"Virtual Desks," which is Google's name for the more generic term "virtual desktops" (or the greatest thing ever) have been spotted in Chrome OS 77 in the current Canary Channel. We previously anticipated their arrival to the platform when a Chromium Gerrit commit indicated it would be coming eventually, but now it's actually here and working as of the latest Canary builds. Our friend Kevin Tofel over at About Chromebooks spotted the feature when it hit, and put together a good video demonstrating it live on real hardware:
Via About Chromebooks.
The new Virtual Desks work via the existing overview, as planned, allowing you to create new virtual desktops and drag windows between different virtual desktops — as you can on macOS or Windows. Once there, windows can be arranged on each desktop/"Desk" as you see fit, and you can switch between them via a preview at the top of the overview. Desks can also be destroyed by closing them via an icon at the top right, and their contents will be placed into the adjacent Desk. Alt-tabbing still shows all windows across all desktops, and if the window you select in that menu isn't present on the current desktop, you'll be taken to its applicable virtual desktop.
It seems a bit buggy in its current implementation, with dragging windows around on the overview requiring moving in toward the center of the display before you can drag them up (it probably conflicts with a touch-centric "close window" gesture/drag that's also used on the overview).
We haven't gotten a chance to play with it ourselves just yet, since accessing the Canary builds on a Chromebook requires entering Developer Mode and then enabling the Canary Channel, but we expect to soon. Keep an eye out for any subsequent updates if we find anything new.
The most convenient part of using virtual desktops on other platforms is being able to swipe through those virtual desktops with the touchpad — for example, swiping left or right with three fingers to move between desktops on a MacBook. That doesn't seem to have been implemented just yet (or if it was, it wasn't tested/demonstrated in the video). The three-finger left/right gesture is currently used for switching between tabs on Chrome OS, and I wouldn't object to seeing it repurposed for something more useful, especially given that it's almost universally used by other operating systems for virtual desktops.
The feature is currently present in Chrome OS 77 in the Canary Channel, which would give it an estimated Stable release of September 10th — assuming it isn't brought forward into an earlier version, which does sometimes happen.
The feature has been spotted migrating into the latest Dev Channel (version 76.0.3809.6), and we have confirmed it's present in the current Dev build for the Pixelbook. You'll need to enable it via the flag located at chrome://flags/#enable-virtual-desks and select "Enabled" rather than "Default."
(I can also confirm it really needs a touchpad gesture for switching "desks," and dragging windows into desktops is a bit derpy since it conflicts with the swipe-to-close gesture.)
- About Chromebooks