Only in prototype phase at this point, a new upgrade is on the way for Chrome OS virtual desks and it is a pretty substantial change to the feature. Additionally, it is perhaps the only remaining, large-scale issue I currently have with the virtual desks on Chromebooks at this point. What is it? An additional 4 desks for users to take advantage of, bringing the total number of virtual desks possible on a Chromebook up to 8.
While there is work ongoing to make transition animations quicker, that’s more of a creature comfort. I do think persistent desks and the ability to name them and have that name stick around through reboots was a big addition, but again, it falls more into the niceties category for me. Functionally, these updates don’t significantly make the overall feature better: they just make it a bit more usable.
I remember as virtual desks were finally coming into shape and showing up on Chromebooks, the limit to only 4 desks seemed a bit – well – limiting to me. I never thought an unlimited number of desks was a good idea (look what we tend to do with unlimited tabs), but I did bristle at a 4 desk limit at the outset. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to leverage just one or two more desks for a particular workflow while in the middle of a project on only one screen and had to simply figure out where to put things. This change – assuming it makes it to the Stable Channel down the road – will greatly amplify the power of virtual desks for many, many users.
Thanks to some pretty clear-cut language over in the Chromium Repositories, it looks like work is being done to make 8 virtual desks a reality. Even better is the fact that Ahmed Fakhry is in the mix on this one as he is the main developer responsible for bringing virtual desks to life in the first place. So far, everything we’ve seen Ahmed work on gets completed with high attention to detail and in a way that works well when it ships. As an additional example, he’s highly involved in the new screen capture tool that looks like it will be awesome when it shows up.
Currently, there is discussion in the comments of the commit mentioned above regarding how or if we’ll see some sort of scrolling mechanism for the virtual desks overview bar (the one you see up top when you go into overview mode), so we could end up seeing even more than 8 desks possible. From the looks of it, 8 desks could easily fit up there as-is, so if any work gets done on making those scrollable, it may mean we’ll have access to more than 8 total desks down the road.
For now I’m excited to see this feature getting a meaningful and useful expansion. As I said up top: this is one of the only real limitations to virtual desks functionality at this point. Giving users who will put this feature to good use even more options for the way they can organize their setups is a huge win and one I sincerely hope shows up soon. As these things go, it may be a few versions of Chrome OS before we see it, but I hope to be giving it a go on one of the many new Chromebooks we’re expecting in the early parts of 2021.