Google is bringing some fascinating new features to its Chrome OS
To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Google is rolling out a number of improvements to Chromebook owners worldwide. And if you use an Android smartphone alongside your Chromebook, there are some hugely useful new features in this new release, which will be available in the coming days.
In the last decade, Chromebooks have come a pretty long way. Google says its internal data has revealed that during that time, people have gone from using them as a secondary device alongside a machine running Windows 10, macOS, or Linux, to solely owning a Chromebook as their main computer. That’s a testament to how far the underlying operating system, Chrome OS, have advanced during that time. Schools have also embraced Chromebooks as a way to get lightweight, portable, and speedy computers in the hands of hundreds of students without breaking the budget.
Chrome OS was designed to be a fast and secure operating system that keeps itself up-to-date automatically and backs everything up online. So, you don’t have to worry about remembering to hit “Save” in your word processor every fifteen minutes or so, Google Docs is constantly saving everything to the cloud, where it can be picked up on another device immediately.
Speaking about the anniversary, John Maletis, who works as Head of Product for Engineering & UX at Google, said: “For the past decade, we’ve stayed true to our original vision to make computing simpler and more accessible for everyone. Highlights include the Chromebook Pixel, the first Chromebook with a big, beautiful 3:2 touchscreen, which launched in 2013 and changed how people used their laptops. Then there was the first Chromebook with USB-C technology, introduced in 2015, enabling people to fast-transfer their data and charge their device quickly – all by using what’s now the universal standard. And in 2017 we launched Chromebooks with the Google-designed Titan C security chip to keep devices secure and protect user identity.”
Chrome OS stays updated automatically and keeps all of your files backed-up online
So, what’s next?
Google has announced a number of new features for Chromebook owners that are part of its 10th anniversary update. Here are three of the biggest new additions –
Bringing Your Android Phone To Chrome OS
Chances are, you’ve probably got a smartphone on the desk beside your Chromebook or in your pocket when working. With its latest update, Google wants to save you the hassle of constantly reaching for that other device by sharing more features and data between these two devices. Microsoft has already employed something similar with Windows 10 and Apple lets iPhone owners copy-and-paste between devices and resume words and emails they’ve been drafting as they switch between screens with a click.
On Chrome OS, this functionality comes under the banner of Phone Hub. This built-in control centre is designed to bring key capabilities from your Android phone to your Chromebook. It sits in the lower right-hand corner of the screen and lets you read text messages, reply, and even check the current battery life of your phone without moving from your Chromebook.
Phone Hub lets you switch your Android phone to silent, or open a Chrome tab from the handset
Better yet, if you’ve misplaced your phone, you can even ring it – to help you track it down – with a shortcut from the new Phone Hub menu.
Phone Hub also shows the Chrome browser tabs you last opened on your Android phone, so you can pick up right where you left off on the bigger laptop screen. And if you’re working in a coffee shop or a new office, the moment that you sign-in to a new Wi-Fi network on your Chromebook, those same login details will be wirelessly transferred to your Android phone, so that it can join with a click too.
In the coming months, Google will bring Nearby Share to Chromebooks too. Like Apple’s AirDrop system, this lets users instantly and securely share files between their Chromebook and other Chrome OS or Android devices. Nearby Share lets you send and receive without sharing contact details, so your information and files stay private.
Nearby Share lets you wirelessly beam photos, videos, files and more from your Chromebook to a smartphone – and back
Google has built an entirely new Screen Capture tool in the Quick Settings menu of Chrome OS that lets users snap precise screenshots and screen recordings without needing to remember keyboard shortcuts. Once you take a screen capture, it’ll instantly show up in Tote. Don’t worry if that’s not ringing a bell – Tote is an entirely new space that keeps important files right at your fingertips. Open Tote from the Shelf at the bottom of the screen and it will showcase recent downloads, recent screen captures, and pinned files. These can be dragged and dropped where needed.
So, screenshots will appear alongside images copied from a document and files that have been transferred using Nearby Share. It’s essentially a clipboard, but for files.
Jump Back Into Your Work
With the latest update, Google says it has “supercharged” its Desks feature. For those who don’t know, Desks are virtual desktops that allow you to create an entirely new collection of windows – as if you’d just logged into a new account. Users can move between Desks by swiping across the trackpad.
Following the update, all windows will restore to their previous Desks so workflows are never interrupted by shutting down the machine. Right-click at the top of a window to send it directly to one or all Desk, and swipe across the trackpad with four fingers to switch between Desks as before. To get started with Desks, open Overview mode and create a new Desk in the top right-hand corner.
Chromebook owners get a new Tote shortcut, which includes all of your recently copied files
Those are some of the biggest new features, but they’re far from the only new arrivals. For example, Google has reworked all of the icons for Chromebook’s built-in apps, which it says will make them easier to find in the App Drawer. The Share menu has also been boosted. After the update, sharing files, images and links between apps and the web will take much fewer steps. So, when you click “share” on a supported app or website, you’ll see a list of apps you can share content with directly.
With just a few clicks, share a painting from your built-in Canvas app to Twitter, or an image from your Files app to the Microsoft Word app.