The other night I was doing a bit of couch-based web browsing on the Acer Chromebook Spin 713. Flipped back into presentation mode (lid open around 270 degrees) and on my lap, the 13.5-inch touchscreen does a fantastic job of being a massive canvas for web content and Chrome OS with this much horsepower is buttery-smooth with all the new tablet gestures and navigation swipes. While most convertibles make terrible tablets, an on-the-lap touch-based experience on the couch is actually quite fun to use. If you have a convertible Chromebook, I highly recommend it.
Anyway, as I was researching a few things, I needed to invoke some split-screen action for referencing a few things side by side. As I began navigating both panes, I had a moment where I needed to go back in my right-most panel and, for a second, I wasn’t sure how to do it. For those unaware, home and back on Chromebooks in tablet mode have both been replaced by gesture navigation: swipe in from the left side of the screen to go back, swipe up from the bottom to go home. As I said above, on the Acer Spin 713, it works very well and is fun.
While in split screen mode, however, that back gesture only applies to the left panel. Obviously it would be odd if it affected both panels simultaneously, but I was also at a bit of a loss for how to navigate back in the right panel (I was in an app, not a web browser for the record). With no buttons and no apparent gestures to do this, I thought for a moment I’d come across a big stumble from the Chrome OS team. I was quite wrong.
As a matter of fact, the same swipe-in-from-the-left gesture works on both sides of the multitasking view, and it is shockingly good, too. Once in your split-screen setup, you can swipe to the right from anywhere on that black bar in the center of the screen and you will get a ‘go back’ navigation. The best part is this gesture doesn’t require a ton of precision and I was able to execute it every single time I went for it even though I have large fingers and have a tendency to ‘fat finger’ UI elements from time to time.
As the tablet mode of Chrome OS continues to mature and grow in its fluidity and abilities, small nuances like this will become increasingly important. With Android and Chrome OS heavily relying on a back button in the pre-gesture era, having a solid way to pull off this essential navigation gesture for any part of the OS is very important. Kudos to Google and the Chrome OS team for absolutely nailing it while we weren’t looking.