The blog Google Operating System wrote earlier today about how to use Google Chrome’s incognito mode as a replacement for the safe mode that comes with Firefox. In an incognito window, all Chrome extensions, and naturally user scripts also, are disabled. I was surprised at first to see this, but it’s probably an extra privacy feature, since extensions are normally allowed to access the browsing history and could potentially breach the secrecy expected from a private mode.
Of course, switching to incognito is not a full replacement for the safe mode in Firefox, since it doesn’t provide options to reset customizations or to selectively uninstall extensions. The menu entry for them is actually disabled as well, so it’s in a sense like going back to a previous Chrome version, one that didn’t support extensions.
Personally, I don’t think Google Chrome needs an equivalent to the Firefox safe mode. All extensions and plug-ins run in separate processes and are listed in the Task Manager. From there they can be easily stopped it they cause problems, or they can be disabled in the dedicated ‘Extension’ page one by one, without restarting the browser. In the Task Manager you can even stop all the extensions or plug-ins at once. Since process names start with their type (‘Browser’, ‘Extension’, ‘Plug-in’ or ‘Tab’), you can sort the list by clicking on the ‘Page’ column header. Hold down ‘Ctrl’ or ‘Shift’ while clicking on the rows to select some or all the extensions like you select multiple files. Finally, click on ‘End process’ and the extensions are gone.
This method however doesn’t stop them from reloading the next time you start the browser. To have a completely extension-free Google Chrome, you can instead start the browser with the command line flag --disable-extensions. The result is similar to the incognito mode, but has the advantage that you can still use the logins saved in cookies, the history and the ‘New Tab’ page, just like in a normal session.
There is a similar switch to prevent plug-ins from running, --disable-plugins. So, if you want to kill Flash for good or want to test if you could survive surfing the web on an iPad, create a shortcut with this flag set for a Flash-less Chrome browser.