Google Chrome’s huge update brings speed boost and new group tabs feature

Chrome 85 brings a 10% performance upgrade to the browser, alongside handy new features for tab management and organization.

The latest version of the Google Chrome browser has arrived, promising speedier page loads and new features for helping users juggle their increasingly overlapping work and home lives.

Chrome 85 includes the new tabs group feature, which was
announced by Google back in May

and allows Chrome users to group web pages together under custom labels. Users can organize tabs based on what they’re needed for – for example, work tasks, personal projects, news articles or shopping items – or alternatively use them to prioritize tasks within the Chrome browser.

Group tabs ultimately aims to bring order to cluttered tabs bars and make it easier for users to keep track of what they’re doing. “Now you can collapse and expand your tab groups, so it’s easier to see the ones you need to access,” said Google.

“This was the most popular feature request we heard from those of you using tab groups, and as we begin rolling out this functionality, we hope you’ll give it a try.”

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Browsing itself has also been given a boost – up to 10%, to be precise – thanks to something called Profile Guided Optimization (PGO). In short, this allows the most performance-critical parts of Chrome’s code to run faster. 

Google says it has achieved this improvement by using real-world usage scenarios from Chrome users to identify what the most common tasks are, and boosting these accordingly.

PGO was initially introduced in Chrome 53 for Windows in 2016. This is now being rolling to both Mac and Windows with Chrome 85 in the Stable channel. 

Users can expand and collapse tabs group in Chrome.

Google

Tab throttling also lends a hand to Chrome’s new speed boost, effectively pulling memory away from tabs that have been sitting idle in the browser bar for extended periods of time. 

Google says doing so helps not just loading speed, but also battery and memory savings for end-user devices. Google argues that its engineering team has been making consistent improvements to Chrome so that it runs “faster and smoother on all devices, operating systems and internet conditions”.

Tab throttling is currently rolling out in Chrome 86 on the Beta channel, meaning it won’t be playing an active role in the browser just yet. Another feature currently in beta is tab previews, which lets users view a thumbnail preview of an open tab by hovering their mouse cursor over it – useful when you have a lot of open tabs that look the same, Google notes.

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Another update to Google Chrome includes new, touch-friendly tabs for 2-in-1 devices and laptops in tablet mode. The new touchscreen interface offers larger, more finger-friendly tabs that users can swipe through and organize without accidentally pressing everything else on the screen. Chromebooks will be the first to receive this feature.

Finally, QR codes and PDFs have been shown some love in Chrome 85.

Android users can now generate a QR code to scan or download. This feature is also rolling out to Chrome on desktop and can be accessed from a new QR icon in the Chrome address bar.

Meanwhile, Chrome’s PDF functionality has been improved to so that users can now fill out PDF forms and save their edits directly from the Chrome browser.

“We hope all these updates will make it easier and faster to browse and get things done in Chrome” said Google.

“We prioritize keeping Chrome stable, so features sometimes take time until they roll out to every browser.”