Google is so close to closing the gap when using a Chromebook and Google Photos. For many users, Google really ruined the slightly-confusing workflow that allowed Chromebook users to access their Google Photos directly from the Chrome OS Files app when they removed the sync between Photos and Drive. When syncing Photos with Drive was still a thing, this allowed users to simply browse their Google Photos in Drive files when trying to pick a photo to upload or add to an app. When Google killed that sync feature, they also killed many users’ workflow as well.
What we’re seeing from the Google Photos app currently isn’t a full fix, but it is a step closer to the integration I’d love to see fully available in Chrome OS via future updates. For the time being, this method only works when using an Android app on your Chromebook, but you’ll notice that opening the Files app by itself or as a file picker for a web-based application won’t give you this option.
All you need to do is install the latest version of Google Photos Android app, get signed in, and the rest is gravy. Once you are signed in and your Google Photos is fully set up and operating, you can open up another Android app (like Instagram, for instance) where you might want to choose a photo from your Google Photos library for use and, just like that, you’ll see Google Photos as an option in the files app. Check it out below.
Clicking on the Photos option on the left opens up a new window where you can then search through all your Google Photos and get just the right image you need. Currently, the interface you get when you do this is exactly what you see on an Android phone when you pick a photo in this manner. I’d love to see Google add some sorting and search options here (both for Chromebooks and phones), but this is a great first step.
All of this works because Android apps now natively use the Chrome OS Files app to choose files when needed and Android apps that have storage elements (like Box) are automatically added/mounted to the Chrome OS files app by default as well upon installation. For some apps where the developer has taken a few extra steps, this integration shows up in every instance where the Chrome OS Files app is opened, regardless of intent. Box is one of those apps and, after installation and setup of the Android app, you can access your Box files and file system from anywhere in Chrome OS. You can see that below (note the absence of the other “mounted apps” in this example.)
My hope is Google takes this to the finish line by enabling Google Photos to behave in the same way we see Box working above. Regardless of whether I’m opening a file picker from an Android app or a web interface, I’d like the ability to choose from my Google Photos if I want to. I, for one, really miss the Drive/Photos integration for this exact reason and this fix in its fullness will close that gap almost entirely if it all comes together in the future. Please, Google?