Early Chrome Build Lets You Kill the URL Bar

By  |  Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Google may take minimalism to the extreme with future versions of the Chrome browser.

As ConceivablyTech points out, the latest Chrome Canary build — an early-stage version that precedes developer and beta versions — includes the ability to hide the URL bar. To turn on this feature, enter “about:flags” in the URL bar, enable “Compact Navigation,” relaunch the browser, right-click any tab and click “Hide the toolbar.” (Don’t be shy; you can install Canary side-by-side with other Chrome versions.)

Once you do this, the URL bar will disappear, providing an extra 30 pixels of room to browse. The forward button, back button and tools icon nest within the same strip of space as open tabs. Clicking an open tab creates a drop-down URL and search bar that’s much shorter than screen width.

I’m not ready to decide whether a hidden URL bar is something I’d like, but this implementation already needs one major change: When you open a new tab, the cursor automatically moves to the URL field, but it doesn’t do this when you click on an existing tab. I want the ability to click on an open tab and immediately start typing a search or web address when the omnibar drops down.

Users who are concerned about security may not like this option anyway, because it can obscure a site’s security credentials. The URL bar briefly appears when you click a link, but not when you open that link in a background tab. I also wonder how Google feels about the hidden omnibar. Keeping the bar in view, I imagine, would encourage the user to conduct more web searches, which is the whole point of Chrome to begin with.

If the hidden URL bar does make it into a stable version of Chrome, it’ll almost certainly be an optional feature. It could, however, play a big role in a touch-screen version of Chrome OS, which is supposedly in development.



3 Comments For This Post

  1. Clam Says:

    Might as well remove the back and forward buttons. My mice have back and forward buttons, and I can do three fingers swipe to the left and right for back and forward, respectively, not to mention backspace and shift+backspace.

  2. Lazlow St. Pierre Says:

    I like it. On my netbook, screen real estate is limited and anything that further removes the amount of unnecessary junk on the screen is welcome. As long as I can still use the URL bar that appears when you hover over the tab for what I use it for now – searching Google, quickly accessing sites from my history and bookmarks.

  3. oop123 Says:

    I love chrome and I love its minimalist look. I haven't try this feature yet, but this just seems… a little extreme. Do we really need an extra 30px? You can just hit F11 for full screen anyway. Personally I think Google is just responding to the other browser also implementing a minimalist UI. Hopefully Google will just make it optional for those minimalist extremist.