Before the app launcher we commonly know and use today for Chromebooks – the Peeking Launcher – Chrome OS used a smaller, left-aligned launcher where app icons and a search box were held. It was more akin to the Windows 10 start button whereas today’s launcher is more like the full-screen start option that Windows has buried in its settings. A poor comparison, but one of the only ones that can be made. Dinsan over at Chrome Story has uncovered something truly remarkable – a working, yet incomplete example of a new app launcher for Chrome OS that combines the elements and design of both the old and new launchers into one!
Productivity experiment: App Launcher
To evaluate an enhanced Launcher experience that aims to improve app workflows by optimizing access to apps, app content, and app actions. – Chrome OS#productivity-launcher
Being called the ‘Productivity experiment: App Launcher’ by Google, it can be enabled on Chrome OS Canary with the flag of the same name. Its aim is to allow users to rapidly access content such as apps and more as seen above. Interestingly, there is a ‘Flip page’ button under the search bar, but it does nothing more than show a bunch of placeholder text. There’s also an Assistant button. Based on the layout, I can see Google’s new Categorical Search feature being a major part of this new layout. There are also five horizontal ‘Item’ labels, no doubt for Recents.
All in all, this most certainly will take the layout of the old launcher and that of the new and place them into a more compact space. I can see this becoming the primary launcher for Chromebooks, though we have no information at this stage on whether Google will make this optional. It would be nice if the current launcher could still serve as the way Chrome OS tablet owners access things since it’s more optimized for touch. Perhaps devices could even swap easily between the two when it detects that a peripheral such as a keyboard is added or removed. For now, the new launcher experiment is barely working, so we’re in the very earliest stages of something great.
If I’m honest, the current Peeking Launcher has grown on me over time, but the moment I enabled the Productivity experiment flag, I was in love with the new design for the launcher. It takes up less space and feels more like a laptop layout. I immediately remembered what I loved so much about the original launcher from way back when. This was certainly a nice surprise to happen upon today, and I’m more excited than ever about what Google is doing with Chromebooks!