Screenshot: Brendan Hesse (Google Chrome)

Google announced that the latest update for the Chrome browser, Chrome 73, has begun rolling out to Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. While these updates normally cover security fixes, system-level changes, and new tools for developers, Chrome 73 also includes a handful of new features for general users as well—including the much-requested Dark Mode—although their availability will be different depending on the platform you’re using.

Let’s go over the new features found in Chrome 73, when and where they’ll be available, and how to enable them.

Dark mode

After what seems like ages of user pining for a dark theme in Chrome, Google is finally adding the feature—though it’s initially only available on macOS, but will soon be rolling out to Windows as well.

Sure, you could download “dark mode” themes from the Chrome store before, Chrome’s native dark mode features the design sensibilities one would expect from Google. Chrome’s Dark Mode looks a lot like incognito mode: A Dark charcoal grey replaces the usual bright white and grey for the browser window, toolbar, settings tabs, and Google home page, as well as automatically applies a dark theme to supported web pages. Other parts of the browser maintain the classic white color scheme for now, such as the settings page.

Since Google has engineered Dark mode to work with macOS’ dark mode display options, it must be enabled by turning on your Mac’s dark UI mode from the Apple system settings, rather than in Chrome itself.

  1. Open the Apple settings and click System Preferences 
  2. Click “General.”
  3. Locate the “Appearance” setting, and select “Dark.”
  4. Chrome will automatically transition to Dark Mode.

Quick note: Since enabling Dark Mode makes the normal and incognito browsing modes look identical, Google has added a prominent incognito icon to the right of the URL field when in Incognito mode.

As for the imminent Windows version of Chrome’s Dark Mode, it will also require that you enable Windows 10’s dark theme at the OS level first.

Auto PIP and video features

Google began testing native picture-in-picture (PIP) video mode for Chrome last year, but Chrome 73 sees the feature getting an expanded presence on the browser’s desktop version, extending PIP support to progressive web apps. This means supported videos will now automatically transition to PIP mode when users switch to other tabs or web apps. The update also integrates early versions of a Skip Ad feature for PIP videos and the ability to quickly jump back to the video’s tab or app. While these features don’t require any special settings to be enabled on the user’s end, developers will have to build support it into their web apps and pages in order for them to be available, so functionality may differ between web pages and apps.

In addition to the wider support for PIP mode, Chrome 73 will also let developers add hardware media key support to web apps. Developers can now let users play, pause, and skip tracks or other playlist media using buttons on their keyboard or other connected hardware, even when the media is being played in the background.

Other features

Aside from Dark Mode rollout and new media playback options, Chrome 73 adds other notable features for both users and developers alike. Users get enhanced spell check, a new option for “safe browsing extended reporting.” Chrome 73 also consolidates all options related to Google’s sync feature under the new “Sync and Google services” section that was added to the settings menu with Chrome 72 (these changes are still being rolled out following the update, so may not be immediately present for all users).

While Chrome 73’s initial launch only covers the desktop versions of the browser, Android users can look forward to new, clearer download progress notifications when saving files in the mobile browser. The update will also include a redesigned download history page that lets users filter their download history by file type.

Finally, as Chrome 73 adds progressive web app support to the macOS version of Chrome, and developers can now add badge API to web apps for desktop browsers so that notifications alerts (such as unread notifications) can be displayed over the app’s icon from Chrome’s home page.

The Chrome 73 update will be rolling out to all desktop users in the coming days. Support for features like Dark Mode on Windows and other changes will hopefully follow soon after, but Google hasn’t given any specific timetable. The Android and Chrome OS versions of Chrome 73 are also expected to launch soon, though you can check out the new features early by downloading the Chrome beta.



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