UPDATE – 8/25/2023: What a difference a couple days makes! With ChromeOS 116 rolling out to most device models today, things have changed a bit. Thanks to one of our readers (thanks Eli Fennell!), we were quickly made aware this morning that the flags I point out to use in this post are no longer a valid way to try out the new Lacros browser on your Chromebook.
The comments below show a few different scenarios playing out if you had Lacros enabled prior to this latest update. For some, Lacros vanished. For others, it made it through the update. Either way, if you want to give this a go now, you’ll need to find the #lacros-only and #lacros-availability-ignore flags in the chrome://flags menu and enable those. Afterwards, you will get Lacros and Lacros only, and the Canary logo that was here in ChromeOS 115 is replaced with the standard Chrome logo now. And as the article below points out, if you want to get out of Lacros, you’ll need to go to os://flags to find to turn things back to normal. Original post follows…
There’s been a fair bit of buzz lately around Lacros – the new version of the Chrome browser that should start the possibly-year-long process of rolling out to users starting with the next ChromeOS 116 update. There’s a lot to this story, and if you haven’t already, you should probably read up a bit on what is coming: though general users are unlikely to notice much difference at all when it does finally happen.
At its core, Lacros is a new, stand-alone Chrome browser application that will run on ChromeOS. The name Lacros (Linux And ChromeOS) clarifies a lot, signaling the fact that this is a new, custom Linux build of Chrome that will simply run in ChromeOS. That is important for a couple reasons. First, it will allow for Chrome to behave in all ways just like it does on other desktop operating systems. Most notably, that means profile switching for the browser will be handled on Chromebooks just like it is on Windows, MacOS, or Linux.
Second, and probably most important to this update is the fact that Lacros will allow for Chrome to be updated on a completely different time table than ChromeOS. This is great for security (allowing for the new, weekly updates Chrome now receives) and longevity, since Chromebooks that hit their AUE will still be able to get all the Chrome updates they need to keep their ChromeOS devices safe and secure.
It’s an important update that is not simple in any way, shape or form, and I’m glad to see Google taking their time to get it right. With ChromeOS 116, it looks like more pieces will be in place to perhaps start seeing more official methods of beta testing Lacros with general consumers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give all of it a try right now.
I’m actually operating in Lacros right now on my Chromebook, and it’s been a while since I gave it a proper shot. You know what? It’s really great! Both from an aesthetic and functional standpoint, I largely forgot I was using a different version of Chrome than before within a few minutes. It just feels natural and does all the same things the older, baked-in version of Chrome did with the addition of the profile switcher up top. For long-time Chromebook users, that part is a bit of a change, but for everyone else coming to a Chromebook for the first time, this profile behavior will feel natural and comfortable.
How to test out Lacros on your Chromebook right now
With it being so stable, I think any of you out there curious to see what it all feels like in practice should 100% flip the couple flags necessary to take this new Chrome browser for a spin. It’s simple to do and if you run into issues, you can turn it off very easily. Here’s how.
- Go to chrome://flags/#lacros-support and turn on that flag.
- If you want full Lacros immersion, also turn on the flag found here: chrome://flags/#lacros-primary
- Click the blue “Restart” button at the bottom
That’s it! Once you restart, Lacros will become your new primary browser (if you did the second step) and it will take a few minutes for everything to load up and be ready to use. If you want to take the less-experimental approach, just leave out the second flag mentioned above and you’ll have Lacros available as an additional browser that you can simply test out.
One word of warning: if you make Lacros primary, when/if you are ready to return to the old Chrome browser, you’ll need to navigate to os://flags in the browser to get your OS-level flags to appear. I had to reference Michael’s older article on this to remember as I couldn’t find my system-level flags and wasn’t exactly sure how to get back to the old browser without the need of a full powerwash. Using the os://flags path will get you back to a spot where you can disable Lacros if you choose.
For me, however, I’m going to keep it enabled for a bit to see how things go. My testing this time around has been short, but I like what I’m seeing. Older attempts at this sort of experiment quickly unraveled for me in the past, so I’m very happy to see how far the ChromeOS team has come on this massive undertaking. I’m sure there are still rough edges that need some smoothing out, but at this point right now, I’m very happy with Lacros and where this is all headed. And I hope your trials yield the same results.