first closing and then reopening the browser after the initial relaunch
  7. Open up the tabs view by tapping the numbered icon at the top-right-hand side of the Chrome UI. Your tabs should now be displayed in a vertical list, filled with large thumbnails of the currently-opened pages
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Now, you likely noticed that the final image in this series utilizes a different smartphone with a different navigation UI. That’s because, while changing back to the UI can be useful and better for some users, there are also drawbacks. And some of those are significant, as we’ll discuss summarily below.

This may not work for you the first time

It’s worth noting here that relaunching once after following the above steps doesn’t always necessarily do the trick. In fact, if it doesn’t work the first couple of tries, there are two potential solutions.

First, Switching the Tab Grid Layout option to “Disabled” won’t always disable things, even after relaunching several times. So you may need to take extra steps. Namely, you may need to completely close down Chrome from the Recent Apps view or clear cache for Chrome before trying again.

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In other cases, it may not be possible to disable the features that have rolled out. Or at least not by selecting “Disable.” If none of the above works, there is one more solution to try. Under the dropdown menu for the Tab Grid Layout option at Google’s Chrome flags page, selecting “Default” may work to remove the feature. That’s if they haven’t been rolled out to your device as the default setting.

As with switching over to the “Disabled” option, several attempts may be required before Chrome relaunches properly with the changes saved in place.

It may be better to learn the new UI, all things considered

Now, the most compelling reason to keep the new UI and feature is also relatively straightforward. Namely, there is a chance that switching away and disabling them will result in any tab grouped tabs being deleted. So, if you’ve got hundreds of tabs open in groups, it may be a good idea to remove all of those from groups first. You can accomplish that by long-pressing and then dragging the tab’s thumbnail to the outside of the assigned tab-style folder.

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Secondary to that, it’s crucial to bear in mind that the new features are currently tucked behind a flag. But they are available across almost all devices without any extra work. You likely didn’t need to turn on the feature for it to appear. And that means that Google is almost certainly going to remove the flag at some point.

If and when it does remove the flag and others associated with it, tab groups and the grid view will become the de facto Chrome UI on Android. In other words, at that point, it won’t likely be possible to go back to the old UI. So, all things considered, it may be better to learn the new interface and now. As opposed to waiting until there’s no other choice.