I’ll be honest, I really thought a few months ago that my days of finding new functionality in the Virtual Desks feature of Chrome OS were about finished. After all, it’s been quite some time since we could call this a finished addition to the Chromebook experience and I use them on a daily basis at this point. Even so, small tweaks continue coming in and this particular improvement – the ability to freely rearrange your Virtual Desks -is one of my favorite yet.
We highlighted it back in the beginning of January, but at the time all we had was a commit and a quick prototype video of desk reorganization in action. Once Chrome OS 88 arrived last week, I decided to take my Pixelbook Go on over to Chrome OS 90 in the Developer Channel and unfortunatley, things were a bit more broken than usual. After a few reboots, I knew it was time to retreat at least back to the Beta channel where things are usually far safer.
After the reset and powerwash, I actually set the Pixelbook aside and worked the rest of the day on my current review device: the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga. It wasn’t until this morning when I decided to work from the house for a bit before heading to the office that I began noticing all the changes present in Chrome OS 89 Beta right out of the box. No flags needed. No tweaks. There are a ton of new, front-facing features here that we’re going to likely do a whole video on soon, but I quickly noticed that the new update to Virtual Desks is already rolled out and I love it.
Move those desks
I was surprised enough that this very-recent addition is already alive and well in Chrome OS 89, but I was equally happy to see that a new commit I’d come across not long ago for the addition of a keyboard-driven shortcut for this reorganization upgrade is here as well.
How it works is simple enough: once you’ve set up your desks the way you like, you workflow might dictate that a desk you had on the end of the row makes more sense in the second spot, so you can now just use the mouse cursor to grab it and move it where you like. With the arrow keys and the CTRL button, you can also perform this with keyboard only. Hit the overview button, push the arrow keys until you see the blue highlight around the desk you want to move, then hold CTRL and push the corresponding arrow key to move it one space in that direction.
It sounds small, but the ability to freely rearrange your desks is a big step forward. Along with this update comes the ability to add up to 8 virtual workspaces as well and a far-improved scrolling gesture to move through all these freshly-organized desks. While Chrome OS 88 brought the new 4-finger scroll speeds, the change is jarring and a bit wonky. It’s hard to move over just one desk and the movement feels erratic and just off at times. I’m happy to report the gesture is solid in Chrome OS 89 Beta and can accept a quick flick of 4 fingers either direction to move just one desk or a longer swipe for a multi-desk movement.
It’s all coming together to make Virtual Desks feel like a 2.0 feature at this point. Other features like the new desk creation nudges and ALT-TAB enhancements that have been lingering behind flags are all here as well. Up to now, we had the basics down and they worked, but now it feels like Chrome OS 89 is adding a bunch of nice pieces all together that we’ve been waiting for and they all gel to make an overall better feature for Chromebook users. With no flags or other steps needed to see this all in play, it’s a good bet that Chrome OS 89 will arrive in a little over a month with this big upgrade to Virtual Desks on board, and that’s great news for users.