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