Last month, the Chrome OS development team decided that virtual desks weren’t being used enough by well, practically anyone, so they created what’s called Bento – or the ‘Persistent Desk Bar’. Reluctant to admit it at first, I found the persistent bar to be more useful than its out-of-sight-out-of-mind predecessor (the one you probably currently have). There’s something about having more screen real estate at the top of the display taken up that irks me, but there’s also something about the ease of access to multiple desktops without the need to press a button that makes up for it (depending on who you ask).
Unfortunately, in its earliest stages of development, Bento was practically unusable due to it constantly overlaying the top bar of any window you had open. Each time it appeared upon a reboot, I found myself hiding it using the three dots menu at the top-right. Saddened by this, it had lost its usefulness until today when I checked back on the feature to find that any window I opened appeared just below Bento instead! Initially, I wasn’t certain whether this would be the path Google chose to take the design or if it would only appear on the desktop below all windows, but now it looks like we have our answer.
Check out the video below to see what I mean. For the record, I would have been okay with it only appearing as a permanent fixture to the wallpaper, but I do see how that would dilute its usefulness or even defeat its persistence for most users. Maybe before it releases to the masses, the dev team can add a toggle that allows users to choose how it will operate. More user agency in a modern operating system is a good thing, in my opinion, especially in one like Chrome OS that has notoriously kept things too simple in many areas.
Persistent desks bar
Showing a persistent desks bar at the top of the screen in clamshell mode when there are more than one desk. – Chrome OS#ash-bento-bar
I don’t really know how much testing Google did before deciding to create Bento, but I do know that it won’t be popular with everyone. Clicking the arrow at the top-right will expand it to Overview mode – the view that currently exists on Chrome OS Stable, which is a nice addition, but I can see how many of you may wish to disable this the moment it comes your way. I should also mention that having my Chromebook docked to an external display helps a bunch when using the Persistent Desk Bar, and viewing it on my laptop without extending my screen feels a tad claustrophobic, even with the bar only taking up a thin strip near the top. This is why I think there should be an option to toggle it on and off as previously mentioned.
Let me know below if you think this is a Godsend or just super annoying to look at. You’ll notice in the video above that I’ve named my Virtual Desks ‘Casual’, ‘Create’, ‘Social’, ‘Watch’, ‘Read’, ‘Listen’, ‘Play’. I’m still testing to see how they could best be utilized without jumping around too much and would love to hear your suggestions for Virtual Desk names in the comments. All of this to say that the Persistent Desk Bar is nearing release, and I’m getting excited for you all to try it out! If you want to test it early like I am, just enable the flag you see below the video.