Google Chrome: improve its settings

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Google Chrome is an excellent web browser. A fine alternative to Firefox, if you have no problems with the different user interface.

Installing Chrome is a good idea, if only to have a second web browser in reserve, when you encounter problems on a web page in your primary browser.

Below you'll find some tips to improve your experience with Chrome.

Contents of this page:

Chrome or Chromium: what's the difference?

1. You may ask: what's the difference between Chrome and Chromium? The answer is: they differ very little.

In the software repositories of Mint you'll find a family member of Chrome: Chromium. This family member can be installed by means of the application Software Manager. But there's a catch: in Ubuntu 20.04 and Linux Mint 20, Chromium can only be installed as a so-called snap package, which is undesirable.

Chrome is based on Chromium: Google develops Chromium as open source, and makes it freely available to open source developers, like those of Linux. But afterwards Google does some extra things to Chromium, and then releases it as Chrome. So one might say that Chromium is the father of Chrome.

Technically the main difference between Chrome and Chromium is, that Chromium has no support by default for several copyright-protected kinds of multimedia, and Chrome does.

In real life that's no disadvantage for Chromium, because in Linux Mint it integrates automatically with Mints default multimedia support, which is almost complete. Only Flash Player is still missing in Chromium, but that can be fixed easily; more about that later.

Chromium has usually a somewhat older version number than the Chrome that you download from the Google website. But not much older: usually it's more a matter of weeks than of months. For Chromium the developers of Linux Mint make an interesting exception: they always update it, with a little delay, to the latest version. Also in older Mint versions!

You may choose safely between Chrome and Chromium, or you may even install them both. As Chrome is no core package of Mint, you don't have to be afraid that this choice "outside of the regular repositories" has negative consequences for your operating system.

The tips below (with the obvious exception of number 3 and 4) are exactly the same for Chrome and Chromium.

Important difference: only Chrome has Adobe Flash Player by default

2. Only Chrome has Adobe Flash Player by default, and updates for Flash Player are contained within updates for Chrome. You can install Flash Player in Chromium as well, but unfortunately you won't get automatic security updates for it! So I advise not to install Flash Player (Pepperflash) in Chromium at all.

Do you wish to install Flash Player in Chromium anyway, in spite of this big disadvantage? Then install it with this terminal command:
sudo apt-get install pepperflashplugin-nonfree

Remove and re-install the Pepperflash package at least once a week; that way, you'll be sure that you'll always have the latest Flash Player in Chromium. For example by means of this combined command (use copy/paste to transfer it to the terminal):

sudo apt-get purge pepperflashplugin-nonfree && sudo apt-get install pepperflashplugin-nonfree

On the Adobe website you can check which version of Flash Player you've got.

Installing Chrome

3. Installing the Chrome web browser is easy, like we're used from Google. Simply download the installer file on the download page of Chrome.

Usually the download page of the Google website automatically recognizes the operating system that you're using, and offers you the right file straightaway.

Google Chrome is only available for a 64-bit operating system! Are you unsure whether your system is 64 bit or 32 bit? You can check it with the terminal command arch
When the result is : i686, then your system is 32 bit. When the result is x86_64, then your system is 64 bit.

Don't try to install it by means of the dialog window in your web browser (this usually doesn't work), but just download the Chrome installer file. Then launch your file manager and simply double-click the installer file, as if it were a Windows installer.

This external repository poses no risk

4. When you install Chrome from the installer file that you get from Google, you automatically add the software repository of Google Chrome to your sources list. Nifty, because now you'll automatically get updates for this web browser.

Normally speaking I'm against adding external repositories, but I make an exception for Google: Google is a very large and reliable party, so that you're running no risks with this repository.

After the installation

5. When you start Chrome for the first time, it asks you a couple of questions. First the choice of search engine, and then whether Chrome should become your default web browser: that choice has already been ticked.

I advise to remove that tick: usually, you'll want to get used to Chrome before making it the default browser.

Improve Chrome's settings

6. And now the real job: improving and securing the default settings of Chrome.

Click on the settings button (three vertical dots) in the top right corner of the Chrome window. See the screenshot below (click on it to enlarge it):

a. Import bookmarks from Firefox: settings button - Bookmarks - Import Bookmarks and Settings...

b. Set your home page to Google: settings button - Settings - On startup: select Open a specific page or set of pages - click on Set pages - Add a new page: type and click OK.

c. Improve the appearance: settings button - Settings - section Appearance: select the following:
- Show Home button
- Always show the bookmarks bar
- Use system title bar and borders

d. Now click Show advanced settings... at the bottom of the settings page.

Remove the tick for this irritating feature:
- Offer to translate pages that aren't in a language you read

Ensure that only these three useful features are enabled:
- Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors
- Protect you and your device from dangerous sites
- Send a "Do Not Track" request with your browsing traffic

Still in the section Privacy, click the button Content settings...

- Keep local data only until you quit your browser

Click Done.

Configure Adobe Flash Player well

7. You can improve the settings of Adobe Flash Player, and among other things remove the relatively unknown Flash cookies.

Unfortunately most of this can only be done by a strange and unusual web based tool from Macromedia. This is how you do it:

a. Go to Adobe Flash Player Settings Manager

Note: that web page is the tool itself!

b. Now the settings manager opens with the tab Global Privacy Settings. Click here on "Always ask..." Or, if you prefer a higher degree of security, "Always deny...".

c. Now click the tab Global Storage Settings.
Put the slider at at 10 KB (otherwise it'll remember too much information in your cookies, which is bad for your privacy). This is a per-cookie maximum size.

d. Now click the tab Website Privacy Settings. Click "Delete all sites".

e. Finally, click the tab Website Storage Settings. Click "Delete all sites".

You may want to run this settings manager on a regular basis, in order to remove stored content.

Some graphics cards: disable the hardware acceleration

8. A few video cards have trouble because of the hardware acceleration that's on by default in Chrome and Chromium. On most hardware, this browser feature is useful and boosts performance.

However, when you experience graphics problems in Chrome (delay when typing text, problems with displaying video's), try if it helps when you disable it as follows:

Click on the button with three vertical dots in the top right corner - Settings - Show advanced settings...
section System: remove the tick for: Use hardware acceleration when available
Close Chrome /Chromium and launch it again.

Extensions and add-ons: don't turn Chrome into a Christmas tree

9. Extensions and add-ons for Chrome, can be very useful. You can download them here. You can configure their settings like this:
Click on the settings button - Tools - Extensions

But extensions have a couple of important disadvantages, because they are basically "applications within an application":

- they make Chrome run slower, in particular when there are many;
- they can cause malfunctions, both in each other and in Chrome in general;
- they might contain malicious content. Do not trust them blindly.

So don't turn Chrome into a Christmas tree: don't stuff it with all kinds of extensions. Limit yourself to only a few extensions, that are really important to you.

Strictly speaking, extensions and add-ons pollute the clean code of your browser. It's wise to keep the level of pollution down to an absolute minimum.

Note: be especially averse to extensions that claim that they make Chrome run faster! Often they do more harm than good: for the sake of a minimal speed gain they can endanger the stability of your browser. Do not use them.

For the sake of privacy enhancement, this particular extension is advisable: Empty New Tab Page.

Run Chrome from within a secure sandbox

10. You can increase the security of Chrome greatly, when you run it from within a secure sandbox. This neat solution causes almost no loss of user-friendliness and only causes a little extra system load, while making Chrome much more secure.

You can achieve that by applying this how-to.

Want to get rid of polluted settings in Chrome or Chromium?

11. Do you have polluted settings in Chrome or Chromium (possibly because of shady add-ons), and do you wish to start anew with a clean browser? Then proceed like this (item 10).

Solve an occasional update problem caused by Chrome

12. You can solve an occasional update problem caused by Chrome, like this (item 23).

Want more tips?

Do you want more tips and tweaks? There's a lot more of them on this website!

For example:

Speed up your Linux Mint!

Clean your Linux Mint safely

Avoid 10 fatal mistakes

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