We, along with many others, have asked for some sort of widget support for ChromeOS for a very, very long time. While the changes we’ll look at in this post today may not be pointing to Android-style widgets, there is definitely work being done to bring more helpful, ‘glanceable’ widgets to your Chromebook down the road. The work is early, but there’s a chance this could eventually open the door for a lot more than what is being built right now.
While scouring the Chromium Repositories this morning, I was struck by a commit that referred to something called ‘glanceables.’ The first sighting I had with this was specifically referring to some sort of weather widget, so I initially looked past it thinking it had to do with the screen saver option that is part of ChromeOS already.
As it turns out, this wasn’t the case. Instead, this new ‘glanceables’ section is being prepped to pull weather data from the same source as the ambient mode (screen saver) even if ambient mode isn’t switched on. With this in mind, I immediately began looking for more commits around this ‘glanceables’ vernacular, and I found a few interesting things.
First up is the fact that we’re initially looking at a few widget options out of the gate. The early work looks to be bringing a clock and weather widget to the ChromeOS desktop, giving users a quicker way to see pertinent formation quickly. What it will eventually look like and exactly where it will live is a bit of a question mark at this point, but this is clearly a new area on the desktop we’ll be dealing with.
The second interesting find is the fact that this ‘glanceables’ area won’t just be suited to a couple widgets. Instead, it is a grid area being created to house multiple things that are hopefully user-selected options. I could imagine getting a quick-glance calendar, a news feed, and maybe even a media player down the road a bit. Sure, those things are currently part of your ChromeOS shelf, but they could definitely live in a couple places at once to make the user experience a bit better.
Right now, this is in very early stages, but I’m very excited by the prospect of widgets for the ChromeOS desktop. While I don’t see Google allowing files or apps to float around on the currently-vacant canvas, having some simple widgets would not only add some helpful info at a glance, but also open things up for a bit more customization from user to user.
There’s currently no indication that this will be leveraged for Android apps at this point, but there’s always a chance that is added later. Many Android APKs already come with a handful of widgets and the ChromeOS UI could simply adopt them and allow them to live in this new ‘glanceables’ container down the road. I hope that is the case, but I also realize it may never happen, too. For now, I’m ready for some simple widgets for my Chromebook, and it looks like they are definitely on the way.