As we’ve talked about at length before, Chromebooks generally have the same keyboard layout regardless of the manufacturer. The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 I’m typing this on has the same exact keyboard layout as the HP Chromebook Pro C640 that is on the next desk over. Apart from a handful of exceptions to the rules, Chromebooks keep the same layouts for a unified, consistent user experience across all devices and it’s part of the Chrome OS experience I absolutely love.
That doesn’t mean we don’t get special keys added in here and there. The introduction of the ‘Vivaldi’ keyboard made this process a bit easier on hardware makers when it was introduced earlier this year to assist in adding custom keyboard keys like privacy screens and in-line fingerprint scanners we see in the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook or ASUS Chromebook Flip C436. Though I was concerned at the time this would lead to a possible future with wide variations in keyboard layouts for Chromebooks, I’m feeling more confident every day that this is not going to happen.
Instead, ‘Vivaldi’ is doing its job by allowing small tweaks to the function keys for Chromebooks that want to bring along new, interesting features. For enterprise users, having a quick toggle on the keyboard deck just for the privacy screen is a useful addition to the Chrome OS keyboard that doesn’t take away from its simplicity, for instance, and these types of additions and changes to the standard keyboard can make life a bit easier on users.
New snapshot function key
This is where the new snapshot key comes in. As I was digging hard for more evidence to point us to ‘Halvor’ being the next Google-made Pixelbook, I came across a few ‘Vivaldi’ keyboard-related commits that kept referring to a ‘snapshot key’ and I wasn’t sure exactly what that would be. Currently, the screenshot functionality on Chrome OS feels too simplified to dedicate a precious function key to. That has changed in the past week, however, as we’re now aware that the screen capture and recording feature for Chrome OS is about to see a major productivity overhaul. Check out one of many commits that show the position of this new key:
There are quite a few boards getting this new keyboard layout that we’ve found and it introduces the newer layout similar to what we see on Google-made Chromebooks (removing the forward key), shifting things a bit in both direction and bringing the new snapshot key into the fifth button position. Seeing the button on one board in development didn’t really make me take notice, but as I kept seeing this key in other boards, I realized this is a new layout we might need to get used to. Then, this morning, I came across this commit:
This leaves no doubt that the new snapshot key will be a dedicated button for the new screenshot tool. With the amount of work that looks to be going into this updated screenshot/recording feature, I suppose a special key makes sense. After all, I know I use the basic screenshot tool on my Chromebook on a daily basis and I’d wager many of you do as well. Function keys are there to help you get things done faster, so if a function we all use on the regular can be done with the simple press of a new, specialized function key, so be it. I’d imagine we’ll see the arrival of the new, upgraded screenshot tool in Chrome OS around the same time we start seeing the Chromebooks arrive with the dedicated key on board sometime later in 2020 or early 2021.