Just a week after Chrome 88 launched on desktop and mobile platforms, Google is rolling out Chrome OS 88 to the Stable channel, the first significant update for 2021. Like the former major milestone, the new software update improves Chrome OS with several new features and improvements to enhance the user experience. Here are a few of the things Google announced today that are coming to eligible devices.
After over a year in development, Google transforms your Chromebook's lock screen into a personalized smart display. When activated, the screen saver will play a slideshow that showcases your favorite photo albums from Google Photos or hundreds of Chromecast backgrounds. The screen saver feature also offers a glanceable clock and weather widget, a label of what music is playing, and a media controller so you can pause or skip songs without unlocking your Chromebook.
To start personalizing your lock screen, open Chrome OS settings and click Screen saver from the Personalization category.
Smoother virtual desks
Virtual desks are a powerful productivity tool that allows you to organize multiple windows and desktops for better multitasking. In past versions, switching between workspaces felt clunky due to the stiff animations used during the transition. With Chrome OS 88, virtual desks are faster and more responsive, allowing you to quickly switch to a different workspace with trackpad gestures or keyboard shortcuts.
New "Camera" folder in the Files app
The Chrome OS Camera app has been slowly improving over the last couple of versions, implementing changes like switching video recordings to a more recognizable file extension. In Chrome OS 88, the camera app will save photos and videos to a dedicated Camera folder under My Files, making it easier to share them with friends and family. Note that the folder will show up after you take a snapshot.
Magnifier and ChromeVox improvements
Google's accessibility team has been working hard to make Chrome OS more usable for everyone. The screen magnifier feature, for example, enlarges on-screen content to improve readability. In the new update, you'll be able to use your keyboard to control the magnifier by pressing Ctrl + Alt and the arrow keys. To try it out, click the Enable fullscreen magnifier toggle in the Accessibility section of Chrome OS settings.
The Text app received a small update to help people with visual impairments. When set into reader mode (click its menu button, settings, and toggle Screen reader mode), ChromeVox will announce the words written into the app.
WebAuthn using Fingerprint and PIN
Chrome can already autofill your passwords, but in Chrome OS 88, you'll get the option to require a PIN or fingerprint before it does so. Additionally, you'll be able to use your Chromebook as a second authentication factor, so you'll no longer have to use your security key or phone to verify your identity for 2FA. To achieve this, Chrome OS uses the Web Authenticator (WebAuthn) API, making use of established protocols to make signing easier and more secure. Google says your Chromebook PIN and fingerprint "are never shared with the websites requesting verification from your Chromebook." Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) will be supported in a future release.
Better Autocorrect UI and Touchpad gestures
Autocorrect is a handy feature that helps you spend less time spell-checking and focus on the creative aspects of writing. Chrome OS's hit-or-miss autocorrect feature gets a UI improvement in version 88: there's now a visual indicator that autocorrect has applied, plus handy ways to undo it.
Touchpad gestures have also seen improvements in this release cycle. Unlike before, touchpad gestures will behave more consistently if your scrolling preference is set to reverse.
The features highlighted in Google's official announcement only scratch the surface of what's new in Chrome OS 88. I will dive deep into even more new, experimental features, like light theme and native screen recording, in future articles. Chrome OS 88 may take a few days to reach your device, but overall, it is an exciting release that is well worth the wait.