Chrome OS Stable channel got a major milestone update yesterday, from 85.0.4183.133 to 86.0.4240.77. As with every new milestone update, this brings massive new changes to the table, offering several new features, bug fixes, and security enhancements to improve your Chrome OS user experience. Due to the sheer size of this update, there may be a few things we missed, but here is everything new we found in Chrome OS 86.
The Admin console is a cloud-based tool that IT admins use to manage Chromebooks for an organization. It can be used for enforcing policies, installing Chrome apps and extensions, and more.
- Admins will no longer be able to configure Flash using wildcards from the Admin Console.
- Admins can now set up an always-on VPN for a specific Android app as soon as a managed Chrome OS user starts their Chromebook.
- Websites, icons, and names will show up on the apps and extensions configuration page.
- Admins can now remotely factory reset managed devices to help clear data or remove provisions on a Chromebook.
- Admin can now remotely capture device-level system log files from a managed Chromebook.
The Android subsystem is a container running in Chrome OS that allows you to use Android apps on your Chromebook using the Google Play Store.
- Family Link
- Your school account now has access to previously restricted Android apps thanks to the updated Family Link.
- Inactive Android apps no longer steal keyboard focus from Linux app pop-ups.
Ash (Aura shell) is the window manager and system UI for Chrome OS. It includes the lockscreen, shelf, launcher, and more.
- Status indicators and shelf quick settings are now using Material theme outline icons.
The system tray is using new outline icons. Left: old icons. Right: new icons
- The Chrome OS tablet mode experience is now fully gestural. This update hides the back arrow, launcher icon, and overview mode button.
- Refreshed the Stylus tools and Input methods menu interface to look more consistent with Chrome OS aesthetics.
The stylus and input methods menu got a nice UI refresh. Left: old interface. Right: new interface
- Login screen
- New option to view password or PIN on the login and lock screen. Click on the eye-shaped icon to show your password or PIN in cleartext. The text will turn into asterisks after 4 seconds and clear the password field after 30 seconds of inactivity.
You can now view your password or PIN in cleartext on the login screen.
- Chrome OS will now offer the option to confirm your PIN automatically. Check out our article for more details.
- Added smart card support on the login screen. This allows you to sign in to your organization using a smart card issued by admins. Keep in mind that Chrome OS does not support configuring custom trust roots and intermediates on the login screen. Smart cards must use an RSA key to work. Check out how to sign in using smart cards on managed Chromebooks.
- Changed the login error message from "password" to "PIN or password."
- Added a new TPM locked status bubble that shows how long a user should wait.
- Fixed login screen PIN pad issue where the PIN pad will vanish when hiding the virtual keyboard used in tablet mode.
- Fixed a small issue where the tab focus in the second row overlaps the first row's windows.
- You can now search for Chrome OS settings from the launcher search bar.
Quickly find your Chrome OS settings from the launcher.
- Fixed glitchy expand arrow animation while the launcher is peaking.
- Enhanced clipboard
- A new Chrome flag brings an experimental clipboard manager to Chrome OS. After copying text or photos to the clipboard, pressing Search + V will show the clipboard. Selecting from the menu will paste the content to the active window.
A new feature flag brings an experimental clipboard manager to Chrome OS.
- Chrome OS will close the wallpaper picker when cycling windows with Alt-Tab.
- Chrome OS will close the "Set wallpaper" preview when overview mode is toggled.
Google Chrome is a web browser that runs on Chrome OS. It is the default browser that is tightly integrated into Chrome OS.
- WebUI Tabs
- A new Chrome flag allows dragging tabs out of Chrome to new windows. WebUI tab strip is a new space-saving tablet mode design for Chrome that is slowly rolling out to Chromebooks. To try it out, enable chrome://flags/#webui-tab-strip and chrome://flags/#web-ui-tab-strip-tab-drag-integration.
A new feature flag allows you to drag tabs out of Chrome using the WebUI tab strip.
- A new Chrome flag quickly highlights a word under the cursor when right-clicking it. Auto-select is a huge improvement compared to dragging your cursor to select a word. To try this out, enable chrome://flags/#enable-auto-select.
- Tab groups
- The tab group and tab group collapse feature is now widely rolling out. With a simple right-click, you can group your tabs and label them with a custom name and color. You can also collapse and expand your tab groups to easily see tabs you need to access.
The Chrome tab groups feature is now widely rolling out.
- A new Chrome feature flag freezes the tabs inside a tab group when the tab group collapses, which helps save resources. To try this feature out, enable chrome://flags/#tab-groups-collapse-freezing.
- Tab Search
- A new experimental Chrome flag makes it easy to search for tabs when the tab strip is filled. It adds a drop-down arrow next to the New tab icon. Clicking on it brings up a search bar and a vertical list of tabs open. To try this feature out, enable chrome://flags/#enable-tab-search.
Tab search helps you find your tab in a snap.
- Quick Answers
- Google Assistant is now more integrated into Chrome on Chrome OS. When you right-click a word from a webpage, you will see a new Google Assistant button in the context menu. This feature only works on a few words at the moment.
Google Assistant shows up when right-clicking certain words.
- Changed the exit fullscreen message from "Press [F11] to exit fullscreen" to ''Press [Esc] to exit fullscreen'' on Chrome OS.
- Chrome can now export websites into accessible PDFs. It automatically generates headings, links, tables, and alt-text to make content easier for screen-readers and users to read.
- A new Chrome flag enables the Chrome OS platform authenticator for the Web Authentication API. This feature is useful for developers interested in testing WebAuthn in Chrome OS without setting their Chromebook into Developer mode. To try it out, enable chrome://flags/#enable-web-authentication-chromeos-authenticator.
- Print preview
- Added a deprecation warning saying Google Cloud Printing will not be supported after December 31.
- Added printer status icons and labels for saved and nearby printers.
The print preview page will now tell you the status of your printer.
- Archive files (.zip, .iso) will now be blocked when downloading using insecure sources. This is part of an initiative to keep people safe. See the chromium blog for more information.
- Lookalikes Policy
- A new ''Safety Tip'' warning will show if a user mistypes a known domain (example: goog0le.com instead of google.com). This feature is gradually rolling out to Chromebooks in the coming months.
A safety tip warning will show if a user mistypes a known domain.
- Improved resource consumption when a Chrome window is not visible. If you cover a Chrome window with another window, Chrome OS will suspend actively painting pixels.
- Chrome will now dynamically adjust the tcmalloc tunables to balance performance and memory utilization depending on memory pressure.
- The address bar will now show the domain instead of the full URL. This change makes identifying misleading websites easier for users. To expose the full URL, hover your cursor over the Omnibox. This feature is gradually rolling out to users and will roll out in a future release.
- User-Agent Client Hints
- Chrome will reduce the amount of information in the user agent string and expose it through User-Agent Client Hints.
- Extensions will not be able to inject content settings for Flash.
- Task manager
- Removed "Google Chrome" from the title bar on Chrome OS.
- Fixed green flash when navigating away from a video page.
Chrome OS Settings
Chrome OS Settings is the settings app for Chrome OS. It can be used to change your networking information, user accounts, app permissions, and more.
- New Chrome flag enables syncing Wi-Fi network configurations between Chrome OS devices and a connected Android phone. To try this feature out, enable chrome://flags/#wifi-sync-android.
- Google improved the multi-monitor setup experience in this release cycle. Instead of having to guess which monitor you're configuring, Chrome OS will easily identify your displays by putting a blue border outline around each screen.
Display identification helps you identify and align your displays on Chrome OS.
- Fixed a bug that caused the display resolution menu to not appear on HDMI monitors.
- Fixed a bug where the app management page breaks navigation in Chrome OS settings.
- New option to change your cursor colors to improve legibility for impaired vision. Choices include Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, Magenta, and Pink.
New accessibility settings to improve the cursor's legibility using colors.
- Fixed a bug where text-to-speech would stop reading after 15 seconds.
- Changed toggle behavior of the hide home/overview mode button to show if the device’s board is tablet mode capable. Previously, it only showed when tablet mode was active.
- ChromeVox will automatically switch languages based on the page's content, even if there are multiple languages on screen.
- The select-to-speak feature will now offer the option to shade background text that isn't highlighted.
- Added a spell check toggle to switch spell check on or off.
Display is a Chrome OS component used to apply various display settings, such as display scaling and HDR.
- Chrome OS now supports HDR out-of-the-box. This allows HDR-ready displays like on the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook to take advantage of HDR content. HDR support for ARM-based Chromebooks is still pending.
Explore (formerly "Get Help") is a new in-product education app built into Chrome OS that helps new users set up and take full advantage of their Chromebook. It helps the user learn how to use Chrome OS and includes easy access to special perks.
- The Explore app is using a brand new material theme icon that looks flatter and brighter than the old icon.
Explore app icon. Left: old icon. Right: new icon
- Added a "What’s new" category on the navigation pane, giving you a highlight of the changes in the new Chrome OS update.
The Files app is the native file manager in Chrome OS. It allows you to open, save, or delete files (documents, PDFs, images, etc.) stored on your Chromebook.
- Files SWA
- New Chrome feature flag converts the file manager into a system web app (SWA). This has no noticeable effect. To try this feature out, enable chrome://flags/#files-swa.
- The Files app will now ask for the password when opening an encrypted ZIP file.
- Open with
- Fixed a bug that caused the "select a file to open" overlay to unintentionally offer the open button when clicking on "change device account image."
- Media views
- New Chrome feature flag that converts the media type buttons from the navigation pane into file-type filters in Recents. To learn more about this feature, check out our awesome coverage on it. To try it out, enable chrome://flags/#files-filters-in-recents.
Audio, Images, and Videos categories are now file-type filters.
Input is a Chrome OS component that handles the virtual keyboard, keyboard languages, mouse behaviors, and more.
- New visual indicators to let users know that autocorrect has happened, as well as a way to undo them.
- Fixed more cases that caused the input language to change after closing the Chromebook’s lid.
- Emoji Suggestions
- Your Chromebook will now automatically suggest emoji to include in your social media post when typing on your keyboard.
Depending on the context, Chrome OS will suggest emoji when typing.
- Personal Information Suggestions
- Chrome OS will help you type faster by intelligently suggesting phone numbers, emails, addresses, and names. For example, if you type "my phone number is," your Chromebook will automatically suggest your phone number in the text field.
Depending on the context, Chrome OS will suggest personal information when typing.
Linux (Beta), also known as Crostini, is a feature that allows you to access a library of Linux apps on your Chromebook, such as Microsoft Visual Studio Code, Inkscape, or Steam. Check if your device supports Linux (Beta) by clicking here.
- If you have been using Linux with Debian 9, you will now see an option to upgrade Linux to Debian 10.
- Disk resize
- The disk resizer will use nice round numbers for ticks on the disk resize slider (example: 0.1GB, 0.2GB, 0.3GB).
- USB serial
- You can now use more USB devices with Linux, including Arduino and EdgeTPU. Attach a device to your Chromebook and share it from Chrome OS Settings.
- Chrome OS will reattach shared USB devices when you shut down and restart Linux.
- Terminal app
- Added a search bar to Linux (Beta) terminal, allowing you to search for text in the terminal. Activate it by pressing Ctrl-Shift-F.
Pressing Ctrl-Shift-F will bring a new search bar in the Linux (Beta) terminal.
- Added Alt+1...9 switch tab and app behavior into settings.
- Ctrl-Shift-B will no longer enable or disable the bookmarks bar while the terminal is focused.
- Added ability to set a custom background image for the terminal.
You can customize your Linux (Beta) terminal with a custom background.
The Media app is a brand new gallery app built into Chrome OS that allows you to view and tweak photos stored on your Chromebook.
OOBE (Out-of-box-experience) is the initial setup screen you see either by booting Chrome OS for the first time or after a powerwash. It helps you set up your Google accounts, lockscreen, and more.
- Completely revamped the update screen while in OOBE. It now includes time, battery estimates, and a progress tracker so users won't have to sit next to their Chromebook while it updates.
- Added a new page in OOBE that simplifies devices set up for families who want to create parental controls for their kids on Chrome OS.
- Fixed various font bugs when language is set to French.
Things to watch out for
Although Chrome OS 86 has been a smooth update for most, some users are reporting issues with the new update. Here are a few things to watch out for after updating your Chromebook.
- The "Clear All" button is missing from the notification tray.
- Some users are unable to print to their network printer.
- There are reports on audio cuts while using Android apps.
That's about all I can find new in Chrome OS 86. Overall, this update proves that Chrome OS has come a long way since it debuted in 2011. In a future article, I will talk about cool new flags to test on Chrome OS, such as movable partial screenshot, an enhanced PWA experience, and improved launcher usability.