One of the features I’m most looking forward to becoming a part of the Stable Channel experience on Chromebooks with Chrome OS 76 is Virtual Desktops. While I love what they’ve done already with the feature, I’m hopeful that some trackpad-driven navigation (mainly switching between active desktops with a multi-finger gesture) will be in the cards once we see it land in Chrome OS 76 just weeks from today.
While what we’re seeing from the Chromium Bug Tracker today doesn’t fully address that concern, it gets us quite a bit closer to a smooth and simple experience when using Virtual Desks. In the bug, a new navigation element is being added to the overview mode in Chrome OS specifically for active Virtual Desks that will be part of the Chrome OS 76 update. The idea is pretty simple: once you enter overview mode with a 3-finger swipe up or down (depending on your scroll settings), you can then tab through each of your Virtual Desks before getting to your open windows, hit enter, and select that Virtual Desk to bring into view.
To be clear, you can already tab through open windows in overview mode in Chrome OS right now. It is a handy feature that I use from time to time as it is often times quicker to hit tab a few times and then enter to move back and forth between open windows. The change happening for Chrome OS in this bug is targeted for Chrome OS 77 and will allow this current behavior to work on Virtual Desks as you can see in the video below.
You can see a bit of how this animation will behave once this feature is rolled out. While this won’t bee 100% what I’m looking for on Virtual Desk navigation, it will be a decent stand-in. We’ve already talked about the shortcut keys being implemented to add/remove/switch Virtual Desks, but I like this solution even more. Just swipe, tab 1-4 times, hit enter and you are on the Virtual Desk you need. I still hold that a simple 4-finger swipe left or right makes the most sense for this action, but I’m happy there are now 3 ways to move between Virtual Desks a full month before the feature technically arrives in Chrome OS.
Just as Virtual Desks were being targeted for Chrome OS 77 and were then moved to be included in Chrome OS 76, I’m hoping this change gets implemented quickly and can possibly make it in the same update. If not, we’ll be waiting until Chrome OS 77 to see this change and, hopefully, a 4-finger gesture to navigate Virtual Desks will also be along for the ride.