It’s Chrome OS’s 10th birthday today, and Google announced a slew of cool new Chrome OS 89 features to celebrate. The milestone update improves Chromebooks with several changes to enhance the user experience. Here are a handful of Chrome OS features Google announced today that are coming to eligible devices.
Phone Hub and Wi-Fi sync
It’s been a month since we’ve covered a working version of Phone Hub within Chrome OS. Since then, Google has been working behind the scenes to prepare its launch. Phone Hub is coming to Chrome OS 89, promising tighter integration between Android and Chromebooks. You’ll be able to respond to your phone’s text messages, view its battery and cell signal, and locate it from your Chromebook. Phone Hub also shows a couple of your recent Chrome tabs from your phone so you can pick up where you left off with ease. This feature also adds an improved Wi-Fi sync that saves your network passwords between your devices.
To use Phone Hub, you’ll need to have the latest Google Play Service installed on your phone. You should see Phone Hub on the shelf after turning on your Chromebook and phone’s Bluetooth.
Nearby Sharing is also coming to Chromebooks, which Google hints should arrive for Chromebooks in the coming months. If you don’t want to wait, you can enable in flags via chrome://flags/#nearby-sharing and chrome://#enable-sharesheet
Upgraded Screen capture experience
Google is upgrading the screen capture experience to make it discoverable and intuitive. The new tool lets you take a full, partial, or windowed screenshot, and even bakes in a screen recorder. You’ll be able to access the screen recorder and capture tools right from the shelf settings. The added discoverability allows tablets to access these tools without attaching a keyboard. The screen recorder can toggle your microphone, and it’ll save your recordings in .webm. On my Pixel Slate, it records at an average of 30FPS with 48 kHz audio sample rate.
Never lose your files with Tote
No one enjoys diving deep into their labyrinth of directories to find their files. To solve this frustration, Google is adding Tote (formerly Holding Space) to Chrome OS 89, a handy productivity feature. Tote allows quick access to your screenshots and recent downloads from the taskbar. You can also pin your essential files to it so you’ll never lose track of your directories again. You can also drag-and-drop files and photos into Chrome apps with your mouse or finger, saving you time.
To supercharge your productivity, pin your important files by right-clicking and select Pin. Pinned and recent files will show up on the shelf next to the system tray.
Improved media controls
Google is tidying the notification tray in Chrome OS 89 by overhauling the media controls. Instead of getting in your way, Chrome OS places the media controls inside a card below the quick toggles. You can seek (fast forward or reverse), pause and play, or dismiss the notifications. To keep the active playback only clicks away, you can choose to pin it onto the shelf. Similar to Android 11’s media controls, it looks and feels a lot more polished than the old style cards.
Supercharged Virtual Desks
Virtual Desks are getting a significant update in Chrome OS 89 to help up your productivity game. You’ll be able to add up to eight virtual desks, reorder them with your cursor, and send windows to a specific desk. Virtual Desks will also be persistent across device reboots so you can jump right into your work.
Google is rolling out Quick Answers to Chromebooks to make finding answers easier. Powered by Google Assistant, Quick Answers offers definitions, conversions, and translations. A new Google Assistant card will show after right-clicking a word on a webpage.
Chrome OS 89 brings a clipboard manager that enhances your productivity even further. Instead of guessing which words you copied, you can refer to the clipboard manager. This feature gives you the freedom to be creative with text or image you’re working on without fear of losing it. It helps maintain a better workflow when writing or swapping between Chrome windows.
To use the enhanced clipboard, copy any image or text from a webpage, then press the Launcher (Everything) key +V. Up to five recent copied items will show up on the clipboard manager.
Streamlined Family Link
Google streamlined the Family Link setup you’ll see the first time your device boots Chrome OS 89. When parents set up their child’s personal Google account, they can add a school account. Parents can supervise their child while they’re using school apps like Google Classroom. They can also help their child create a PIN to make accessing their account easier.
Media app annotation
With Chrome OS 89, you’ll be able to unleash your inner Picasso (not really) by annotating pictures in the media app. You’ll have access to three drawing mediums: pen, highlighter, and eraser. The ink size ranges from “extra-thin” to “extra-thick,” and a handful of color choices. This feature helped me jot down notes after taking a screenshot and upped my meme game.
To annotate, double-click any picture in the files app. After the media app launches, click on the annotation tool next to the photo editing button.
Google is working hard to make Chromebooks more accessible for people with disabilities. In Chrome OS 89, the developers revamped the select-to-speak user experience. It has new controls that speed up, slows down, and pauses the voice over, along with jumping to different parts.
You can activate Select-to-speak by toggling the feature in the Accessibility section in Chrome OS settings.
A fresh new icon set
Most of Chrome OS’s built-in app icons now have a fresh coat of paint to match the OS aesthetic. Canvas and Calculator are a couple among a handful of refreshed system app icons, and they look snazzy.
The features highlighted in Google’s official announcement only scratch the surface of what’s new in Chrome OS 89. I will dive deep into more new, experimental features in future articles. Chrome OS 89 may take a few days to reach your device, but overall, it is an exciting release that is well worth the wait.