Chrome OS 87 has been with us for a few weeks at this point and it came along with some pretty sweet upgrades and new features. With every version of Chrome OS, however, there are hidden extras that may or may not make it into production with the initial release, but are in good-enough shape that they are worth trying out. Generally, these hidden features are locked behind experimental feature flags that need to manually be turned on by the user. In many cases, we’d recommend giving them a try, turning them back off, and moving on, but with Chrome OS 87, there are a few of these hidden features that are working so well that we’ve all been using them for weeks without issue. And these are pretty great new features that deserve a try. Let’s get into what they are and how you can give them a shot today.
How to enable feature flags
First up, a quick refresher or initial introduction to feature flags. They are experimental and may cause issues, but they can be fun to tinker with. Ultimately, if a certain flag is causing too many crashes, Chrome OS will simply turn it off by default until you manually turn it back on, so there aren’t too many risks involved, here. Just know that when you head to chrome://flags that you are getting into things that are not ready for prime time and you may see some odd behavior as a result. Oh, and when you turn a flag off or on, be sure you don’t have anything open that isn’t saved. Your instance of Chrome will restart when you choose to implement or turn off the flag you are working with. Now, let’s look at the features.
This feature has been well-documented here at Chrome Unboxed, but it is worth noting that it is basically ready to roll and works as advertised right now in Chrome OS 87. Simply head to chrome://flags/#enable-tab-search, turn it on, restart, and you’ll have the ability to quickly search through gobs and gobs of tabs with a simple query. For users like me who don’t keep a ton of tabs open, this isn’t a huge deal. For those who keep a ton of tabs available at any given time, this feature will prove very, very useful in finding the page you need with speed and efficiency.
Global Media Controls
While Global Media Controls came over to Chrome quite a few versions back, the solution for Chrome OS was not so simple and needed a bit more time to complete. We’ve been talking about it for some time, and now it is basically here and ready to go once you flip on the flag at chrome://flags/#global-media-controls-for-chromeos. Again, the idea here is straightforward, giving you a global place to play, pause, rewind, and fast forward any media currently being played on your Chromebook. Whether it’s music from YouTube Music or Spotify or videos from YouTube, the Global Media Controls see that playback and give you a central spot to control it.
Instead of the screen-space-gobbling spot it once took in the notifications section, the media controls are now anchored to the shelf right next to the clock. Clicking the bubble brings up the play controls and an option to pin the player over to the quick settings area of the system tray if you so choose. Either option is a massive upgrade from the media notification, so we’re all big fans around here. Again, from what we can tell, everything is operating smoothly, so give it a go.
Finally, we have a feature we’ve been tracking for quite some time now: Chrome OS Holding Space. This one is a bit less straightforward, but it is simple to see the benefit. Holding Space gives you a docked area right next to the Global Media Controls that holds your last few downloaded items and a growing list of those files that you’ve chosen to pin in place. Additionally, there is a quick shortcut to your Downloads folder.
For this feature, the idea is to give users a quick place to grab very recent files to drop into other applications. Whether its a drag-and-drop or a copy/paste, you can quickly see files you recently downloaded for quick-turn use in whatever application you need. For me, I recently had a PDF I needed to sign and return, so I downloaded it from Gmail, opened my Holding Space, dragged the file into a new Chrome tab, and proceeded to sign and save it.
While not a massive time saver, this quick space can be very useful when moving between applications with downloaded files. In my previous life as a front-end web developer, this little space would have come in very, very handy. I can see where Holding Space, when used properly, could become a huge asset for many.
For now, that’s it for Chrome OS 87 flags we recommend. Sure, there are tons of additional flags you can try, but these three were especially noteworthy. All three provide some big improvements to workflow for users and all three are far enough along in development that we feel comfortable in recommending them to you to try out. If at any point any of these flags give you trouble, just go to chrome://flags and switch them back off. Assuming they continue working smoothly, however, we hope they all provide a bit more simplicity and functionality to your Chromebook.