I’d say the wallpaper app on Chrome OS is fine. Just fine. It’s not great or exceptional, and it certainly has a few areas I’d love to see it grow, but it does the basics when it comes to setting a background for your Chromebook’s desktop. But, where there’s room for improvement, a way to get there and the will to get it done, things tend to happen. That’s where CrosPaper comes in and through a somewhat-clunky interface, lets you do some things with wallpapers on your Chromebook that have simply never been attempted before.
Say hello to live wallpapers on your Chromebook
The main reason I installed and signed up for CrosPaper was undoubtedly the promise of live wallpapers on my Chromebook. I’ve long loved live, animated wallpapers on my phone, so having a cool backdrop with some slight movement on my Chrome OS desktop sounded too good to pass up on.
You can get the extension here, but you’ll need to sign up for the $1/month subscription in order to leverage the live wallpaper function. And it’s a tad bit labor intensive, so if you are looking for a quick, simple live wallpaper solution, this probably isn’t your thing. If you don’t mind hunting for and working with short videos that you’d like as a backdrop, however, the extension does eventually deliver on the promise of live wallpapers once you get through all the steps.
And for live wallpapers, there are quite a few steps. You’ll need to link a Google Photos account first, find the video you want set as the background, then use CrosPaper’s video editor to set the start/stop time of the video you choose. This process is simple enough, but once you’ve set it and accept the beginning and end, you’re in for some waiting. CrosPaper basically extracts all the frames from your video, uploads them to a Google Photos album, and you then select your live wallpaper from the same Google Photos album once the extension creates it for you.
That part isn’t terribly long, but once you select your Google Photos live wallpaper folder from the extension’s menu, it then re-downloads each of those frames before giving you the option to set the resulting animation as your wallpaper. Keep in mind, since it is doing this via your Google Photos, all those individual frames are now photos in your library, taking up lots of space, and they are littered in your main photo feed as well: not just in the album that was made for them. To put it simply, I wouldn’t recommend saving a ton of these live wallpaper animations on a regular basis.
Finally, these motion-enhanced backgrounds are delivered at pretty low quality once the process completes. Even on a FHD Chromebook, they looked pretty degraded compared with the video they originated from. If you’ve ever made a GIF, you know the reasoning behind this and the CrosPaper extension is likely just trying its best to save resources.
Overall, the live wallpaper setting is nifty, but I don’t see myself using it in its current state. If a library of optimized live wallpapers was available, I might be more inclined to try it out. Regardless, I love seeing this sort of innovation in extensions and as time goes on, perhaps this part of CrosPaper will get a bit better and more usable.
The best part of this extension: online photo grabs and custom slide shows
While the ability to set a moving background is the big headline, the real star of the show for this extension is the ability it gives you to simply right-click any image on the web and immediately set it as a wallpaper. Sure, I know you can save the image and then go to your wallpaper app or files app and set the background from there, but this quick-click-and-set functionality is really, really sweet in use.
Additionally, CrosPaper introduces some other categories that you can choose from for your wallpaper slideshow if you choose to let the extension cycle through photos for you. You can put photos in an album that the extension creates for you once you’ve uploaded anything to Google Photos via the CrosPaper extension. Alternatively, you can create an album, name it “CrosPaper for Chrome OS” and anything in that album will show up if you’ve selected the Google Photos album option for your slideshow.
It’s a nifty and handy trick that I plan on using full time from this point on. I have a nice collection of photos I use as my Chromebook wallpapers on a rotating basis. Now, I can put them all in my CrosPaper Google Photos album, select that as my only source for my wallpaper slideshow, set the refresh rate to daily, and see all of my wallpapers in my full collection on a regular basis.
While the video background stuff isn’t quite ready for prime time, the image picker and slideshow functionality are both really awesome and worth a look for sure. I feel confident that the live wallpaper option will improve over time and if there was a small library of pre-made live wallpapers to choose from it might be a full-blown game-changer. And, again, I love seeing this ingenuity and creativity on display from a Chrome extension. It reminds me what is possible with web-based tech and when it is used properly.