Last week, Chrome OS 88 began rolling out to users across the globe. This update contained some very useful front-facing features for users but undoubtedly the most talked about is the new Chrome OS screen saver. Once called ambient mode, the screen saver function has been in the works for more than a year and a half and now it is available to you in the Stable channel of Chrome OS.
Before we dive into the new Chrome OS screen saver, let’s talk a little bit about what it’s not. A number of publications have referred to the new feature as a way to turn your Chromebook into a smart display. While the screen saver does offer up bits of useful information, it does not give you the functionality of devices such as the Nest Hub or Lenovo Smart Display. In its current state, the screen saver does do a couple of neat tricks. First, it gives you the ability to customize the images that show on your screen when the display is idle for a period of time. Like a Chromecast, users can choose between images from Google’s curated art and photography albums or you can enable your Google Photos and select from your personal photo albums.
In addition to the customizable images, you will get basic weather info, the time, and a ticker at the top-right of the screen that displays media that you have playing when the screen goes idle. This is all very useful and it gives your Chromebook a real personalized feel. That said, you can say “Hey G” and expect your Chromebook to turn into an Assistant-enabled smart display. You won’t be able to control your home devices or ping the Assistant with an inquiry about your favorite team’s scores. That’s not to say that this isn’t on the road map for the Chrome OS screen saver. It’s just not there at the moment and I don’t know if it ever will be. Personally, I don’t know if I want my Chromebook to turn into a smart display when the screen goes idle. I suppose, with Voice Match, it wouldn’t be a big deal so long as there was a way to prevent others from interacting with my device. Anyway, it’s not a thing so it is of no concern at the moment.
Okay. If you want to enable the screen saver on your Chromebook, it’s as easy as 1,2,3. Head over to your Chrome OS settings menu. You can do so by clicking the quick settings menu in the bottom-right of your screen. At the top of the settings, you should see a gear icon. Click that. Now you’re in the settings menu. In the left-hand menu, click the “personalization” tab. The last setting on the list should be “screen saver.” If it isn’t, you may still be on Chrome OS 87. To check, click the “About Chrome OS” tab in the left-hand menu and then select “check for updates.” Back to the screen saver. You can toggle between Fahrenheit or Celcius depending on your personal preference. To set your photos for the screen saver, click Art Gallery if you want to be served Art and photography by Google. That’s it. When your display goes idle, you will see images just like the ones you see on your Chromecast or smart display.
If you want a more personal experience, you can select “photos” and pick which album you’d like to see photos from on your Chromebook. You can pick as many albums as you like. If you want to show off a specific set of photos curated just for your Chromebook, just head over to Google Photos and create a new album just for this task. Click on the Albums tab and then click “create album.” Name it whatever you like. Then, find the photos that you want to use for your Chromebook and add them to the new album. Once you’ve finished, head back to the screen saver on your Chromebook and your new album should be available as an option for the ambient display. That’s all there is to it. Hope you found this useful. I like the new screen saver option and I think that it’s a great addition to the ecosystem.