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How to Turn Chrome’s New “Material Design” On and Off


If you use Google Chrome as your default web browser, you might have noticed a big change in its appearance. Google has changed Chrome’s theme to sport the Material Design style on some machines. If you prefer the old look however, don’t worry, it can be turned off–and if you don’t have this new design yet, you can turn it on with the same hidden setting.

Here is the old, familiar look or “non-material” appearance. Tabs are shorter and rounded, navigation elements are thicker, and the bookmark folders are colored.

And here is how Chrome looks with Material Design enabled. The most striking difference are the tabs, which are larger with sharp corners, the navigation elements are much thinner, while the bookmark folders are flat and grey.

The Material Design theme seems to be enabled by default on most Macs, but not on Windows–yet. Whichever you prefer is completely up to you, and you can choose between the two with a hidden setting.

To choose your theme, you need to type the chrome://flags/#top-chrome-md  in the browser’s location bar and press Enter. You’ll be taken right to the settings you need.

There are two options. The first one lets you set Material Design in the top chrome, which is just the toolbar we showed you in the top screenshots. You can choose between default, non-material, material, and material hybrid.

The second option lets you enable Material Design in the rest of the browser, which means stuff like bubbles, dialogs, and so forth. We really didn’t notice much of a difference with this enabled, though it’s possible Google hasn’t finished completely overhauling Chrome’s theme.

In any event, when you make a change to either of these two settings, you will need to relaunch the browser for them to take effect.

That’s it. Whenever you want to switch between the two looks, just open up chrome://flags and make your choice. Once you’ve enabled your theme, it will remain until you change it back.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and died-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.


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