Annoyingly, these file tabs do not auto hide when the download completes and the shelf remains visible – you have to click the x in the right corner to close it.
The shelf may be useful during the file download because you can see the progress or cancel it. However, it gets in the way (especially on small screens) if it remains on screen all the time – if you download files often it can become a real pain to have to click the x to close it, every single time…
In previous versions of Chrome it was possible to disable the shelf entirely by loading chrome://flags and Enabling the experimental ‘New Downloads UI’ flag. Sadly, Chrome 22 removed this particular flag – there is now no way to completely remove it in Chrome.
However, there is an alternative – to auto hide it with the ‘Always Clear Downloads‘ extension.This works in a very simple way – every five seconds, the completed downloads list is automatically cleared out which makes Chrome auto hide the shelf. The files you downloaded are still there, and in-progress downloads remain displayed in the shelf bar – Chrome’s internal list simply gets cleaned up every five seconds.
Comparison to the old ‘Flag’ Option – The flag option disabled the download shelf entirely so it didn’t appear even for downloads in progress – this was a hassle if you wanted to cancel a download or check on progress (had to press CTRL + J to open the Downloads tab).
However, this extension may provide the best of both worlds – the shelf remains visible during a download (so it is easy to see progress or cancel it) but disappears automatically once it has finished. Likewise, if you manually cancel a download then the shelf disappears within 5 seconds (unless you have others in progress in which case it will disappear after the last one has finished).
Download ‘Always Clear Downloads’ Extension – Download and more info at Chrome Web Store here.
Alternative Manual Workaround – Those who do not want to use an extension, or who really need to retain their download history, can use the manual hotkey kludge of CTRL + J then CTRL + W to hide the shelf – although this is more long winded than just clicking the x it may suit those who require a keyboard shortcut instead of using the mouse…
Google Product forums are full of complaints (over several years) lamenting the fact that there is no way to auto hide the shelf bar once downloads have completed – it is hard to see why Google are so stubbornly refusing to add this feature in Chrome.
The previous flag setting worked well but made it difficult to monitor progress of a download or cancel it – it is still a shame that this flag has been removed though as some people would prefer not to see the shelf at all. The Chrome extension does a simple job extremely well. You can still monitor or cancel downloads but it does auto hide the shelf to free up more screen space – without having to click the x to close it.
The only caveat is that, by definition, you lose your download history but that seems a minor point for most people and is actually better for your privacy anyway.