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Summary:

The latest Developer channel update for Chrome OS offers a number of improvements that brings the operating system closer to traditional desktop platforms. Touch enabled drag-and-drop, better channel switching, and a way to see all open windows with a single key click are here.

Samsung's Series 5 550 Chromebook

An update to Google’s Chrome OS developer channel adds several new features that bring it even closer to traditional desktop platforms. Google announced the update on Monday, but as usual, didn’t supply a list of new features. Google evangelist François Beaufort examined the code changes and found out what’s new, posting the details on his Google+ page. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

1. See all open tabs / windows with one button click

This is just like the Mission Control feature in Mac OS X, showing all open windows on the screen at once. That’s helpful since a Chrome OS user could have both multiple tabs open at once in the browser as well a a number of standalone Chrome apps. Sure, you could cycle through your open windows using the ctrl + tab key combo, but it’s nice to see everything all at once.

ChromeOS overview mode

To enable the feature on the Dev channel, users must activate the experimental Overview Mode by typing chrome://flags/#enable-overview-mode in the Chrome URL bar and enabling the feature. Once it’s turned on, tapping the F5 key will show all open windows.

2. Touch-based drag-and-drop

This feature is currently limited to Google’s Chromebook Pixel since it’s the only Chrome OS device with a touchscreen. As a Pixel owner, I can assure you it’s a welcome addition. Here’s how the feature looks in action with Beaufort sharing a demonstration of dragging and dropping images into an email:

3. Easier switching between the Dev, Beta and Stable channels

It’s actually easy to switch to Dev or Beta from the Chrome OS Stable channel now; the hard part is switching back. Prior to this update, you’d have to either wait for the Stable version to have the same version number as Dev or Beta to automatically switch back: A waiting period that could take weeks. Or you could create a Stable image recovery and install it, but that requires removable media and some extra steps.

Now, users can bypass the image recovery process because changing back to Beta or Stable includes a “powerwash” that installs the version of Chrome OS you want.

ChromeOS channel change

4. Better integration with Google Drive

Files in the cloud have long appeared in the Files app in Chrome OS as if they were local. So you can easily manipulate or use those files just as if they were on a Chromebook’s flash storage. With the latest Dev channel update, these files can now be shared in the cloud with others, just like they can in the Google Drive web client. The user interface to share files in Chrome OS is the same as the web version as well.
Chrome OS still may not be the desktop platform for everyone — it may never be that — but clearly, it keeps improving and gaining more traditional computing features that could increase the appeal of a Chromebook or Chromebox.

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  1. There’s no F5 key on a Chromebook…

  2. Think my next laptop might just be a Chromium, seems the way to go :)

  3. I think the author meant Alt + Tab to alternate among open windows. (not Ctrl+tab)
    Another comment mentioned there is no F5 key on a Chromebook. I think what the author meant was the key that is the 5th key over from Esc key in the normal F5 position. My Chromebooks show the key with an icon that looks like 3 overlapping windows which makes sense. On my wife’s Chromebox, which uses a spare regular keyboard, it’s indeed the F5 key.

  4. After the update I can no longer access my files while offline. This is a huge downgrade, in my opinion.

  5. I am new to the Chrome OS, but have used Android, Linux and Mac, and I like what Google is doing with their OS. I would like to see more applications that allow you to download the application to the SSD “only” which in turn would load up offline when you need it to, allow you to modify documents that you started online but captured for future modifications during your last Cloud or Server connection. Once back online the application can revert to the online version and update any documents that you were working on offline and store them on the Cloud.

    To make it more suitable to the authors of applications that this method isn’t used to pirate their software, the offline copy of the application limits you to modifications which cannot be stored anywhere but on the SSD, and once online access is available the application automatically uploads your changes to the Cloud and the previous temporary offline file is deleted automatically on the SSD. A new copy from the Cloud would need to be downloaded for further modification offline in the same manner.

    In my humble opinion this follows suit with the intent of the Google OS and the Cloud storage solutions people have wanted for some time, with the availability of working offline on documents that they were working on before they had to get off line and would assist ones productivity (not just Google Docs). I think we need to think about those instances where cost to have Internet access has to be considered when introducing a system like the Google OS, as everyone knows using a cell phone to tether a connection to the Internet in a canoe in the middle of the Ozark Mountain Range can be extremely expensive and make the flexibility of the Chromebook and Google OS not as appealing.

    DW

  6. Why can’t my samsung chromebook access my samsung s 3 like a flash disc. Shouldn’t they be able to see each other?

    1. Different file systems / protocols. Even on a Mac, for example, you need a special app to access an Android 4.0 phone.

  7. can this f@ retards from the media please stop saying bulllshit!!! Mission Control feature in Mac OS X existed in Linux thousands of years ebfore it appeared in OSX! Even Windows as that app in some pcs or installed ia mouse and devices software

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