One of the updates that rolled out with Chrome OS 88 was an enhancement to the Virtual Desk animation speed. While I praised this upgrade before it actually arrived in the Stable Channel, the implementation that ended up in Chrome OS 88 is a bit of a mess and makes for a really bad end user experience overall. If you use Virtual Desks at all and have leveraged them since the latest update to the OS, you likely know what I’m referring to.
In older iterations, moving between open Virtual Desks was easily performed with a quick flick of 4 fingers to either the left or right. Granted, it only moved you one desk at a time, but it was reliable and worked basically every time you needed it.
The new animation style is fantastic with the keyboard shortcut and allows users to move very rapidly between desks. You can jump over 3 desks in less than a second with this new setup and that simply wasn’t possibble before. Instead, in the older setup, the animation would need to complete before another keystroke would register to begin moving you to another desk. That restriction is now gone completely and keyboard shortcuts move you through your desks in a lightning-fast way.
But with that lifted restriction comes a far-less-useful feature in its current form: the ability to also swipe between multiple desks with a single motion. In theory it is great and allows a more-fluid cycling of open desks. In practice, however, it is far more troublesome than helpful. While a carefully-managed swipe can move you through your desks quickly, there’s almost no repeatable way to go just one desk over with a quick gesture. Instead, you almost have to coax the Chromebook into action, overshoot, and then bring the desk you need back into focus.
The good news is there is a fix coming. In the Chrome OS Beta 89 build, this is nearly 100% remedied. A quick swipe moves you to the next desk while a longer, more-deliberate swipe allows you to span multiple desks at once. It’s a “best of both worlds” setup that I think will be highly useful to users when it lands with the next version of Chrome OS. For now, however, I really think most of you should simply turn this ‘feature’ off as it adds very little to the overall Chromebook experience and Google should have simply waited to ship all the new Virtual Desk features at once.
How to get the old Virtual Desks gesture back
Until the updated version of the Virtual Desk swipe gesture comes to Chrome OS, there is a temporary fix you can utilize to get your old, one-at-a-time swipe gesture back in place. Head to chrome://flags/#enhanced-desk-animations and disable this flag. Restart your Chromebook and you’ll be back to the standard 4-finger flick gesture to move between your open desks. Sure, you’ll lose the ability to quickly move between them with the rapid-fire keyboard shortcuts, but if you rely on the functionality of the 4-finger swipe as I do to consistently move back and forth between a couple desks, you’ll be glad to get it back and working properly until Chrome OS 89 rolls out in just a couple weeks from now.