To help improve multitasking and better organize work, Google is introducing Virtual Desks with Chrome OS 77. Similar to Mission Control on macOS and other virtual desktop solutions, your apps and windows can be grouped in up to four “desks.”
The Overview Mode (accessible from the function key or three-finger swipe up) adds a “New Desk” FAB in the top-right corner. A new shelf is created up top with naming starting at “Desk 1.” From this view, windows and Android apps can be dragged to your desired grouping. A four-finger trackpad swipe allows users to quickly move between spaces, though there is no way to rearrange desk placement. When a desk is closed, all open windows and applications are transferred to the left-hand space.
With version 77, Virtual Desks should be fully available without users first needing to manually enable a flag.
Assistant is currently only available on the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate. With Chrome OS 77, it’s officially rolling out to other Chromebooks. Users will be prompted, but it can also be enabled in Settings > Search and Assistant > Google Assistant. Besides “Hey Google” hotword detection to activate, there is a “Search” + “a” key combination to bring up the Assistant panel.
Chrome already lets you see what tabs are open on other devices, though it’s complicated and buried in menus. Chrome OS 77 is now adding a more direct “Send this page” feature that starts by tapping the address bar. When highlighted, a devices icon appears at the very end of the Omnibox. The “Send to your devices” menu presents your list of devices logged in to Chrome, including Android, iOS, and other desktops. It’s also accessible by right-clicking on any link or tab.
Tapping will send the link, with a system alert appearing on the originating device as confirmation. On the receiving end, a notification will list the page name and URL, as well as what computer “Sent” it. Clicking will open the link in a new tab. This feature should be more widely available after rolling out to the first users last month.
After updating to a major release, Chrome OS will throw up a system notification that opens a “What’s new with your Chromebook?” page. Google is providing rich, user-facing release notes for the first time. The page can be accessed at anytime from the “About Chrome OS” version screen in Settings or this URL.
A new battery saving measure will automatically turn off your Chromebook after three days of standby. Linux kernel 4.4 is required.
To find the kernel version, go to chrome://system and search for uname. The kernel version is the first set of digits.
Given the rise of convertible Chrome OS devices, Google is now basing volume control on orientation. The volume button on the top (or right) will always increase the volume, regardless of tablet or laptop mode.
Other changes include:
- Enhanced formatting support of external drives: When formatting a FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS external drive, users will now be able to pick a file system and label for their drive.
- Chrome OS file selector now the default for Android apps: For a consistent user experience, Android apps now open the Chrome OS file selector. This change provides a consistent file-selection experience across apps.
- HD copy-protected content support for ARC++ apps: In Android apps, you can now play high-definition (HD) copy-protected HDMI 1.4 content. This update is useful for externally connected displays such as televisions.
Chrome OS 77 is rolling out now and will be available for all Chromebooks over the next several weeks.
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