Sometimes I just can’t figure Google out for the life of me. Every version of Chrome OS that ships is chock-full of feature updates, bug fixes, and security patches, but they only can highlight a few of those as the headline-worthy. That makes total sense, and I understand that the minutia of looking through the entire change log for any update is not something most people are too excited by. What I don’t get is the complete lack of highlight given to features that are so good, they’re actually shocking.
By complete accident, I stumbled across Chrome OS’ new virtual keyboard handwriting-to-text input method, and I honestly cannot believe how fantastic it is. Prior to this update, if you had a pen in hand and clicked on a text field, a large, blank keyboard appeared and you could try to use handwritten words to fill in the text, but it was a struggle. As you wrote, words disappeared and it was pretty infuriating to try and get any coherent thoughts strung together using this method.
With Chrome OS 85, however, this has completely changed and arrived with almost no fanfare whatsoever. With the update, you now have a 3-line space to write, the precision is tight, and under each word is the text version of what Google thinks you wrote. And the handwriting recognition is beyond good. It is staggering. My handwriting is a joke, and Google nails it 90% of the time even when I’m deliberately being messy.
Even better, this new method allows you to write out a complete sentence or two before deciding that you want that text in the text field. Once you hit the check mark, it cleans the slate and is ready for more input. My favorite thing, though, is the way you insert or delete your handwritten scribbles. If Google misses what you meant to write, you can simply draw a line through the word or scribble it out and it will vanish and close the gap it left behind. Additionally, if you need to add a word in, you just click in the open space between words and a gap opens for your new, handwritten word. That space even dynamically widens if you are writing larger or a just jotting a longer word than what the space can fit.
And it all just works so swimmingly that I’m a bit baffled. I’m confused how a feature like this didn’t leak earlier, I’m shocked that Google launched this and it is this good right out of the gate, and I’m floored that they didn’t bother mentioning this in the official Chrome OS 85 update notes. If it was bolted-on or half-baked, I get it: but it isn’t any of those things. This new feature is useful and extremely fun to use, and if you are anything like me, you are likely considering brushing up your handwriting and taking advantage of this on a far more regular basis moving forward.