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Paula Santamaría
Paula Santamaría

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Chrome Extensions: Making changes to a web page

In this post, I will focus on content scripts and how to use them to make changes to a web page.

The main concepts we will explore are:

  • Using content scripts to make changes to a web page.
    • Attaching HTML
    • Adding new styles
  • Sending messages between the background script and the content script
  • Accessing our extension's resources from the content script

Table of contents

The example

For this post's example, I will keep adding features to our initial sample extension: We will use content scripts to display a notification at the bottom right of the currently active page.
We will also rely on what we learned previously in this series: A command will trigger the notification to be handled by our background script. Finally, the background script will message the content script, to activate the notification showing the title of the page at the bottom-right of the screen:

A small portion of a's web page appears, and the notification is displayed with the text "DEV Community"

About content scripts

  • Content scripts are files that run in the same context as the web page the user visited.
  • They share access with the page's DOM.
  • Within these scripts, we can use JavaScript to access the web page elements, read its contents and make changes. And we can use CSS to add new styles to the web page.
  • They allow you to extract information from the page and send it to other scripts or receive messages from our extension.
  • Finally, content scripts have access to some of the chrome APIs, which allows us to do stuff like get the current URL, access the extension's storage, etc.

Let's get coding!

1. Create a new command

In the previous post of this series, we added two commands to our example extension. Now we are going to add a third one.
To do that, first, we will define the command and it's suggested shortcut in the manifest.json file:

    "manifest_version": 2,
    "name": "Acho, where are we?",
    // ...
    "commands": {
        "bark": {
            "suggested_key": {
                "default": "Alt+Shift+3"
            "description": "Makes Acho bark the title at the bottom right of the current page."
        // .... Other commands
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Now, we need to handle our command by listening to the onCommand event. This should be done in the background script:

// background.js

chrome.commands.onCommand.addListener(function (command) {
    switch (command) {
        case 'bark':
            console.log(`Command ${command} not found`);

function barkTitle() {
    const query = { active: true, currentWindow: true };
    chrome.tabs.query(query, (tabs) => {
        chrome.tabs.sendMessage(tabs[0].id, {
            tabTitle: tabs[0].title
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So, once the bark command is executed, we will send a message indicating the currently active tab's title.
Now our content script needs to listen to that message and display the notification.

About Messages: Content scripts don't run in the context of the extension but in the context of the web page. They need a way to communicating with the extension. We can do that using messages.

  • To send a message to a content script, use chrome.tabs.sendMessage and specify the TabId. The message will be sent to the content script running in that tab.
  • To send a message from a content script, use chrome.runtime.sendMessage.

2. Register the content script

To create a content script, the first thing we need to do is (yes, you guessed it!) add it to the manifest.json file:

    "manifest_version": 2,
    "name": "Acho, where are we?",
    // ... 
    "content_scripts": [
            "matches": ["<all_urls>"],
            "js": ["content.js"],
            "css": ["content.css"]
    "web_accessible_resources": [
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  • content_scripts: An array of content scripts. We can register multiple scripts, each with different configurations.
  • matches: An array of string expressions that specify which pages will this particular content script be injected into. You can use "matches": ["<all_urls>"] to inject it in any URL.
  • js: An array of javascript files. These files will handle the logic for our content scripts.
  • css: An array of CSS files. In this case, we will use a CSS file to define our notification styles.
  • web_accessible_resources: A list of resources we will need to access from our content scripts. Since the content script runs in a different context than the extension, any extension resource we want to access must be explicitly made available here.

3. Display the notification

Let's start by adding the logic to content.js:

// Notification body.
const notification = document.createElement("div");
notification.className = 'acho-notification';

// Notification icon.
const icon = document.createElement('img');
icon.src = chrome.runtime.getURL("images/icon32.png");

// Notification text.
const notificationText = document.createElement('p');

// Add to current page.

chrome.runtime.onMessage.addListener((request, sender, sendResponse) => {

    const notification = document.getElementsByClassName('acho-notification')[0];
    const notificationText = notification.getElementsByTagName('p')[0];

    notificationText.innerHTML = request.tabTitle; = 'flex';

    setTimeout(function () { = 'none';
    }, 5000);

    return true;
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Now let's inspect the previous code more carefully:

  • First, we create a div, which will be our notification body. We also assign it a class that will help us define styles for it later.
  • Then, we attach an img to the previous div. This will add the icon of our extension to the notification box.
    • To get the icon of our extension, we must use chrome.runtime.getURL. Remember, the content script doesn't run in the same context as the extension, so we can't just access our extension's resources directly. That's also why we added the icon32.png file to the manifest.json as a web-accessible resource.
  • Next, we add a p element where we will later attach the notification text.
  • Finally, we append the notification to the web page's body.

These first 15 lines will ensure that every page loaded has our notification structure. To finally display the notification, we added a listener for the chrome.runtime.onMessage. Let's inspect that code:

  • Once we receive the message, the first thing to do is find the notification's structure within the current web page. We use document.getElementsByClassName to get the notification's body, and from there we get the p element inside it using getElementsByTagName.
  • Remember that the message sent by our background.js script includes the tabTitle, so we use that value from request.tabTitle and set it as the content of the notification's text element.
  • We make sure our notification is visible by setting the display property to flex.
  • Finally, we use setTimeout to hide the notification again after 5 seconds.

Great! We are almost done. Let's add some styles to the notification inside the content.css file:

.acho-notification {
    background-color: white;
    border: rgb(242, 105, 77) 1px solid;
    border-radius: 5px;
    font-size: medium;
    width: 320px;
    display: none;
    padding: 8px;
    position: fixed;
    bottom: 30px;
    right: 30px;
    align-items: center;

.acho-notification > img {
    margin-right: 12px;
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And that's it! This is how our notification will look when the user presses Alt+Shift+3:

After a second, the notification appears at the bottom-right displaying the title of the page

The repo

I'm keeping this repo updated with all my Chrome Extensions examples:

GitHub logo pawap90 / acho-where-are-we

Acho (a cute pup) tells you the title of the current page on your browser. A sample chrome extension.

Top comments (3)

lukeannison profile image

FYI I think we need to add "run_at": "document_end" to our content scripts to make this work.

So we have our content scripts as:
"content_scripts": [
"matches": ["<all_urls>"],
"js": ["content.js", "acho.js"],
"css": ["content.css"],
"run_at": "document_end"

Thanks again for a fantastic course.

lukeannison profile image

Hi Paula, thanks for a fantastic series of articles. This command doesn't seem to do anything for me. Even when I directly clone this repo from your github. Is it still working for you? Maybe something has changed in the chrome library.

paulasantamaria profile image
Paula Santamaría

Thanks for letting me know Luke! I'll check it out and your solution ASAP and get back to you :)