The Gallery app on Chrome OS is one of the few native apps that has stuck around since Google launched the operating system nearly a decade ago. Much like the file manager, its existence felt like an afterthought, collecting dust as the company continued to roll out OS updates. Although it received a significant visual overhaul and a name change to "Media app" in 2020, it still lacks essential photo editing capabilities. However, that's changing soon, as Google is experimenting with three new features that will really add some value.
As seen recently in the Chrome OS Canary channel, the new Media app brings a slew of quality-of-life features, like annotation tools, EXIF support, color filters, and subtle UI tweaks that make it even more useful. Some of these features require enabling a Chrome flag, which you can test right now (to an extent) on the Dev channel. If you'd rather not mess round with your Chromebook, here's a hands-on look at the changes you can expect in the near future.
After years of a half-baked implementation, Google is finally adding a proper image annotation system into Chrome OS. To start doodling on your photos, you'll have to enable chrome://flags/#media-app-annotation. After restarting your Chromebook, you'll be able to access the new annotation tools from the Media app's toolbar. Let's take a closer look below.
Doodling on an image using the annotation tool.
Annotating an image with the new tool is dead simple. The drawing instruments are organized neatly on the Media app's right side. You have access to three mediums: pen, highlighter, and eraser. The ink's size ranges from "extra-thin" to "extra-thick," and a small handful of color choices. I noticed almost zero latency when drawing from my Pixelbook Pen, matching Chrome Canvas's inking performance. After using it for a few days, I find it incredibly useful for jotting down notes after taking a screenshot. You can also markup PDFs inside the Media app if you enable chrome://flags/#media-app-pdf-in-ink, but I recommend using Chrome's built-in PDF viewer or the Squid Android app instead.
Need a quick way to apply Instagram-esque color filters to your photos? The native Media app will soon offer a variety of overlays to add some dramatic flair to your photos. To try out Color filters, select "Enable colorFilterTool" from the Media app's Experiments menu.
A handful of color filters to choose from in the Media app.
The app offers twelve different filters ranging from monochromatic to eye-watering color pop. Interestingly enough, the filters offered are identical to the ones found on the web version of Google Photos, except for the lack of an "Auto," which I find handy for some images. Although I probably won't use this feature, I can see it being helpful in a pinch.
Being able to read camera metadata in Chrome OS is a feature I've been waiting for since forever. With Google recently adding EXIF support into the file manager, it was only a matter of time before the developers brought it over to the Media app. Like color filters, EXIF support can be switched on by heading to the "Experiments" menu in the Media app, then selecting "Enable displayExif."
The feature isn't working in the Media app yet, but I imagine the layout will be similar to the one found in the Chrome OS file manager. There may be a row for image dimensions, camera make, the settings used to capture the image (aperture, ISO, size of the lens, etc.), and the photo's location. While rummaging through the "Experiments" menu, I found an intriguing string labeled "Enable saveExif," which might allow you to edit the metadata information on photos when the feature starts working.
After many years of neglect, I'm happy to see the Media app getting the attention it deserves. With these three features arriving soon, the new tool is shaping up to be the excellent photo viewer and editor that Chrome OS has sorely needed.