For the better part of two years, I’ve obsessively watched the virtual desks feature for Chromebooks begin, develop and arrive for Chrome OS. Virtual desks are a part of Chromebooks I use every single day at this point, even when I’m attached to my second monitor at my desk. For organizational purposes and general cleanliness of my desktop, this addition to the general usability of Chromebooks has become one of my favorite additions over the past few years.
Since getting virtual desks in a solid spot on Chromebooks, the Chrome team has slowly added small, beneficial features along the way. The ability to now name your desks in the overview mode is great and the upcoming quick transition animations will make the whole experience far snappier and even that much more beneficial. Yet another change is coming in this vein that won’t have as much visual effect on end users, but will make things a bit better behind the scenes for those who use virtual desks on a regular basis.
Acount-level virtual desk backup & sync
Getting your virtual desks all set up and ready for your workday is a task I know many of you don’t love. As long as you log into a Chromebook you’ve been using, however, persistent virtual desk names at least help a bit with re-launching your former workspace and getting things put back in place at the beginning of the day. What about a big crash? What about users who work on shared devices? What about switching Chrome OS channels and powerwashing? Any of those scenarios mean that you have to re-set up your virtual desks every time you begin and it means many users just choose not to do it.
A code change is happening, however, that is already at work on putting your desk right back where you left them based on your account, not your hardware. You can see in the language of this commit that work is already underway to have your desks along with their name and position synced up with your Google account.
desks_restore: Restore an active desk after a crash and re-login
– Add a feature flag for desks-restore.
– Store a primary user active desk in user prefs and restore it after a crash and a logging out.via the Chromium Gerrit
With this in place (the commit is already merged), when this feature arrives, users should be able to walk away from a Chromebook and sign into another device and be able to recall their virtual desk setup along with the naming of those desks with no additional steps. It’s a nice touch and if you, like me, find yourself with the same desks set up all the time, having those just be there no matter what device you are in front of will be a small, time-saving upgrade.
Full window restoration may be on the roadmap
While this commit doesn’t completely solve the issue some users have, it is a firm step in the right direction. If you look a tad bit closer, however, you can see the bug report attached to the code change mentioned above and see that the end goal of these changes might actually be to allow users to fully restore all their open windows upon a reboot alongside the virtual desks and their names. Scroll down to see the video that is embedded and you’ll see where this effort is headed if Google can get it figured out: full restore of open windows on synced, organized desks.
While I don’t know how many people want to log in and have a bunch of windows come to life, I imagine this could be useful for different situations where you may move between devices with regularity and/or to help when a big crash happens. I’ve also heard some users say they’d like certain apps to open upon boot up, and I could see where that could be beneficial for certain scenarios and use cases, too.
What I’d eventually love to see is the ability to perhaps pin certain apps/windows to specific desks. For instance, I always have a few messaging windows (WhatsApp, Messages, and Disord) open and we use Trello for organization, so I would love if those web apps would just open up each time I log in and place themselves on their respective, synced virtual desks. This way, I wouldn’t have every single window and tab I had open in a previous session frantically opening up when I log it, but instead I’d have my desks where I like them with the staple apps I always need ready for me to use. While that’s not what is getting added today, from the looks of the prototype video mentioned above, it is at least on the roadmap.