Of all the UI changes that have occurred in Chrome OS, one of the things I still don’t love is the way it handles notifications. It is getting better over time and the removal of the media player from this area in Chrome OS 89 is a bit help, but there are still some oddities that are just aggravating. While I’d personally love to see Chromebooks go back to separating the notifications and the quick settings area as it was prior to Chrome OS 70, the small change we’re seeing today doesn’t really move us in that direction. It does, however, make a subtle change to the way the notification badge behaves when installing Android apps, and that’s a move in a good direction.
As it stands now and has been since the system tray and notifications were merged, when you have anything that appears in the notification area, it prompts Chrome OS to let you know with a small, circular badge near the clock with a number in it. When installing a handful of Android apps, this little badge can dance around quite a bit as items move in and out of the notification area from downloading to installing to fully installed. It’s an odd behavior that is just aggravating, especially in the early moments of signing into a Chromebook for the first time. As all your apps are getting settled in, that number dances all over the place. A similar situation arises when you have a handful of updates all at once, causing your notification badge to basically become worthless for a bit.
This sort of behavior has led me to basically ignore that little badge when it starts flaking out with Android downloads because if I have a bunch of downloading apps or updates, that number loses all meaning. Frankly, I don’t care how many apps I am currently downloading or have downloaded and installed. I do care a good deal about missed messages, however, and that’s where this new change should help things out quite a bit.
As you can see in the before/after shot above, the change is subtle but important. No longer are installing apps and actual notifications grouped together in the number badge. In the first shot, you can see there are 4 total items in my notifications area, including the download/install, and no indication that any of these notifications have to do with my Chromebook installing something. In the new version, although there are 3 total items, the notification badge only shows 2 since there are only 2 actual notifications. Next to that number is the new download icon that appears while you are in the process of downloading and/or installing an Android app.
Not only is this move further simplifying the system tray notification badging a bit, it is also a clear indicator that my Chromebook is in the process of downloading and installing an app from the Play Store. With just the number badge, it was never really clear what was going on until I fully opened up the tray. Now, with just a glance, I can know that my system is in the process of a download and install without my notifications jumping all over the place. It’s small and subtle, but it is a very nice change.
I’d love to see standard downloads moved to something like this as well. Imagine if a download was occurring and I only saw the download icon. When finished, Chrome OS could move the downloading notification out of the notifications area and down in to the new Tote area where screenshots and downloads have a new home. If we removed downloaded files, screenshots and Android app installs from crowded notification space, it could make using it a whole lot simpler and cleaner to look at. We’ll see how this plays out moving forward as I think this is a great opportunity for Google to really push users to fully leverage the tote area while also taking out an unnecessary element from the crowded notifications tray. We’ll be keeping a keen eye on this moving forward and, as always, we’ll update as we learn more.