Following a bit of a hiccup when it came to the previous Chrome OS 75 release, Chrome OS 76 has been pushed to the Stable Channel and is rolling out to some devices. As well as picking up features from Chrome 76, the latest release includes Android-style notification media controls, support for virtual desktops, some accessibility improvements, and GPU acceleration for some Chromebooks in Crostini/Linux containers, among a whole pile of other changes — and you'll get to hear about most of them via the new "What's new with your Chromebook?" release notes notification when you upgrade.
Android-style media controls via a notification in Chrome OS 76.
Google doesn't publish the most verbose changelogs with each Chrome OS release, but the list posted for Chrome OS 76 is just below:
Virtual Desks on Chrome OS 76.
In addition to those features, I'm terribly excited to note that virtual desktops feature Google has branded "Virtual Desks" has arrived at the Stable channel as of Chrome OS 76. We've been playing with the feature for months (after begging Google to add it for even longer), and while it's missing many of the bells and whistles compared to similar implementations on macOS and Windows have, you can finally manage windows across multiple workspaces, enhancing productivity in visually constrained environments like laptops.
I'm not sure if you'll have to manually enable the feature's testing flag (chrome://flags/#enable-virtual-desks) to see it as you had to when the feature was in Beta/Dev/Canary, but Google's "What's new with your Chromebook" makes it sound like it should be on by default.
Clear all button locations in Chrome OS 73 (left) and Chrome OS 76 Canary build (right).
Chrome OS 76 was also meant to move the notification "clear all" button from the bottom of the list (where it was only accessible/visible after scrolling) to the top of the list where it can always be seen.
A fix for volume button orientation on Chrome OS-powered 2-in-1s was also supposed to make the cut in Chrome OS 76, but based on the most recent developer comments on the related bug, it may have been "punted" to the next release — we'll have to see when it lands. A pile of other bugfixes is also included, though the fix for Linux containers causing a crash on sleep also seems to have been pushed to M77.
Other features spotted in Chrome OS 76 by us as well as our friends over at About Chromebooks and Chrome Unboxed include:
- Linux/Crostini backups are disabled by default in preparation for future changes.
- Persistent sidebar in Chrome OS settings.
- New look to text bubbles/descriptions when hovering a tab.
- Some Chromebooks pick up GPU acceleration in Linux.
- PWAs can be installed from the omnibar with a convenient "+" icon.
- "Send to self" feature for sending a URL to yourself on another Chrome instance/other devices.
- Flash is now blocked by default, though you can re-enable it.
- Features from Chrome 76 like dark theme support for websites, incognito mode tweaks, Identity Disk, lazy loading frames and images, and more.
Google didn't announce it, but some camera tweaks are also included in Chrome OS 76 (though we weren't able to see/confirm until the update landed on our devices).
The Camera app on Chrome OS 75 (left) and 76 (right).
In addition to some UI tweaks that stretch the preview beneath the buttons and other UI elements, the new Camera app can capture images much more quickly. Chrome Unboxed claims that the new app also stores files differently, but in our own testing between Chrome OS 75 and 76, photos are still just stored in the Downloads folder, accessible via the Files app (though a separate location would make more sense).
Backgrounds for a few other UI elements that were previously solid dark colors (like the notification/quick settings menu accessible via the bottom right corner) are now Apple-style dark-tinted blurs.
As of right now, the update to Chrome OS 76 is rolling out to quite a few Chromebooks/Chromeboxes according to the published release table, though the Pixelbook hasn't snagged it just yet. While there are a few holdouts, other devices should get the update in the coming days.