Chrome’s Side Panel: Exploring the Underrated Features

As a long-time user of the Chrome browser, I have to admit that I am sometimes resistant to change. I get comfortable with a certain way of using the app and tend to ignore new features that are introduced. However, recently I discovered Chrome’s side panel, and I realized that I may have been missing out on some useful tools. In this article, I will delve into the various features offered by Chrome’s side panel and explore how they can enhance the browsing experience.

The side panel in Chrome is conveniently located on the right side of the screen. To open it, simply click on the rectangular icon with a shaded column in the upper right corner of the screen. If you are already using Gmail or Calendar, you may notice a slim sidebar next to the side panel holding icons for various Google apps. In such cases, the new sidebar will open next to it.

Chrome allows users to customize the width and position of the sidebar according to their preferences. If you find the sidebar too wide or narrow for your screen, you can click and hold the two-line drag icon on the side to adjust its width. Moreover, if you prefer the sidebar to open on the left side of your screen, simply click the three-dot icon on the top right of your display, go to Settings > Appearance, and select either “Show on right” or “Show on left.”

Chrome’s side panel provides immediate access to several useful apps that can enhance your browsing experience. Here are some of the main apps available in the sidebar:


The sidebar can serve as an alternative way to access your bookmarks. By trying out the sidebar’s bookmark feature, you may discover that it is more convenient than the traditional bookmark bar that runs across the top of the screen. If you decide to switch to using the sidebar for bookmarks, you can remove the top-screen bookmark bar by left-clicking on it and unchecking “Show bookmarks bar.” To restore the bookmark bar, use the same key combination or click Shift-Ctrl-B (in Windows) or Shift-Command-B (in macOS).

Reading List

Chrome’s reading list feature allows you to save articles and web pages for later reading when you do not have the time. Similar to Safari, Chrome provides its own reading list for users. To add a site to your reading list, select “Reading List” from the sidebar’s drop-down menu and click on the “+Add Current tab” button.


Have you ever closed a tab in your browser only to realize moments later that you still needed it? The History feature in the sidebar comes to the rescue by providing a list of recently closed tabs and searches. You can easily access and reopen tabs that you used minutes, hours, or even days ago.

Reading Mode

For users who find web page clutter distracting, Chrome offers a Reading Mode feature that simplifies the content by removing ads, pop-ups, and other elements, leaving only the text. While Reading Mode can be handy on mobile devices, its utility on a laptop screen may not be as apparent. Nevertheless, for particularly busy websites, Reading Mode can provide a more focused reading experience.


Given that Chrome is a Google app, the sidebar naturally includes a Search feature. Users can utilize this feature to perform searches directly within the sidebar. Additionally, Google’s Lens app is accessible from the sidebar, allowing users to drag and drop an image from a web page into the search box. This image search feature enables users to find similar images, extract text from images, translate text, or locate the original source of an image.

Other Apps

Depending on the apps installed on your computer, you may find additional options in the sidebar. Third-party apps like to-do lists, note-taking apps, or productivity tools can integrate with Chrome and appear as additional options in the sidebar. For example, I use a to-do app called TickTick, which is available in the sidebar’s drop-down menu.

After learning about the various features provided by Chrome’s side panel, I am genuinely excited to explore its potential benefits. By utilizing the sidebar’s bookmarking, reading list, history, reading mode, and search functionalities, users can streamline and enhance their browsing experience. Moreover, the ability to customize the sidebar’s width and position provides a personalized touch. If you, like me, have been neglecting this underrated feature, I encourage you to give Chrome’s side panel a try and see if it simplifies and improves your browsing life as it has for many others.


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