I just wrote a piece earlier today about the standardized nature of the relatively-unchanging Chromebook keyboard. When it comes to consumer-focused Chromebooks, we’ve had very few changes over the years to the expected layout. Tiny changes in the top row are usually the types of variations we’ve come across, and even those are pretty tame. Ultimately it comes down to the addition of a play/pause button and the removal of the forward key up top, but that’s only been the case on a small number of devices. Apart from those, the Chrome OS keyboard is reliably familiar across most Chromebooks.
When it comes to the other standard keys, however, we’ve really not seen any movement or changes on those. After all, once you hit the number and letter keys on a keyboard, there’s not much tolerance for messing around with things. Keyboards are pretty standardized and it wouldn’t really make sense for Google to even think about moving things like the letter, space, shift, control, tab or alt keys around. We all know where those keys are and expect them to stay in place regardless of the OS or laptop we are typing on.
The one notable change the Chrome OS keyboard introduces in the keys below the function row is the search key. On most Chromebooks, it is still in the space where the caps lock lives on other devices and still retains the magnifying glass icon on it. On a few Chromebooks, this key is replaced by the now-familiar circle icon that indicates the launcher icon in Chrome OS’ shelf. Regardless of the icon present on that key, however, it works the same on all Chromebooks to bring up the launcher, search bar, and quick access shortcuts.
According to a recent commit for one of the Snapdragon 7c Chromebooks we’ll likely see in the coming months (‘Pompom’), this button is being given a new home on the Chromebook keyboard. Check it out:
Trogdor: Mask proper Search key location on the board level
Don’t use the default key mask, which enables both the old location (KSO_01/KSI_00) and the new location (KSO_00/KSI_03) for the Search key. It makes EC over-doing ghost detection. Define the key mask on the board level:
* Trogdor/Lazor uses the old location
* Pompom uses the new location
* Coachz has no keyboardvia the Chromium Gerrit
To be fair, this is the first Chromebook we’re seeing this on and is perhaps the only one experimenting with it right now. We’re digging around to try and find more devices looking to move the search key on the keyboard, but this move begs quite a few questions like: what goes in its place? Where exactly is it moving to? What is the purpose for the move? Is this device-specific or will others do this? Why are other similar boards not making this move? Will we see more in the future?
While those are all great questions, we just don’t have answers right now. As it currently stands, this in not just the only Snapdragon Chromebook in development making this change, it is also the only Chromebook doing so: period. As a fundamental key in the standard Chromebook keyboard layout, it feels very odd that Google would give the green light to just one device to make this big of a move, so I’d assume we’ll see others follow suit down the road if this change does hold. We haven’t really been able to come up with a clear reasoning for why this key would get moved on the keyboard at this point, but it’s clearly being worked on. More coming as this develops.