The past few Chrome releases have only had one or two user-visible changes, with most of the work going into new features that websites can use. But Chrome 61 has plenty of both, most notably the new Chrome Home UI that is finally rolling out. Let's dive right in, shall we?
Chrome Home rolling out
Google's experimental 'Chrome Home' interface first appeared nearly a year ago, but at the time, the feature only moved Chrome's address bar to the bottom of the screen. It became a full revamp of Chrome's UI in March, by changing the New Tab Page and adding a bottom navigation bar. Earlier this month, the 'Modern layout for Chrome Home' flag showed up, which made the Chrome Home interface more round.
Now the time has finally come - Chrome Home is rolling out on the stable branch, starting with version 61. While it hasn't been activated on my devices (automatically, at least), many others have already received the new interface.
The second 'stage' of Chrome Home, the rounded interface that Google calls the 'Modern layout,' doesn't seem to be part of this rollout. Maybe that will start being pushed to Chrome stable with the next update.
Compact Translate bar
One of Chrome's more unique features is automatic translation for web pages. When you visit a webpage that isn't in your native language, Chrome will ask you if you want it translated. Then after a second or two, the entire page will switch to your language. This functionality already exists on Chrome for Android, but with Chrome 61, the interface is getting an upgrade.
Google Translate on Chrome 60
Google Translate on Chrome 61
The new compact design has tabs for switching between languages, and an overflow menu for more options. It definitely looks better than the old design.
New file picker
The current file picker in Chrome is rather basic. It's just a small popup at the bottom of the screen, giving you the option of opening the file manager or Camera. Chrome 62 has a new file picker, with recent images appearing right in Chrome alongside Camera/File manager shortcuts.
Left: Chrome 60; Right: Chrome 61
It's nice to have recent images right in Chrome's picker, so opening a separate app won't be necessary most of the time.
Last year, Chrome 55 shipped with support for the Web Share API. The new API allows webpages to create share buttons that work exactly like share buttons in native Android apps. For example, an image gallery could add a button next to each image that shares the URL with other apps on your phone, so you wouldn't have to download the image or copy/paste the URL manually.
The API was initially introduced as part of an Origin Trial, meaning it wasn't ready for widespread use. Chrome 61 enables the Web Share API globally, so sites don't have to register with Google for the feature to work. You can try a demo of it here.
Another feature leaving the Origin Trial stage with Chrome 61 is the WebUSB API. Initially, it was set to be part of Chrome 60, but it barely missed the deadline. As the name implies, this allows web pages to interact with specific USB devices, given user permission.
Before you freak out about the possible security risks, Google has taken every precaution to make sure this is used properly. Sites have to be using HTTPS before the WebUSB API will work, and the USB devices themselves have to state which sites can be used with it (using the WebUSB Platform Capability Descriptor).
In other words, only USB devices specifically meant to work with WebUSB can be controlled via Chrome, and only with the sites the device allows. So what are some possible use cases? Logitech said on the Origin Trial report that it is excited to try WebUSB to configure devices like mice and webcams, without the need for installing native desktop software.
Like always, Chrome 61 includes changes for both users and developers. Here are some smaller features that ship with this update.
- The Network Information API is now available on desktop and Android, which allows sites to see the current connection information. You can view a demo here.
- Developers can now set scrolling smoothness using the existing Scroll APIs, or with scroll-behavior in CSS.
- Sites can now see how much RAM your device has, using the aptly-named Device RAM API.
- Eight and four-digit hex colors are now supported in CSS, in the format #RRGGBBAA and #RGBA. Update: This feature was pushed to Chrome 61.
- Sites can now better interact with pinch-and-zoom, using the Visual Viewport API.
- When an installed web app (as in a web app added to the home screen) opens an external URL, it now opens in a Chrome Custom Tab.
- Chrome will automatically expand video to full-screen when the device is rotated to match the video's orientation. This only applies to videos using native HTML5 controls.
- Developers can now check what attribute names an element has using the getAttributeNames() function.
- The Presentation API now only works on HTTPS pages.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.