One of the key features of Chrome OS is its built-in search capabilities (Google is a search engine company, after all), which can show you web results in addition to matching apps. Now this Chrome OS search box is getting two improvements to make Android apps more dynamic thanks to Firebase App Indexing and make finding your installed Linux apps easier.
As of today, the Chrome OS search box is extremely capable, showing a healthy mixture of web results, local files, apps, and some other nifty tricks that web search can do like unit conversion. Combined with handy Assistant support, rolling out soon to “all Chromebooks,” Chrome OS tries to have everything you could ever need right at your fingertips, but there will always be room for improvement.
Two such improvements are coming to Chrome OS very soon. The first, spotted by Chrome Story, is a new feature, hidden behind a flag for now, that enables Chrome OS to search for content inside of Android apps. This capability, powered by Firebase App Indexing, allows certain apps like Google Play Books, Etsy, and The Guardian to return results from their app to the Chrome OS search box.
Firebase App Indexing, up to this point, has only supported iOS and Android. So gaining Chrome OS capability will make the library almost indispensable for app developers who wish to get Google Search to promote their app. This Android app searching support is live now in some pre-release versions of Chrome OS, upon enabling the “#enable-app-data-search” flag.
A second improvement to the search box is also coming, promising to improve the ability to search for installed Linux apps. Spotted in the Chromium Gerrit source code management, a new code change opens the “keywords” property, contained in the “.desktop” file of many Linux apps, to searching by Chrome OS. For the unfamiliar, the “.desktop” file is how Linux determines how to display application icons on your desktop and throughout the operating system.
For example, a photo editor like GIMP may want to include “photo editor” in its keywords, to be better indexed. These keywords are, unfortunately, not as commonly used as one would hope. Digging into the “.desktop” files on my own computer, I was unable to find one using the keywords property, including Google’s own Chrome and Android Studio applications.
Perhaps having a mainstream OS like Chrome OS use the property for search indexing will encourage more developers to use it in their Linux applications.