Google Chrome Compact Navigation Feature

Martin Brinkmann
May 15, 2011
Updated • Apr 15, 2012
Google Chrome

I like my web browser UI as compact as possible. To achieve that I have no problem of getting rid of some of the lesser used interface elements. Basic examples are compacting the menu or the bookmarks into a single button to save screen estate. Yes, even on a 1920x1200 monitor. Most developer efforts to reduce the interface elements aim at low screen resolution users. Netbook and tablet PCs come to mind where every additional pixel helps display more of websites and services.

Google has recently added a new experimental option to Chrome Canary and Chromium that is called Compact Navigation. Once enabled it reduces the interface of the Chrome browser further by getting rid of the address bar of the browser. The result? A single toolbar on top of Chrome and the rest of the browser window available for websites.

google chrome compact navigation

Lets start with how you enable Compact Navigation before we take a look at the feature in detail. Load the about:flags configuration page in your version of Chrome and locate the entry Compact Navigation near the end of the listing.

compact navigation

Compact Navigation
Adds a "Hide the toolbar" entry to the tabstrip's context menu. Use this to toggle between always displaying the toolbar (default) and only opening it as a drop down box as needed.

Nothing changes after you have enabled the feature. Right-click on a tab in the Chrome browser and select Hide the Toolbar from the context menu. This puts the new feature in motion. You will notice that the address bar has been removed, that the back and forward buttons have been moved to the left of the tabbar and that the wrench icon to the right of it.

The address bar is displayed when you press Ctrl-t to open a new tab, or when you press Ctrl-l. Regardless of your choice, it will only be displayed for a short time before it is hidden again on the screen. The size of the address bar is smaller than the standard address bar. It opens in proximity of the active tab.

google chrome address bar

Compact Navigation removes the page's web address from the browser interface, which may have security implications. If you do not know the address, you lose an effective way of identifying phishing websites.

Still, if you want more screen estate then Compact Navigation delivers it to you. The difference to fullscreen mode? Compact Navigation can be used with any window sizes, not just in full screen. (via Browserscene)


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  1. Nick Starba said on December 7, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Is there any alternative to this “feature” since it was removed?

    I want to switch from Firefox to Chrome but I’m reluctant until we can maximize screen estate with Chrome. I’m using Hide Caption Titlebar Plus for Firefox and I would love something similar for Chrome.

  2. clem said on April 5, 2012 at 11:28 am

    why they remove ?

  3. John B said on January 12, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Frustrating!! “Compact Navigation” About: Flags Enable action is NOT AN OPTION!!!

    I have Google Chrome, Google Cannery, and Google Chromium. The option under About:Flags in all three of these browsers is missing.

    Can someone please assist with a working solution for the feature of Compact Navigation? I don’t not see the option under About:flags in Google Chrome, Google Cannery, and Google Chromium.

    Thank you!

  4. gollum said on August 17, 2011 at 7:39 am

    they removed the feature in newer chrome-dev release (e.g. 15.0.849.0 )

  5. Tim - said on June 9, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Interesting. Google Chrome continues to suprise me with options and features. Thanks for another great post.

  6. Davidknowles said on May 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Clearly design for when the chrome browser becomes the standard on the Android platform, probably from Ice cream sandwich onwards, we already see many of the features implemented in Honeycomb, so I would not be surprise if they actually name the browser when Ice cream sandwich is release. Currently I believe it is nameless.

    Nice feature but of cause they still got to try and fit in the refresh button and apps at a minimum and bar already looks might crowded when this feature is activated. An it takes sometime to get use to it. Although I hope they bring some similar to the full screen so when you role mouse over the top part of the screen the URL address bar appears

  7. fdsfdf said on May 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    for what build of chrome i dont see it?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 17, 2011 at 12:17 am

      It is only available in the Canary and Chromium builds. Dev will likely be next.

      1. enalpha said on May 17, 2011 at 1:45 am

        Just for Windows and MacOS? I´m on Ubuntu with Chromium 13.0.767.0 and I can´t see the option in about:flags

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 17, 2011 at 9:21 am

        Well it is there on Windows, I cannot really say if they have not enabled it on all versions of the browser, but if you do not see it it appears that way.

  8. Heinstedt said on May 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Think next android, armsupport, Compact Navigation etc in chrome… or why not the market.

  9. DJ said on May 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Working well in Chromium 13.0.767.0 but as I say extension buttons arn’t visible.

  10. JustSuds said on May 15, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Just saw this and thought “I have to try it!” … enabled without an issue; but the address bar doesn’t seem to disappear at all, sure its smaller, and its in proximity to the currently opened tab as per the screenshots. But it is always visible for me.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 15, 2011 at 11:32 am

      It disappears automatically after a few seconds on my computer.

  11. Ahmad said on May 15, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Very nice feature by Google Team indeed. They have many experimental features, they should slow down their rapid release cycle and release one big and full of feature browser. I like it. Firefox have very much customization options, people will get it through addon in FF.

  12. DJ said on May 15, 2011 at 10:15 am

    All well & good but useless unless you can access the extension buttons.

    1. brisssou said on May 15, 2011 at 11:17 am


      Is there a way to a access them in compact mode?

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

        I cannot test it right now, installing extensions crashes my Canary build.

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