With each update to Chrome OS, new features are bound to come along for the ride. The story is largely the same each time around as we see Google update not only the Chrome browser, but Chrome OS on the new 4-week release schedule. There are some new features that are ready to use as soon as you update, but as tends to be the case, there are a few great, usable features hiding just behind experimental flags as well.
We do always feel the need to deliver a clear warning for these types of videos, even though the experimental nature of some of these flags is relatively benign. At the end of the day, some of these things are technically experiments, so be aware that things may not always work according to plan. In the event any of these flags cause issues for you, you can simply turn them off and move on. Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at what Chrome OS 99 brings to the table.
Side Search state per tab
Side Search isn’t a new idea. It isn’t technically available just yet (you’ll need to enable it via the flag found at chrome://flags/#side-search), but when it arrives, it will bring the ability to pull up a sidebar that contains the search results page you used to navigate to the page you are currently viewing. We covered this in a prior video, but it should be a helpful addition when it arrives in the near future.
This new flag adds a needed tweak to this experience, giving users a functionality that makes more sense in my mind. With Side Search as-is, once you open that side panel, it is open in every tab you open until you close it down. With this new flag (chrome://flags/#side-search-state-per-tab), the side panel will stay hidden on a per-tab basis and won’t show until called up by clicking the little Google G logo that appears next to the URL bar after a search is performed. It’s a better implementation and one I hope is part of the Side Search experience when it does roll out to the Stable Channel of Chrome and Chrome OS.
Files App recents filters
This one is as simple as it sounds, but far more helpful than that simplicity implies. In your Files app on a Chromebook, you have a section up top called “Recent.” That section contains recent files from all sorts of places: Chrome OS, Android app, and Google Drive are all included. With that in mind, the Recent section can get really, really crowded in quick fashion.
Thankfully, with this new feature turned on, you can sort this slightly-unwieldy section of the file picker with ease and see what you most likely are after to begin with: your audio, your images, and your videos. Clicking any of those filters up top will quickly remove all the extra noise and allow you to zero in on the file types you are trying to quickly find.
JXL file support
We recently reported on JXL file support coming for Chrome and Chrome OS and there’s a lot to say about this. In a nutshell, however, JXL stands for JPEG XL and it is a file format that looks to replace the sturdy, aging JPEG. It is better in every way, but probably most important is the fact that it delivers better overall quality and larger amounts of compression, so you get better images that take up less space.
As I said, there are tons of benefits to this file format, but no new file type can move towards adoption without operating systems, web browsers, and applications supporting it. Chrome and Chrome OS support is a big step towards that lofty goal, and if things go well over time, we may eventually bid farewell to the 30 year old image format. If you want to give this a go, enable the flag here (chrome://flags/#enable-jxl) and go hunting for some JXL files.
Pin apps directly from the launcher
This one is simple, ships with Chrome OS 99, and is something we should have had in place a long time ago. As the title suggests, you can now drag and drop apps from your app launcher right onto the shelf. This is no different than right-clicking on an app and selecting the “Pin to shelf” option, but it takes a bit less time to do. It even works if you are using the not-yet-launched Productivity Launcher, enabling you to drag apps on and off the shelf as needed.
GIF creation via the Camera app
Again, this feature is simple and does exactly what it says: GIF creation in the camera app. Would I rather see the Chrome OS camera get better exposure control, some HDR features, and generally a faster, better UI? You bet! But small features like this do help make the camera feel a tad bit more useful.
To try it, simply open the camera app, click over to video, then select the GIF option right under the viewfinder. Click record and the app will snag the frames needed to create a quick GIF for you immediate use. While I love using GIFs to communicate emotions and reactions, I don’t feel the need to create them myself all that often. Hopefully this fun little feature ends up being useful for some of you at some point, though.
That’s all for Chrome OS 99, however, as we’re pretty hopeful we’ll see the arrival of some substantial features in the upcoming Chrome OS 100. As we continue making these videos, it is clearer than ever that there are tons of small, creature-comfort-type changes being worked on for Chrome OS. The new launcher, dark/light theming, and more virtual desk abilities are top of mind when I think of things that need to just show up already. It’ll be interesting to see what we end up with out of the box in Chrome OS 100, and the best news is we don’t have long to wait.