As Chrome OS has continued to evolve as an operating system, one of the key elements that has had to continually shift in order to keep up with the frenetic pace of change is the Files app. While the material design overhaul only happened recently in Chrome OS 84, the Files app has had some pretty big changes under the hood over the past few years. You may not know it just from day to day use, but the Files app has really grown to encompass all the different ways Chromebooks deliver apps these days.
Just a few years ago, the Files app didn’t have to do too much for Chromebook users. It was more of a glorified gateway to Google Drive with little in the way of high-level functionality. Fast forward to today and the Files app is responsible for local files and a full localized file system, Google Drive syncronization, Play Store files, Linux app files, and any Android app like Dropbox or Box that provide file system integrations. The Files app on Chrome OS is a busy place these days, but it is able to handle files across containers and virtual drives with aplomb, and it looks ready to handle Windows files in much the same way.
When the Parallels announcement happened last month, we were beside ourselves seeing how Google was planning to bring Windows apps to Chrome OS for enterprise users this fall and all the solutions it will provide for enterprise customers for years to come. In all that excitement, we missed a small tidbit right in that announcement that gives us a clear picture of how Windows files will get handled on Chromebooks once Parallels launches in the fall.
As you can see in the image above (bottom-right in the Files app), right alongside your local files and Android app files, users who are leveraging Windows apps via Parallels will have a dedicated file management section in the Files app just for Windows. Based on the way Chrome OS handles these setups for all other containerized software, it should be a seamless integration that will allow files to be easily moved between environments. If you are spending time researching in Chrome and have a few images you’ve saved for a project, it should end up being no issue moving those assets between a Chrome OS app, Android app, or Windows app via the Files application.
As Parallels will give users a full-blown Windows desktop environment on Chromebooks at first (access to only individual apps will come), I was curious on how the file systems would integrate. With cloud drives, there are creative ways to get files from one virtual machine to another, but it looks like the integration with Parallels will go far deeper than that and will allow local files to simply be moved in and out of the container at will by the user. This is great news and should assist in making the entire experience much smoother when it all arrives later in 2020. As exciting as this all is, I still see this ‘Windows apps on Chromebooks’ effort largely as a stop-gap and still feel that, in the end, Chrome OS and cloud-based software experiences are the future. So, I’ll leave you with Cyrus Mistry’s quote to The Verge to keep all this in perspective:
The analogy I give is that yes, the world is all state of the art and Dolby Atmos home theaters, but every once in a while you do have that old wedding video on a VHS that you need to get to. We want to make sure you have that option [for Windows apps] as well… so that every once in a while you’ll be able to get that when you need it, but we don’t want that to be the world you’re living in.via The Verge