Update makes Chromebooks better for work and play

Samsung's Series 5 550 Chromebook

All Google Chromebooks, even the first beta devices, have a large software update waiting for them. On Tuesday, Google announced that the web-centric notebooks would get the newest version of the Chrome browser — version 21 — but also a number of small feature enhancements and new functionality. My own Chromebook was last updated on July 28, showing that Google continues to improve its Chromebook devices on a timely basis.

Since all work on a Chromebook is done in the browser — you can’t install software on the laptop — Chrome 21 is the biggest part of the update, which all machines will get over the next few days.

But there’s more than just a better browser: user interface changes, a newer version of Adobe Flash, support for more wired and wireless devices, and new plug-in versions are all included.

Here’s a rundown of some of the changes Chromebook users can expect after the update:

  • A redesigned App list that doesn’t require a new screen; you can use it on the main desktop area
  • A new print dialog that integrates Google Cloud Print devices
  • Custom wallpaper
  • Offline support to work in the Google Docs app
  • LTE support in the modem manager
  • Support for standard USB audio devices and wireless gamepads
  • Updated plug-ins for GTalk and Netflix
  • A three-finger tap works as a middle button on the trackpad

I’m most excited for the wireless gamepad support and it’s likely the first feature I’ll try after I get the update. If you look at my video overview of the Chromebook, you’ll see me show off an incredible web-based game called Bastion¬†at the 9:15 mark of the vid:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW2_jXTbwEw]

The problem is: I don’t often play it because I’m terrible at navigating through game play on a keyboard. With wireless gamepad support that issue is addressed and I should be able to use the gamepad with my Android tablets as well.

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