Android-like gesture navigation, touch-friendly tab strip coming to Chromebook tablet mode

With Chrome 81, Google is introducing Android 10-like gesture navigation for the Chrome OS tablet mode. It’s also introducing other tweaks to optimize the touch experience, starting on the Lenovo Chromebook Duet.

Available for Chromebook tablets and the more common 2-in-1 convertibles, navigation starts with a thin line in the shelf. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen when in an app will take you home. A swipe up and hold takes you to the Overview screen that shows all open windows.

Speaking of the shelf, it’s been redesigned — given the new gesture pill placement — in tablet mode so that a small swipe will bring up a tray of your pinned and open apps. In laptop mode, the shelf is now more compact to increase browsing real estate.

Android’s back gesture is also available, but only on the left edge. It can be used to go back when browsing, as well as return you to the app grid.

The last navigation change is to the tablet web browsing experience. Starting on Lenovo’s upcoming Duet — which Google says will be available for purchase in the “next couple of months,” the tab strip that shows all your open sites is being replaced.

A new tab switcher — which looks identical to Android’s and features a count of your open pages — can be tapped next to the address bar to show the touch-friendly tab strip. Featuring a preview, you can reorder tabs by dragging and swipe up to close. This visual change is coming to all Chromebooks “soon.”

Google also announced today that picture-in-picture is available for all Android apps from the Play Store apps. PiP will be available in both laptop and tablet mode.

These changes are coming with Chrome OS 81, with that release beginning to roll out to desktops today after a brief coronavirus delay.

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