Chrome 49: What’s Up With All These Icons In My Toolbar?

Over the last few weeks, Google Chrome has rolled out Version 49, which contains a major change in the way extension icons are displayed in the upper right corner of your browser window. google-chrome-icon-63602

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.
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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

Browser Actions:

2016-03-06 13_57_17-2016-03-06 13_51_22-

  • 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.

Page Actions:

2016-03-06 13_51_22-

  • 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.

Happy hiding, Chromians!


7 thoughts on “Chrome 49: What’s Up With All These Icons In My Toolbar?

  1. Thanks for confirming I hadn’t missed the plot 🙂

    I don’t know if this happened to others… But the extensions I had assigned keyboard shortcuts to (Clip to WorkFlowy) were deactivated when I update my Chrome. I had to set them up again. Not too much of a biggie.

    You’re right… Things are a lot neater now. I’m loving it!


  2. I’ve been meing to thank you and compliment you on this post, Mr. Bytz, as I cam across it within a day of the updates. While just taking it in stride (or maybe too busy to spend cycles on it) I wondered what else had changed with the obvious optical ones and why.

    Your post had many pegs to hang my curiosity on so I could let it go and move on.

    Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You will love … Until you have six rows of icons and not find anything, then you will hate it. Why six rows? A lot of dev tools. Perhaps the Chrome guys forgot these users. Unfortunately, unnecessary and useless change that clearly should be an enable or disable option .


  4. This is such a stupid change that it neither reminds users about the extensions nor make it easier to manage. This just causes more confusion and make it harder for users to use. For example, my extension need users to click on the page action icon on some certain page for interaction. It used to be very convenient and straight-forward that when you have the right URL you can see the page action icon and click it. Now, users need to find it in a row of black-white or colored icons in the browser action bar. Users don’t know about this update keep emailing me about “you have a bug that the icon in the address bar don’t show!” I replied then get reply that “The browser designer is a SB”. I do feel the same way. 做这个决策的人真的脑子有洞。


    1. I agree 100%. They neutered Page Action extensions with this change. I’ve got one Page Action extension in the Chrome Web Store, and I’m contemplating converting it to a Browser Action… at least then users can assign a keyboard shortcut and then hide the icon. The only reason I haven’t yet is because I’m hoping they come to their senses and move Page Action extensions back to where they belong. Chrome designers don’t seem to be shy about changing features back and forth.


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