Google Chrome and Chromium: improve their settings

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

Installing Chrome (or family member Chromium) 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/Chromium.

Unjustified warning

1. Are you visiting this website with Chrome or Chromium? Then you might see an unjustified warning.

Chrome or Chromium: what's the difference?

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

In the software repositories of Ubuntu you'll find a family member of Chrome: Chromium. This family member can be installed easily by means of the Ubuntu Software Center or Mints Software Manager. Chromium is probably a little bit better adapted to Ubuntu and Linux Mint, than Chrome.

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 Chrome, 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. And in Ubuntu you can install most of that missing multimedia support afterwards, with a few mouse clicks (you've probably done this already, for example during or right after the installation of Ubuntu). 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 Ubuntu and Linux Mint make an interesting exception: they always update it, with a little delay, to the latest version. Also in older Ubuntu and Mint versions!

You may choose safely between Chrome and Chromium, or you may even install them both. As Chrome is no core package of Ubuntu or 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

3. Only Chrome has Adobe Flash Player by default. Install it in Chromium like this:

Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install pepperflashplugin-nonfree

Press Enter. When prompted, type your password. Your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.
Press Enter again.

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.

Installing Chrome

5. Installing the Chrome web browser is easy, like we're used from Google. Simply download the installer file at

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

Double-click the downloaded ".deb" installer file to start the installation, just like you do with an ".exe" file of a Windows application.

After the installation

6. 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.

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Thanks in advance....

Improve the settings

7. And now the real job: improving and securing the default settings.

Click on the settings button 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 - Set pages - Add a new page: type and click OK.

c. Improve the appearance: settings button - Settings - 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 I read

Ensure that only these three useful features are enabled:
- Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors
- Enable phishing and malware protection
- 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 I quit my browser

Scroll down to Plugins:
Click Disable individual plugins... and disable Java or Icedtea (if you have installed one of these). The reason for disabling is, that Java (and its brother openJDK) is under heavy attack by malware on websites. Java is platform independent, so Linux is vulnerable too. It's better to disable Java by default, and only enable it temporarily, when needed.

Click OK.

Note: this only applies to Java. There's also Javascript, which is quite safe. So there's no need to disable Javascript as well.

Configure Adobe Flash Player well

8. 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.

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 "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.

You're done! Have fun with this excellent web browser.

Want more tips?

10. Do you want more tips and tweaks for Ubuntu and Linux Mint? There's a lot more of them on this website!

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