I’ve heard so many people complain about the ‘Everything button’ not being a caps lock key by default or that they don’t particularly enjoy the way Google has recently stripped the Alt key of its power, and yet, for years, we’ve had little capability to customize the way the Chrome OS keyboard functions. You can re-map the way several primary keyboard keys operate, like the ‘Launcher’, Ctrl, Alt, Escape, Backspace, Assistant (for those of you with a Pixelbook), and Caps Lock, but that’s about it.
Well, aside from the ‘External Meta’ key found below in the screenshot of the Chromebook Settings app. External Meta allows you to remap the Windows key on your external keyboard to something of your choosing. If you’re using an external macOS keyboard, this would be known as your CMD key.
At long last, it seems as though Google has heard your desire for full, or near full customization in this regard. A new Chromium Repository commit points to the company working internally on a system web application or SWA that will be responsible for this. First discovered by Dinsan over at Chrome Story, it will be disabled by default and will need to be toggled on via Chrome://flags as ‘Enable shortcut customization app’ when it finally becomes available. I did check on my Pixelbook Go, which is running Chrome OS Canary 91, and it is not yet present.
shortcuts: Add shortcut customization app flag
This flag is disabled by default.
Bug: 1060690Chromium Repository
It remains unclear whether or not Google will let the user swap out any key on the keyboard with any other key, but I highly doubt it. Because Chrome OS is meant to be a user-friendly operating system, I believe that the company will take their time and see which keys make the most sense to allow alteration to, and then take user feedback in order to discover what swap-outs are the most highly requested. With a fully customizable framework on their end, the development team could virtually change anything they please, so they’d likely be prepared for any situation to be certain that Chrome OS would evolve with the user’s needs.
There’s another commit that points to this app being converted from a progressive web app (PWA) to a system web app (SWA). This basically means that since it will be a core function of the operating system, Google is taking the web app they’re creating for this and integrating it more closely with the rest of the OS – hence, a system web app. Essentially, it’s a web application that works offline just like a PWA but does not need to be opened in a web browser tab or window. Instead, SWAs are most likely embedded into a native OS window using some other method. This is exactly how the new Files SWA operates, and how Chrome OS wallpapers will soon act as well.
Will all of these changes to Chrome OS as of late, it feels as though it’s Christmas in April. If you had your wish granted for a specific keyboard shortcut or key to be changed or created, what would it be? I hope that we get the ability to assign shortcut key combinations to any action we want, even if such extended functionality remained locked behind a developer flag or somewhere that bars the average user from making too many complex changes.