Chrome OS 91 has officially arrived on most qualified Chromebooks, and with it a handful of cool new features. In particular, Near Share is now available for Chrome OS users, and it’s easier than ever to transfer files to and from your device with other users. If you missed it, there’s a quick video from Robby highlighting what’s new and new in the latest Chrome OS update. FYI: If you’re using a new generation Tiger Lake Chromebook, be patient. Chrome OS 91 is coming soon.
While the Chrome OS team has been busy putting the finishing touches on Chrome OS 91, the work has steadily progressed in the chain in the more experimental channels. More than once in the last week, my Canary device has received several updates in one day, and new features appear faster than I can test them, and it’s very exciting. I have some inside news that I will share later this week about a massive new feature for Chrome OS that should be fulfilled in the next couple of months, but today I wanted to see you quickly on some of the new and updated features that now work in the latest update to Chrome OS Canary version 93.
Note: Some of these features may have trickled up to the developer channel already as it has been promoted to a version of 93. This is just a highlight of things that are about to work to some degree.
Submit tab to even 2.0
As Michael shared over the weekend, Google is working on a new version of the “Send tab to self” feature that takes the alert out of the system tray alerts and gives it a dedicated living space just to the right of the Omnibox (URL bar) in Chrome. It was first discovered in action on Chrome for Desktop, but now the feature works in the Canary channel in Chrome OS. I’ve been tinkering with the flag for a couple of weeks, and recently I managed to activate the “connected devices” icon when I sent a tab to my Chromebook, but clicking on the icon did nothing. Then removed a subsequent update to the Canary feature completely.
However, the latest update has brought the feature back, and I’m happy to report that it seems to work as intended. This feature lets you share a webpage from your mobile device or another Chrome browser using the “send to devices” option in the Chrome sharing sheet. Once sent, an icon to the right of your extension icon will appear at the top right of your browser. Clicking on the icon opens an information tab about the shared page where the URL can be opened in a new tab. When fired, the non-real estate icon disappears.
There is still some work to be done with this new feature. Although it seems to work properly, I have discovered an unusual error. When enabled on multiple devices, a tab on one device sends the browser on the other Chromebook to crash and restart. I’m not sure why, but I want to send feedback to help developers solve the problem.
Focus follows the cursor
Recently discovered by our friend Dinsan Francis from Chrome Story, Google brings a new productivity feature to Chrome OS that has apparently been wanted by users for many years. The original feature request was opened back in 2013, but developers have just begun implementing bits and pieces to add a “focus follows cursor” feature to Chrome OS. This feature will be useful for users who use multiple monitors and use multiple windows.
As the name suggests, the device focus will shift to which window the mouse cursor is holding. It will not bring the window forward if it is nested under other windows, but it will be the main focus and therefore be what the user now communicates with via the keyboard. I imagine this will be a time saver for many workflows, as it will reduce the number of clicks needed to navigate between windows and desktops.
UI for noise reduction
Last month, we shared a new feature that would soon give skilled Chromebooks built-in noise reduction. I’m still unsure which devices will be able to take advantage of this technology, but I know that Tiger Lake processors have the built-in AI features that make noise reduction a natural feature for devices they operate. When the flag first appeared in the Canary Canal, it did absolutely nothing. Much to my surprise, the latest update to 93 has added noise reduction to switch to my 10th generation Comet Lake Chromebook. We have not had a chance to set up a test at this time, but I am keen to see the noise cancellation function in action. Given the shift to remote work and learning, this type of feature built into the hardware we use daily will be a much needed addition to the entire laptop, and I’m very happy to see Google come out ahead of this. We will test the feature on a few devices this week to see if there are any noticeable differences in ambient noise you can hear during a video call.
Lacros by default
The Linux-based browser known as “Lacros” has been under development for more than a year, and we still do not have an exact explanation of exactly what Google’s intentions are behind the project. Regardless of the plan, Lacros is being actively updated and fine-tuned for Chrome OS, and is now enabled by default in the Canary channel. The default Chrome OS browser is still there with PWAs and other apps that are still standard for the original app, but Lacros opens with Chrome when you first sign in to your device, and the new browser runs so well that at first glance it is difficult to tell the two apart.
Lacros will hopefully separate the Chrome browser from the actual operating system, allowing developers to push updates independently. I also hope that it will allow users to continue using their Chromebooks after the operating system reaches the end of its life. Many older devices are still able to handle light web tasks, and continued updates to the browser will ensure a safe and secure browsing experience for what could potentially be years beyond EOL. Another cool option that Lacros brings to the table is the ability to sync multiple accounts to the browser instead of the operating system itself. This will make Chrome on Chrome OS more like Chrome on Windows, macOS and Linux and give users more flexibility when using multiple accounts.
That’s it for this one, but there are several features to discover in Chrome OS 93, and I’ll share them in the next week or so. I fully expect that Chrome OS 92 and 93 will be full of great new features and never before seen opportunities when they hit the stable channel this year. 2021 has been an exciting year for Chromebooks, and the best is yet to come. Stay tuned for more.