Chrome OS 91 has officially arrived for most eligible Chromebooks and with it, a handful of cool new features. Most notably, Nearby Share is now available to Chrome OS users and transferring files to and from your device with other users is easier than ever. In case you missed it, here’s a quick video from Robby highlighting what’s fresh and new in the latest update to Chrome OS. FYI: If you’re using a new generation Tiger Lake Chromebook, be patient. Chrome OS 91 is coming for you soon.
While the Chrome OS team has been busy putting the finishing touches on Chrome OS 91, work has been steadily moving forward down the chain in the more experimental channels. More than once in the past week, my Canary device has received multiple updates in a single day and new features are popping up faster than I can test them and that’s a very exciting thing. I have a little insider news that I’ll be sharing later this week about a massive new feature for Chrome OS that should be coming to fruition over the next couple of months but today, I wanted to give you a quick look at some of the new and updated features that are now working in the latest update to Chrome OS Canary version 93.
Note: Some of these features may have trickled up to the Developer channel already as it has been promoted to a version of 93. This is just a highlight of things that are in the works and actually working to some degree or another.
Send tab to self 2.0
As Michael shared over the weekend, Google is working on a new version of the “Send tab to self” feature that will take the notification out of the system tray notifications and give it a dedicated living space just to the right of the Omnibox (URL bar) in Chrome. It was first spotted in action on Chrome for Desktop but now the feature is working in the Canary channel of Chrome OS. I have tinkered with the flag for a couple of weeks and recently, I was able to activate the “connected devices” icon when sending a tab to my Chromebook but clicking the icon did nothing. Then, a subsequent update to Canary removed the feature entirely.
The latest update, however, has brought back the feature and I’m happy to report that it appears to work as intended. The feature allows you to share a webpage from your mobile device or another Chrome browser using the “send to your devices” option in the Chrome share sheet. Once sent, an icon will appear to the right of your extension icon at the top-right of the browser. Clicking that icon will pop open an information tab about the shared page from which can open the URL in a new tab. Once dismissed, the icon disappears as not to take up real estate.
There is still some work to be done on this new feature. While it appears to be working as it should, I have discovered an unusual bug. When enabled on multiple devices, sending a tab to one device causes the browser of the other Chromebook to simply crash and restart. I’m not sure why but I will be sending feedback to assist the developers in addressing the issue.
Focus follows cursor
Recently discovered by our friend Dinsan Francis of Chrome Story, Google is bringing a new productivity feature to Chrome OS that, apparently has been wanted by users for years. The original feature request was opened back in 2013 but developers have just recently begun implementing the bits and pieces to add a “focus follows cursor” function to Chrome OS. This feature will be useful for users that use multiple displays and leverage multiple windows.
As the name implies, the device focus will shift to whichever window the mouse cursor hovers. It will not bring that window forward if it is nested beneath other windows but it will become the main focus and therefore be the one that the user now interacts with via their keyboard. I imagine that this will be a time saver for many workflows as it will reduce the number of clicks needed to navigate between windows and desktops.
Noise Cancellation UI
Last month, we shared a new feature that would soon give capable Chromebooks built-in noise cancellation. I’m still unsure as to which devices will be able to leverage this tech but I do know that Tiger Lake CPUs have the in-built AI features that make noise cancellation a native feature for devices they power. When the flag first appeared in the Canary channel, enabling it did absolutely nothing. Much to my surprise, the latest update to 93 has added to noise cancellation toggle to my 10th Gen Comet Lake Chromebook. We haven’t had a chance to get a test set up at this point but I am anxious to see the noise cancellation feature in action. Given the shift to remote work and learning, these types of features being built into the hardware we use daily will be a much-needed addition to the entire laptop ecosystem and I’m very happy to see Google get out in front of this one. We’ll test the feature on a few devices this week to see if there are any discernible differences in the ambient noise you can hear during a video call.
Lacros by default
The Linux-based browser that goes by the name “Lacros” has been in development for more than a year and we still don’t have an exact explanation of exactly what Google’s intentions are behind the project. Whatever the plan is, Lacros is actively being updated and tweaked for Chrome OS and now, it is enabled by default in the Canary channel. The standard Chrome OS browser is still there with PWAs and other apps still defaulting to the native app but Lacros opens up alongside Chrome when you first sign in to your device and the new browser runs so well that, at first glance, it’s difficult to tell the two apart.
Lacros, hopefully, will separate the Chrome browser from the actual operating system which will allow developers to push updates independently of each other. I also hope that it will allow users to continue using their Chromebooks after the operating system has reached its end of life. Many older devices are still very capable of handling light web tasks and continued updates to the browser would ensure a safe and secure surfing experience for what could potentially be years beyond EOL. Another cool possibility that Lacros brings to the table is the ability to sync multiple accounts to the browser instead of the actual OS. This would make Chrome on Chrome OS more like Chrome on Windows, macOS, and Linux and give users more flexibility when using multiple accounts.
That’s it for this one but there are more features to discover in Chrome OS 93 and I’ll be sharing them out over the next week or so. I fully expect Chrome OS 92 and 93 to be chock full of big new features and never-before-seen capabilities when they hit the Stable channel this year. 2021 has been an exciting year for Chromebooks and the best is yet to come. Stay tuned for more.