For a very long time, Chromebook keyboards were one of the primary constants to using a device with Chrome OS. Regardless of the screen size, display type, build materials, trackpad quality or ports, the keyboard layout was one of the main hardware features that remained the same regardless of everything else changing around it.
The Chrome OS keyboard has stayed largely the same with two main layouts on offer. There’s the standard layout available on most devices and then the Google-specific layout on the Pixelbook, Pixel Slate, and the Pixelbook Go. The big difference in these layouts is really all about the top row keys and the addition of the Google Assistant key. For most devices, the standard layout has stayed the same for years. For the Google devices, things shift a bit on the top row and remove the ‘forward’ key to make room for a play/pause button. Small change, but it is a better layout in my opinion.
With new devices like the upcoming ‘Drallioin‘ Chromebook (which will feature a built-in privacy screen), manufacturers are wanting to add small things to their devices that are a bit more custom, so it appears Google is making a simpler, more straightforward method to accommodate these changes in the form of a new keyboard firmware called ‘Vivaldi.’ According to an explanation in a commit:
common/keyboard_vivaldi: Support for new Vivaldi keyboard
Vivaldi is a new keyboard that allows individual boards to have additional or different top row keys and/or to reorder those keys.
Add code to provide an API that individual boards that use the vivaldi keyboard, that lets them define their board keyboard top row layout.
Even devices like the upcoming ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 and Samsung Galaxy Chromebook will be using a slightly modified top row to add in the keyboard-mounted fingerprint scanner. Small changes will continue being needed as more manufacturers bring more customized hardware options to Chromebooks in the coming months and years, so this is a welcome sight for sure. While I would like the Chrome OS keyboard to largely stay the same and not turn into the nightmare that is customized Windows laptop keyboards, some extended functionality and options are always nice.