I was updated two weeks ago, and initially I hated it. I’ve changed my tune, because (without fanfare) they tucked in a long overdue feature. The result is, ironically enough, a much cleaner toolbar, if you prefer your extensions with keyboard shortcuts (and really you should) I’ll get to that in a bit. First some background.
Why the change?
In one word: Visibility. Some applications will “side load” extensions without your knowledge. The Chrome developers also know many users don’t visit their chrome://extensions page very often (if at all), and are unaware of what is lurking, and potentially wasting resources.
What is the change?
Initially, Chrome 49 moves all extension icons to the toolbar forcing you to deal with them. It’s pretty easy to show and hide them as you see fit. You can right click on an icon and select “Hide in Chrome menu”. Hidden icons aren’t all that hidden. They now appear at the top of the menu when you click the ⋮
hamburger icon. You can also drag an icon onto the ⋮ Hamburger icon and then drag it to the top of the menu… and vice versa.
I’ve grown to like this setup. With a right click, you get quick access to extension options without the need to scroll through a list of extensions. Only enabled extensions appear in the menu however, so to access disabled extensions you’ll still need to type chrome://extensions into the addressbar, or click on More Tools > Extensions in the menu.
Which extensions should I hide?
To clarify things, let’s break Chrome extensions into 3 groups:
Browser Action, Page Action & Other
- The icons to the right of the Omnibar… the ones you are used to seeing.
- They are active on any web page you visit.
- You can assign keyboard shortcuts to them.
- Browser Actions get the long overdue feature. You can now assign keyboard shortcuts AND hide the icon. Before, when you hid a Browser Action icon, you disabled the keyboard shortcut. This never made any sense. If you are keyboard ninja and a toolbar minimalist, Chrome 49 will make you happy.
- Of course, you can still keep them visible AND have keyboard access too.
- Browser Actions may show status with an animated icon or badge, in which case you probably want to keep those visible.
- Pre-Chrome 49, these icons appeared in the Omnibar when certain rules, defined by the extension, were met.
- For example, they appeared only when visiting a certain domain, or if an RSS feed was available.
- Chrome 49’s biggest effect is on Page Action icons, moving them to the right with Browser Action icons.
- Now they always show regardless of whether those conditions are met. (if not met the icon is grayed out)
- This is a big step backwards, adding needless clutter to the toolbar, imho.
- The best choice for Page Action extensions? Show them.
- Everything else.
- Pre-Chrome 49 these were only accessible by visiting chrome://extensions.
- Hide ’em all.