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Google Chrome Extreme: Eliminating Scrollbars

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Maximizing window space in a browser does not have to end with the deletion of a permanently visible URL bar. A simple customization feature in Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Chrome lets users virtually kill the good old vertical and horizontal scrollbars, while leaving the scrolling feature entirely intact. Starting this week, we will be regularly highlighting unusual features in Web browsers and ways how to take advantage of them.

There has been quite some buzz about a trend of vanishing URL bars (Mozilla, Google) since we broke the story of a hidden URL bar in the latest Chrome Canary versions about two weeks ago. We have been quite vocal that this is not just another browser feature, but a significant development that website marketers and developers should be paying attention to, as it is likely to change user behavior in an Internet environment that is much more focused on using services and apps rather than navigating random pages.

The guys over at GoogleWatchBlog (website in German) have taken the idea of maximizing screen real estate a bit further: What is left in the browser window once the URL bar is gone? The most obvious and clumsy parts are the horizontal and vertical scrollbars. What if you could get rid of them? You could approach a nearly full-screen scenario. It turns out that there is a way to redesign the scrollbars with a custom style sheet.

The deletion of the URL bar results in a gain of 30 pixels vertically, which can be substantial for netbooks and other devices with screen sizes of 10 inches or less. GoogleWatchBlog notes that the vertical scrollbar consumes a width of about 17 pixels horizontally. It's negligible on a 24-inch desktop display, but on a netbook screen you easily appreciate every pixel you can free up. In our personal opinion, a reduced-width scrollbar looks much sleeker than the traditional bar anyway.

The custom style sheet can be found in the following (Windows 7/Vista) folder:

C:\Users\[Your Username]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\User StyleSheets

If you are using a version of Chrome different from the regular stable version, you may have to choose a different folder. Chrome Canary, for example, can be found in the "Chrome SxS" folder. You can open the "custom.css" file with Windows Notepad or any other text editor. (Avoid using a word processor such as Word.) The file is empty but can be edited: GoogleWatchBlog has the CSS code that needs to inserted in the file (head over to their site and please give them a page view for their content). Save the file to make the change that will reduce the width of the scrollbars to 3 pixels. Delete the content again to get the old scrollbar size back. Close Chrome to be able to save the file. There is also an option to change the color of the scrollbar by modifying the #666 entry (here are some color charts).

Obviously, there are downsides to this feature. For one, it's tougher to hit the scrollbars with your mouse pointer, especially if you use a notebook and a trackpad. However, it's a non-issue if you are using a scroll wheel and functions such as a sliding scrolling feature with a trackpad gesture.

Do you know of a hidden feature in Chrome, Firefox, IE, or Opera? Let us know, and share it with other browser enthusiasts! Send us a note with our feedback form, and Conceivably Tech will gladly link back to your website or blog.

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