One thing that many people enjoy about using Safari on iOS is its quick, intuitive navigation gestures that allow you to go back or forward a page by simply swiping right or left. Soon, Google Chrome for Android will be getting on-board the gesture navigation train.
In a new commit posted to Chromium’s Gerrit source code management, we see an early work-in-progress version of gesture navigation for Chrome’s Android app. By “overscrolling” to the left or right, you will be able to quickly navigate forward or backward through your history.
Chrome for Android has offered a vertical ‘pull to refresh’ gesture, which is being used as the basis for these new horizontal gestures. According to a developer comment, it seems the end goal is to have these gestures look and behave consistently with the same navigation gestures on Chrome OS.
As it’s still very much so a work-in-progress, it may be a few weeks before we see the new navigation gestures land even in the Chrome Canary Android app. Once it does arrive for testing, the gestures will still need to be enabled with a flag.
Gesture navigation will certainly need a solid amount of testing, as there are surely mobile-friendly sites that use a swipe to the left or right to do things like change pictures in a gallery or open a context menu. The Chromium team is also still working out when certain native pages, like the New Tab page, can use the gesture.
Update 3/21: The flag has landed in all versions of Chrome from Stable to Canary builds, with some users finding it enabled by default. Oddly, in Stable builds the flag is still under the initial name seen above, but on Dev builds, it’s now listed as #overscroll-history-navigation. While the new flag name is definitely clearer, it’s somewhat unusual for Google to rename a flag after it has launched.
As we expected, Chrome for Android’s new gesture navigation indeed works just like the swipe gestures on Chrome OS. With the flag enabled, when you scroll to the left or to the right past the edge of the page, an arrow icon gets pulled from off-screen. When the arrow is colored in, you can let go and Chrome will go Back (or Forward, depending on your direction).
Other touch gestures have been available in Chrome for Android for a long time, like swiping the address bar to swiftly change tabs. Adding swipe back and forward gestures will surely make Chrome for Android fun and intuitive to use, and they should be a good match to Android Pie’s recent move toward gesture navigation.