December 2021 was a rocky month for Google and Chrome OS users with the unfortunately-wonky rollout of Chrome OS 96, which had to be halted and then resumed. However, even with its troubles, Chrome OS 96 brought us a few pretty handy hidden features that Robby covered in our December “5 New Hidden Chrome OS Features” video.
One of these features was “Side Search,” which is – according to Google – a side panel in Chrome meant “to make it easier to compare search results and find what you’re looking for more quickly in Chrome.” This optional side panel will allow you to continue browsing on one side of the browser while, on the other, continuing to view the search results that got you there. Google further explained:
This lets you view a page right in your main browser window without needing to navigate back and forth or losing your search results. The goal of this experiment is to explore how Chrome can better help users easily compare resultsChromium Blog
As helpful as this feature sounds, to date, it has only been available on Chrome OS and only by flipping an experimental flag (#side-search). However, this may change because, as Redditor r/Leopeva64-2 has found, a recent commit reveals that this feature will be enabled for all desktop platforms. Moreover, the placement of this panel will be moved from the left (as it is now on Chrome OS) to become part of the unified right side panel, which right now encompasses the Reading List and Bookmarks — and in future updates, the Feed and Reader Mode as well. This is now available to try on Chrome Canary for Windows, but will still require the flag #side-search to be enabled.
Side Search: align side panel to the right when SideSearchDSESupportflag is enabled
This CL moves the side search to the right when SideSearchDSESupport is enabled per UX’s request. It should make the transition to unified side panel default to be on the right side more smoothlyChromium Gerrit
I can see this feature becoming extremely helpful for those who do a lot of research for a living. There may be times when you are so “in the weeds” researching that you lose track of how you started your search and how many links you had to click on to get to where you arrived. I am also of the opinion that moving this to the unified right side panel is a good move, as I don’t think it looks good where it is right now on the left. It just seems to me like having sidebars on both sides may make Chrome look too 2010-ish. I’m hoping this feature makes it to the stable version of Chrome on both Windows and Mac, but more importantly, that it becomes available on Chrome OS soon without having to use a flag.