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The ability to have more than one “virtual desktop” is a hallmark of many desktop operating systems including Linux, Mac OS, and even recent versions of Windows. It allows you to separate your (too many) open apps and windows into cleanly divided work spaces. One major OS that’s been missing out though is Chrome OS, but Google is finally starting to change it with the new “Virtual Desks” feature.

Update: We now have a third video showing Chrome OS’s virtual desks and how they’ll actually work.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of virtual desktops for Chrome OS, as the folks at Android Police talked to Kan Liu, Chrome OS senior product manager, last November and found out that virtual desktops were “on the roadmap” but didn’t have a definite timeline.

That’s changing this week with a new commit posted to Chromium’s Gerrit source code management, entitled “Virtual Desks 1: Initial scaffolding“. While this commit doesn’t share any real details of how Chrome OS Virtual Desks will work under the hood, it does add UI elements like a “bar that will later contain desks’ thumbnails”and a “New desk” button to Chrome OS’s overview mode.

In the commit message, the developer links to a video demonstration attached to a Chromium bug (which likely isn’t meant to be public) which gives us an early preview of how we’ll be able to interact with Virtual Desks on Chrome OS. As you can see in the video, in a future version of Chrome OS, overview mode will be your entry point to creating, switching between, and managing Virtual Desks.


Update 2/21: A second code change was published last night, entitled “Virtual Desks 2: Desks thumbnails behavior.” In it, we get a handful of new details and a new preview video. The actual desk logic still has not been connected yet, but now we can see where the desk thumbnails would go and how the animation looks for adding a new desk.

Another detail confirmed is that there will be a hard limit of four Virtual Desks per user profile. This is not intended to be a user adjustable setting either, as the four desks have designated names in Chrome OS code which are being passed to Chromium’s translation team.

This also has the unfortunate consequence of meaning desks are not currently intended to be renamed, which is actually a real shame. Being able to organize windows into desks would be made far better by being able to uniquely name each desk.

Either way, it’s clear that Google is marching forward with this feature, and we’ll continue to watch and keep you updated as it develops.


Update 4/30: Google has provided yet another work-in-progress video of Chrome OS’s Virtual Desks. This time, we can actually see each Virtual Desk having its own set of windows and tabs, and how quickly you’ll be able to switch between each desk.

One more detail that we can see in the video is what happens when you “close” a desk that still had active windows. Instead of doing something drastic like closing all of those windows, Chrome OS simply moves them to another Virtual Desk.


While these videos may whet the appetites of everyone who has long been waiting for virtual desktops on Chrome OS, nothing yet tells us when we should expect to see Virtual Desks arrive in Chrome OS. The bug associated with the video was tagged to be completed for Chrome OS 71 which has long since released. Current Chrome OS Canary builds are version 76, so that would likely be the earliest we could see it arrive.

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