Thanks to some reader input, we’ve been made aware that a missing feature we discussed not long ago that is now coming soon to a Chromebook near you.
That feature? Android Parallel Tasks.
So, let’s take a minute and break down what this is, why it is needed, and what it does when working as expected.
What are Parallel Tasks?
As we discussed at length in this article, Android apps (at this moment, anyway) pause state when they are not in focus. If you have a game or something with real-time data like Google Analytics running, the minute you click away from that app on a Chromebook, the app pauses where it is.
While this behavior is fine and expected on phones, it is odd on a desktop. For phones, you may have tons of apps “open” at any given time. Without a way to see all that activity at once, a running game or app could be killing your battery in the background. Thus, most apps pause when not on the screen.
With a desktop like you get on Chrome OS, though, this isn’t as necessary. With a quick 3-finger swipe up or down (depending on your trackpad settings), you can easily see all that is open on a Chromebook. Additionally, you can see dots under the items in your tray that are open. With this high-level visibility, losing track of running apps is way less of an issue on a Chromebook than it is on a phone.
Why Is This Necessary?
With that in mind, the expected behavior of an open app is that it would remain active and running even when the user clicks to another window. Coming from Windows, Linux, or Mac OS, this is what users expect and it is a bit confusing unless you understand what is happening.
Parallel tasks on Android allow the OS to keep everything running and open until you pause the activity or close the app down. Again, with Chrome OS, this is much easier to manage. Just click the “X” on the app and it is closed. Simple.
What’s It Look Like In Action?
We made a quick video you can check out below to actually see this all in action. On the Pixelbook running Chrome OS 63 in Stable, paused-state apps are still the rule. On the Acer Chromebook 15 we’ve put in the Beta Channel, however, we’ve turned on the new Parallel Apps feature and the difference is significant.
Multiple apps run side by side at the same time with no concern for one another. No pauses. No lost data. No bizarre UI.
This works like most users would expect it to, and we can’t wait until this is a universally available feature on Chromebooks with Play Store access. It simply makes the entire experience feel SO MUCH more native. While this is available in Chrome 64 Beta, it is not 100% that we’ll see the feature in 64 Stable, but the liklihood is high and it is a move that will make the overall usability of Chromebooks much, much better.
Special thanks to Jonathan Bitran for the tip!