Google Chrome 19 Released – Tab Sync Good, New Startup Changes Bad

Google have released Chrome 19 – the latest Stable Channel version. If you already use Chrome you can get the new version by clicking the ‘wrench’ (spanner) icon then ‘About Google Chrome’ to check for updates.

Version 19 (currently 19.0.1084.46) will be downloaded and installed automatically if you don’t already have it. New users can download and install Chrome 19 directly here.

Alternatively there is also a full standalone offline installer here – this may be useful if you want to save the Chrome installation file e.g. to put on a flash drive and install on multiple computers without having to re-download it each time.

Apart from 21 security fixes (paying out total rewards of $7,500 to the finders) and several stability updates there is a cool new features in Chrome 19 which can synchronize open tabs across multiple computers. There is also an unpublicized change to the Chrome startup tab that may prove a pain for some people… I’ll cover that later but first the new feature:

Tab Sync – Firefox users will recognize this feature – tab sync has been available in Firefox for some time now as part of Firefox Sync.

When you’re signed in to Chrome, your open tabs will now be synchronized across all your devices – so you can quickly access them from the ‘Other devices’ menu on the New Tab page. As an example, if you open the webpage of a good restaurant in a tab on your work computer, but can’t remember it when you get home – just open Chrome at home and you can pull up the same tab with just one click.

[If you’ve got Chrome for Android, you can also open the same tabs on your phone if you’re in town and need to pull up the restaurant name/address. The back and forward buttons will even work, so you can pick up browsing right where you left off].

As before, signing in to Chrome also syncs your bookmarks, apps, extensions, history, themes, and other settings. That way, when you sign in to Chrome, you can have your personal Chrome experience on all your devices. Just go to the Chrome menu and select “Sign in to Chrome.”

Note: although it is part of Chrome 19, this new tab sync feature will be rolled out gradually over the coming weeks – you might not have it immediately after upgrading.

Chrome Startup Tab – This has not been widely publicized but it is the most obvious change and, for some people, may be hugely unwelcome.

Chrome 19 sets the startup tab (the first page you see when Chrome opens) to the ‘New Tab’ page by default – no matter what your previous options or homepage were:

chrome19a

New Tab page – opens at startup

I’ve already fielded calls from disgruntled users who used to have Chrome set to open their homepage (e.g. a sports newsite) and now find that it has been replaced by this New Tab page when Chrome opens.

Many people can’t remember the web address of their old startup page either so they can’t find it again…

Fortunately there is an easy solution.

1. Press the Home button to go to your old home page (if the Home button is not visible in the menu bar, click the ‘Wrench’ icon then ‘Settings’ and under the ‘Appearance’ section tick the ‘Show Home Button’ option)
2. Now you know what your old homepage was you can Bookmark it for future use and/or proceed to step 3.
3. If you don’t want the New Tab page to open at startup and prefer your old home page you can reset it in Chrome Settings:

  • Click the ‘Wrench’ icon then ‘Settings’ and under the ‘On start-up’ section tick select the radio button for ‘Open a specific page or set of pages’ then click ‘Set pages’
chrome19b

Changing ‘On Start-up’ page

  • If your old homepage is the only page open (apart from the Settings page) just click the ‘Use current pages’ button which will populate the Startup pages with your preferred homepage then click OK
chrome19c

Set specific start-up page

  • Alternatively, if you have several pages open, type in the website address (URL) of your homepage in the ‘Add a new page’ box then press Enter and click OK

The next time you reopen Chrome it should start up with your home page displayed instead of the New Tab page :-)

Updated 22nd May – one of our readers (thanks Tommy) has noted that this solution does not work if you open a second instance of Chrome whilst the first instance of Chrome is still open i.e. launch chrome browser, it shows your home page correctly… Launch a second chrome browser and it still shows the ‘New Tab’ page.

In Chrome 19 there is no longer a Home Page option to configure! There is a Home Button but that’s not the same thing. By default then, the New Tab must open on 2nd instance because there is no longer an option to specify a Home Page and it is not the first Chrome Startup either.

This problem has been raised with the Chromium team as an issue here.

Temporary Solutions:

1. Preferred solution. One of our readers provided a simple command line switch solution to this problem. Find the program shortcut you use to open Chrome – usually on your desktop or in Start \ Programs or in Quick Launch.

Right click this Chrome shortcut and select ‘Properties’ to open the shortcut’s Properties window. Select the ‘Shortcut’ tab and in the ‘Target’ box, add the command given in the comment 8 Example below to the end of the entry – after chrome.exe

Note: there is a single space after chrome.exe followed by two hyphens and there is a single space after window. You can copy and paste the command line switch from the comment and you can change google.com to whatever you want as your startup page.

2. Alternative solution. If you want a New Tab to always display a custom page of your choice e.g. your Home Page/Button or a blank page etc, instead of the usual Apps/Visited Sites page – add the ‘New Tab Redirect!’ extension here to set a customized New Tab page – this will be opened on 2nd+ instance so if you set it to be the same as your homepage you will enjoy the same behavior as before for multiple instances.

Other Settings Changes

Selecting ‘Wrench’ icon and Settings reveals other, more helpful, changes. The Settings tab is now split into 3 parts – History, Extension and Settings displayed as a left panel menu.

Settings – now displays only the most common options by default – select ‘Show Advanced Settings’ at the bottom of the page to reveal further Privacy, Passwords and Downloads etc options.

Extensions – displays a list of all extensions added to Chrome – finally this provides a more obvious and logical way to access/disable/uninstall them.

History – gets its own tab with options to search, visit or clear history.

Conclusion

The main change in Google Chrome 19 is the welcome ability to synchronize open tabs via your Google account – making it possible to carry on where you left off on a different computer.

However, the change of startup page to New Tab is a user interface change that some will find very annoying – it is far less intuitive and creates unnecessary confusion. See the Temporary Solution above for an extension fix (hopefully Google will change this behavior back at some point in future).

The other Settings changes may take some getting used to but the split into 3 sections is an improvement. The move of less common items into an Advanced section makes sense as it makes the most popular settings easier to find.

29 Responses to: "Google Chrome 19 Released – Tab Sync Good, New Startup Changes Bad"

  1. David Cornelson says:

    The new changes suck. I never use tabs and want a single home page. Where is the bookmarks drop down list?

    This may drive me back to IE.

    • Roy says:

      Hi David, you can get the Bookmarks Bar displayed by CTRL+Shift+B or by clicking Wrench\Bookmarks\Show bookmarks bar.

      Once the bar is displayed you can add Bookmarks to it or, to make it more like IE, create a new folder in it e.g. Favorites and put all your bookmarks in there.

      Wrench\Bookmarks\Bookmark manager opens the manager – easy to delete/rename bookmarks in there or create a folder and move them to it etc

    • John R. says:

      Ironically, some 85% of people’s browsers were set to Google’s search page.

      I wonder if Google thought through whether or not they really wanted to switch people away from that.

      Unfortunately, both Internet Explorer and Firefox also decided to monkey with the interface for the second tab default page. It’s like they all got together and said “Let’s make make the users struggle more and ensure they have no reasonable choices.”

      I prefer a BLANK PAGE for my default and a solid color for may “wallpaper.” I think and plan for a living and am easily distracted by visually “busy” tools.

  2. eimantas says:

    i cant find where to manage saved passwords now..

  3. Tommy says:

    This new version is terrible. The description on this page of how to get Google to show your homepage on start-up only works for the first instance of chrome that you launch. Subsequent instances of the browser will open the “new tab” page even when you have specified the page to load on start-up… bye bye chrome, its been fun until you ruined it!

    • Tommy says:

      I should clear up what I mean… Fix your settings as described above… then close all chrome browsers that are open on your desktop… Launch chrome browser, it shows your home page correctly… Launch a second chrome browser… it will show the “new tab” page… absolutely infuriating..

      • Roy says:

        Oh, well spotted Tommy – hadn’t realized because I don’t open 2 instances of Chrome. Most people wouldn’t either so maybe not a huge issue for them but obviously a pain if you do.

        Just checked in Chrome 18 – if you set a custom site to open on startup and set the home page to open a different site, the first instance of Chrome would get the startup page but the second (and 3rd etc) would get the home page…

        It suggests that the startup page is only ever used for the first instance of Chrome – as the second instance is just a sub-process of the global chrome.exe process (you can see this in Process Explorer) I suppose this makes some sense as Chrome isn’t really starting up again.

        However, in Chrome 19 there is no longer a Home Page option! There is a Home Button but that’s not the same thing. By default then, the New Tab must open on 2nd instance because there is no longer an option to specify a Home Page and it is not Startup

        Not sure if this is a bug or a ‘feature’ – maybe Google want you to use the New Tab to boost take up of Google products on the Apps page, just a bit of self promotion…

        [Firefox and IE both have a configurable home page on second instance]

  4. Tommy says:

    Thanks for your response Roy.. yes the reason I open up a whole new browser every time is becuase I often flick (alt+tab) between browsers and apps… I do this hundreds of times a day. I know you can hold down “ctrl” and then it will switch between tabs within a browser but that is inconsistent with switching between apps. I launch new browsers constantly.. this is just my preference for multiple window management… I hope they fix this.
    Thanks

    • Roy says:

      Must be frustrating. There are already some complaints in Chrome forums – you may want to raise it there to add your voice to requests for change (it doesn’t look as if they see it as a bug)

  5. Duncan McKenzie says:

    I was just getting to like Google Chrome until they made this latest unwanted and intrusive change. I open several instances of Chrome – perhaps a hundred times a day – and, now (as noted elsewhere here), even after changing my homepage to the homepage I want, subsequent instances open with the tab page. Yes, Google, I know how your precious tabs work, and I choose not to use them. Anyway, if they’re going to shove tabs down my throat, I’m switching back to Firefox.

    • Roy says:

      Hi Duncan, I have updated the article above – this behavior has now been raised as an issue with Chrome development team – looks as if it was unintentional on their part.

      I have also added a link above to an extension which resolves the problem by allowing you to set a custom New Tab page – make it the same as your Startup page and all should work as before with multiple instances.

      Of course hopefully Google will fix it eventually – it shouldn’t need an extension…

  6. jerry key says:

    for someone that isn’t computer savvy you just made it impossible to figure out the chrome homepage so i guess i’ll have to find another browser and i hate tabs !

    • Roy says:

      I think Google messed up on this but there is an open issue for it so hopefully they will fix in a future update. If not, perhaps Firefox, Opera or IE would be an alternative (although they all use tabs)

  7. Torgny says:

    I’ve set up my specific start page but every time I start Chrome (not a new tab) the first tab just hangs with a white background and a “busy” or “working”, or whatever it’s called, icon on the tab. Finally I have to click the home button to get to my start page or it will never get there. It’s the same on both my desktop and my laptop. Very annoying!

    • Roy says:

      I’ve seen this on a couple of computers but it didn’t happen every time.

      Clearing all browsing data (except passwords) seemed to help. Otherwise, it may be part of the same bug – hopefully Google will fix it soon.

      A temporary alternative may be to install the extension I linked to in the article and set StartUp in Chrome to open a New Tab by default (so the redirect takes over)

  8. Stefan says:

    Workaround: Add your old start page to the desktop/quick launch shortcut target with --new-window as a command line switch.

    E.g. C:\Users\\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --new-window http://www.google.com

    • Roy says:

      Many thanks for this Stefan, works great :-)

      I have updated your command with html to show the double dash so people can just copy and paste it if they wish.

      [To avoid confusion to others I deleted your comment about the double dash but, as you noted, the WordPress editor doesn’t like them by default, it needs html to code them]

    • Durkatlon says:

      This workaround with “–new-window” and the home page URL works great. The new “we decide for you” home screen had just about driven me away from Chrome. For me, the other major annoyance with Chrome that’s been there since day-1 is the inability to download more than 6 files from a single website, with no way to change this to a higher number. I wish they’d make all these things configurable…

  9. Tommy says:

    Thanks Stefan, This was an improvement for me but since I made that change to the shortcut which launches chrome, new instances of chrome dont launch from the shortcut, it only opens a new tab in the existing chrome instance. That new tab correctly opens up with my homepage. I dont like “tabs”… I use them sometimes but rarely. I want to be able to “alt + tab” between browsers not “shift+alt+tab” inside one browser window…
    Thanks

    • Roy says:

      Hi Tommy, I have updated the command line switch above to remove the inverted commas around the Google/homepage address (my mistake in editing it, sorry!)

      If you use the updated command (no inverted commas and ensure you put spaces in the right place or just copy and paste it) you will find that it works ok now and opens new instances of chrome at your chosen page – you can then ALT+TAB away

      I’ve tested it with XP and W7 Chrome shortcuts to make sure and it works fine now

  10. Raj says:

    Beats me why Chrome is trying to alienate its own users. I am back to using good old nimble Firefox

  11. Sharon says:

    So how do you set the New Tab to go to a different web address? Any idea? This sucks. I guess my version of Chrome just updated to 19.0.1084.56 m yesterday.

    • Roy says:

      Hi Sharon, see “2. Alternative Solution” in the article – using the New Tab Redirect extension you can set the New Tab to go to any web address you specify

  12. Stephanie says:

    Anyone have a clue how to use offline Gmail access…? Keep finding posts that say you will see a link to Gmail Offline access on the “new tab” page once you install it on Chrome. No such animal on my new tab page.

  13. SoCalJinx says:

    Stefan, thanks so much! The new tabs page has been driving me crazy for months. I tried using the extension but couldn’t get it to work. Your solution was the BEST!

  14. preut sriwong says:

    It’s very good things…