I got a treat when I opened Google Chrome on my laptop this morning: a new-look new tab page!

It seems Google is testing a redesign of the browser’s ‘New Tab Page’ that brings it in line with the rest of Google Chrome’s new look.

And just like Chrome’s curvaceous new window dressing the redux new tab page is restyled according to the newer, rounder version of Google’s ‘material design’ language.

Not that the changes on offer are solely superficial; Google is finally giving Chrome users a more configurable and customisable “new tab” page to play with.

Customise the All-New Chrome New Page

Note: the following changes are not Ubuntu-specific and will apply to Windows, macOS, Linux and Chrome OS users.

Among the new Chrome new tab page settings added is the option to add custom links to ‘most visited’, specifying the exact address and name. It’s an utterly basic feature, granted, and one rival browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Vivaldi have had for a veritable eon!

Basic or not, it hasn’t been possible to add a site to the Google Chrome most visited tab until now, so I welcome this!

To add a shortcut to the Chrome new tab page just click the “+” icon. A small dialog will appear where you can enter the site name and the URL:

It’s not all custom; Chrome will continue to populate the speed-dial with links to your “most visited” pages by default. The benefit here is that you can supplement those links with your own links, as well as edit/rename links that Google adds for you.

You’ll also have noticed that the most visited section now uses site favicons instead of thumbnail previews. It’s a minor tweak, but brings the browser inline with the NTPs of other browsers, including Firefox and Vivaldi.

chrome new material tab page

If you’ve longed for the ability to change the background of the new tab page in Google Chrome, you’ll be pleased to know that this update finally lets you.

You can set a custom new tab page background image using any image you have to hand, or select one from the “Chrome backgrounds” archive:

chrome's new new tab page

The “Chrome backgrounds” archive should be familiar to Chromebook users and Android fans who have Google’s ‘wallpapers’ app installed. In short: a stunning selection of high-quality photographs, aerial shots, and illustrations.

You’ll also find links to “restore default shortcuts” and “restore default background” in the menu that appears when clicking the ‘cog’ icon in the lower right-hand corner.

How to try it out

I seem to have the all-new “new tab” page by default. I don’t know how or why, I simply opened Google Chrome (dev) this morning and there it was, waiting. All of the related flags (Chrome’s term for optional experimental features) are set to ‘default’.

Not a major shock as Google often tests new features with small groups of Chrome users on a (presumably) randomised basis.

But if you’re using the latest Google Chrome dev channel release and you don’t see the spiffy new speed-dial (or you’re on the beta channel and want to test the new design out) you should be able to get it manually if you enable the following flags:

  • chrome://flags/#ntp-ui-md
  • chrome://flags/#ntp-icons
  • chrome://flags/#ntp-custom-links
  • chrome://flags/#ntp-backgrounds

Open each URL in a new tab and change their setting from ‘default’ to ‘enabled’. Restart the browser as prompted and, when it comes back up, you should be able to open a new tab and access the new features.

It is probable that the changes mentioned above will also make their way to Chromium at some point.

Do you like the look of these speed dial improvements?
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