In addition to a Google Material Theme, the last update to Chrome OS introduced Night Light, dictation, Linux app support, and much more. Chrome OS 70 today thoroughly revamps the interface for touch Chromebooks and tablets. It also adds AV1 support and more HTTP warnings in addition to security and bug fixes.
The first big change in Chrome OS 70 on touchscreen Chromebooks and convertibles, like the Pixelbook, is to the app shelf of pinned and active software. Styled like a Google Material Theme sheet with rounded corners, it is taller and allows for larger app icons that are now centered with a new horizontal open indicator underneath.
Right clicking (or tapping with two fingers) on an icon reveals a new rounded menu design that also displays Android app shortcuts. Open, but non-pinned apps appear to the right with a vertical line visually separating the dock.
The control panel to the right has been massively revamped. System icon, including dictation and Stylus tools, are displayed in an easily tapped circle. Meanwhile, the time, battery, WiFi, and notification indicator are housed in a pill-shaped bubble. Tapping reveals a new merged feed where notifications are displayed above quick settings.
Reminiscent of Android 9 Pie, the quick settings panel has a dark background and blue buttons. Up top is your profile avatar, Sign out, Lock, Settings, and Shut down. Below are circular controls for WiFi, Bluetooth, notifications, Night, and Accessibility. Unlike on Android, tapping takes users directly to a list of networks and devices. At the very bottom are two slides for volume and display brightness.
Meanwhile, tapping the Launcher at the far left still opens a pane with a search box and a carousel of pill-shaped suggestions. Apps still appear, but so do frequently visited websites and other web content. Swiping up reveals a grid of apps that spans the entire width of the screen with larger icons and significantly increased spacing.
Elsewhere, a Gboard-based virtual keyboard is now available on Chrome OS with a floating keyboard option that is not docked to the bottom of the screen. The second button from the left in the suggestions strip allows users to minimize Gboard to the approximate width of a smartphone display.
The pane can be dragged anywhere on the screen with a D-Pad button below the space bar, while a button at the bottom-right corner hides the keyboard. Above the QWERTY keys, users are able to scribble and access voice dictation, with both working in the truncated view. Unlike Gboard on Android, users cannot customize or theme the background.
The Camera app has been updated with a refreshed UI, with captured photos and videos now stored in the Downloads folder for the Files app.
Chrome OS now natively supports SMB file shares. In Settings, there is a Network file shares menu to set up Windows file sharing.
Remote paths can be mounted as a root in the Files app. Supported authentication methods include Kerberos, Microsoft Active Directory, and NTLM version 2.
Chrome 70 continues the push towards HTTPS adoption by displaying a “Not secure” warning and red icon when users enter passwords or other personal data on HTTP pages. It comes as the last update removed the “Secure” badge from the address bar to better reflect the default expectation for security.
On a similar privacy note, Chrome will exit full screen mode when dialog boxes — including file pickers and authentication/payment prompts — appear. This change ensures users have proper context before taking action on alerts.
Beginning with this version, right-clicking on a Chrome Extension reveals new options to determine when add-ons are permitted to run. A new menu will let users choose: When you click the extension, On this site, and On all sites. Users can have extensions run only after manually clicking them in the toolbar or by establishing a whitelist. These new options are not yet fully rolled out.
AV1 is an open, industry-backed codec for more efficient and better quality video streaming. Video compression sees a 30% improvement compared to the current VP9 standard. Chrome 70 adds only an AV1 decoder to Chrome OS, macOS, Windows, and Linux, with encoding capabilities not yet included.
Given the data savings especially on mobile devices and smooth HD streaming, YouTube plans to adopt AV1 and has a Beta Launch Playlist of 14 videos. On supported browsers, users can head to YouTube’s TestTube experiments list and select “‘Prefer AV1 for SD.”
Chrome OS 70 is rolling out now and will be available for all Chromebooks over the next several days.