It has been a busy morning here at the Chrome Unboxed office. Robby made the move over to the Dev channel yesterday and discovered a plethora of new and updated features. Some we’ve been expecting but others are appearing for the first time and a massive update to the Linux terminal is one of the biggest when we’re talking about the latter. For those taking advantage of Linux apps on Chrome OS, you’re familiar with the “terminal” app that looks pretty much like any Command Line Interface on any Linux distro. (Windows and Mac, for that matter.)
A lot of Chromebook users may be hesitant to fiddle with Linux apps on Chrome OS because of unfamiliarity but this update tells me that Google is interested in making the experience more user-friendly. Chrome OS 82 is currently living in the Dev channel and when you launch the terminal, you immediately notice some significant differences. First, the new terminal window looks a lot like a windowed Chrome app and there’s a good reason for that.
Since at least the summer of last year, developers have been working on an update to the terminal that would move the CLI from the dated crosh v1 app to a PWA. That’s exactly what we’re looking at in the image above. Along with the Material Design tabs that allow for multiple terminals in one instance, there is a three-dot menu that opens up a robust new settings menu.
In this new menu, you can fully customize not only the terminal’s color scheme but also change mouse and keyboard behavior. Some of these commands like font type and colors can be edited using terminal commands but they vary by distro and the average Chrome OS user probably wouldn’t know where to begin when it comes to editing the terminal. (I didn’t) The new settings will allow you to change the background and text colors as well as the color and style of the cursor.
On the functionality end of things, there is a slew of keyboard and mouse features that will allow users to utilize familiar functions such as Ctrl+V to paste and Ctrl+T to open a new tab in the terminal. You can customize mouse functions, enable notification bells and even change the terminal encoding. There’s even an anti-alias toggle to smooth out things on lower DPI displays.
Now, I get that many Chromebook users may look at this and think that I might as well be talking Greek. Believe me, when I first started finding my way around the terminal and Linux apps, I felt the same way. I also understand that the average consumer may never take an interest in Linux apps on Chrome OS but this update, in my opinion, points to Google’s desire to make the Crostini Project a mainstream part of Chrome OS. If and when they get an actually Linux app store inbuilt on Chrome OS, I think more users will be able to benefit and some of these refining touches will make a big difference for the end-user. Stay tuned folks because we’ve got a lot more from Chrome OS 82 headed your way. It’s going to be a big milestone when it arrives in early May.
Note: You may have noticed that my Linux username is chromeunboxed@penguin. You can change your username with a command-line entry but in Chrome OS 82, you will actually be prompted to set your username when you enable Linux apps. So, you can make it whatever you like. Pretty cool, huh?