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Summary:

Google continues to quickly iterate its Chrome OS platform, with the latest developer build showing a much improved Files app. And it is an app; something called a Packaged App that can have more functionality than a web app.

Files packaged app

As it matures, Google’s Chrome OS is looking more and more like a traditional operating system as opposed to a simple browser. François Beaufort from Google points out the Files app shows a number of improvements in the latest Developer version of Chrome OS. And unlike web apps, Files will be what Google calls a Packaged App; software that runs in Chrome OS outside of the browser.

Chrome OS Files Dev

That last point is key because Packaged Apps take advantage of Chrome’s security elements — sandboxing, in particular, so that if they crash or hang, they can’t affect other apps or browser pages  – while still using web technologies. The apps are treated like first-class citizens to the operating system. You can tap Alt + Tab to switch between them, for example. Google explains:

Packaged apps deliver an experience as capable as a native app, but as safe as a web page. Just like web apps, packaged apps are written in HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. But packaged apps look and behave like native apps, and they have native-like capabilities that are much more powerful than those available to web apps. Packaged apps have access to Chrome APIs and services not available to traditional web sites. You can build powerful apps that interact with network and hardware devices, media tools, and much more.

Aside from the Packaged App technology, the developer build of Files has more and better ways to show files.

Chromebook PixelOn my Chromebook Pixel, for example, I can only see Downloads, Google Drive and any external storage in the Files app. Since the Pixel is my full-time work machine, I typically run the standard Stable version. The newer Developer version also shows recently used files, files that are shared and those marked for offline use. From what I can see, it doesn’t yet include support for other cloud services, however.

Both the usability improvements and the standalone nature of the Files app show that Google doesn’t plan to keep Chrome OS as a simple browser running atop a Linux kernel. The platform is quickly iterating to provide the desktop experience that traditional computers users are used to while still being a lightweight but effective computing environment.

  1. Thank you for this interesting piece. I’m using one packaged app now that I like called TEXT. I like it for its speed. I also use Mywritingspot. Very nice app for writing. I use WorkFlowy as an outliner and to do list. And of course I use Google docs. One nuisance. I can’t figure out how to find and replace a paragraph (carriage return) in a text file. Any suggestions?

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