We all know how annoying it is when your internet connection suddenly drops out. While PC operating systems have built-in diagnostic features to help frustrated users get back online, Chromebook owners have had to download and install the Chrome Connectivity Diagnostics app manually. With the clock ticking on Chrome apps, it looks like Google's trying once again to bring user-friendly network diagnostics to Chromebooks, in the form of a new native tool.
As spotted recently in the Chrome OS Canary channel, Google is helping users remove the guessing game from network troubleshooting by bringing a native diagnostic tool to its operating system. If you're eager to try it out, you can copy and paste chrome://flags/#connectivity-diagnostics-webui in the URL bar and enable the Chrome flag from the drop-down menu. Once your Chromebook restarts, you should see a brand new Connectivity Diagnostics app in the launcher. Here's a quick look.
At a glance, we can see several networking tests to pick from, such as "DNS Resolution" and "Signal Strength." In addition to running specific tests, users have the option to test everything at once with a "Run All Routines" button. The Connectivity Diagnostics app is bare-bones right now, which shouldn't be surprising considering its early development. Still, it can save users a lot of time by identifying the cause of their connection issues.
Why it's a big deal
Some power users may scoff at the new app and think it's not powerful or flexible enough for administrators and tech-savvy users to be useful. While the app is in its early stages, I think its simplicity will benefit novice users significantly. Sure, working with text-based terminal tools may offer more technical insight into a problem than offered by the built-in network test, but the graphical interface here is a big part of why I think it's so appealing. The Connectivity Diagnostics app on Chrome OS is very responsive, easy to access, and — most importantly — dead simple to use, making it perfect for beginners who prefer not getting their hands dirty troubleshooting their connection problems. Instead of leaving users confused and frustrated, it shows the steps they need to take to connect back to the internet.
Like with several other new features in Chrome OS Canary, the Connectivity Diagnostics app is still in its infancy and has some ways to go before it's ready to help everyone troubleshoot their connectivity woes. From a quick look, it's evident that the work-in-progress app's design still needs work: the "Send Feedback Report" button doesn't work, the tables look ugly, and I can never get "Gateway can be Pinged" to pass on my Pixel Slate. I also wish the app would offer the option to automatically "repair" a problem if it detects any, similar to Microsoft's troubleshooting tool on Windows.
The Connectivity Diagnostics app will undoubtedly be a valuable tool for novice users when it reaches the Chrome OS Stable channel. Network troubleshooting can be complicated for everyone, and having a simple but effective tool to diagnose connectivity issues will help save headaches and valuable time.