This story was originally published and last updated .
Chromebooks can now run Linux-based applications, and even though the feature is mostly intended for use by developers, it can also benefit regular Chromebook owners. There are some tasks that websites and Android apps still aren't great at, which is where Linux applications might be able to help.
Although it still doesn't work yet, settings controlling the long-rumored Ambient Mode for Chromebooks have appeared in the current Chrome OS Canary channel. Controlled by an easily enabled flag, the new options appear in Chrome OS's Personalization menu. At least two different modes are planned: Google Photos and an art gallery.
Chrome OS can run both web applications and Android apps, but sometimes, the Android app for a service isn't quite as optimized for Chromebooks as the web app equivalent. Google has seemingly realized this, as it is experimenting with a new Play Store feature that installs Progressive Web Apps on Chromebooks instead of the Android app equivalents.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which already forced some schedule adjustments on Google developers, the company has launched Chrome OS 81 to the stable channel. The latest release packs a new gesture navigation for the tablet mode and adds picture-in-picture support for Android apps. It also shrinks the taskbar ever so slightly to give you more screen real estate.
Web apps come in all forms and shapes, but Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are some of the best as they're basically a marriage between native applications and websites. On Chrome OS, they come as close as can be to proper programs, many complete with offline support. If you're used to working with Windows or macOS, PWAs might make it easier for you to get through your workday at home, but you can also use these on any platform to enhance your productivity.
For the past few years, a new Chrome release has occurred every six weeks, with changes coming to Chrome OS shortly afterward. However, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has caused many companies to delay or scale back product releases, and it seems Chrome is no exception.
Chromebooks generally work with a wide array of keyboards, mice, touchpads, gamepads, flash drives, and other accessories, thanks to the Linux kernel at the core of Chrome OS. However, there are still cases where it's not clear if a certain adapter or other accessory will work with Chromebooks, and that's what Google aims to address.
Google loves iterating on software design, but it often takes some time for its new ideas to trickle down to all its products. The refreshed Material Design principles visible in applications like Gmail are present in some parts of Chrome OS, but not others. That's changing soon, though, as the operating system's decidedly stale Files browser is getting a refresh.
Printers are terrible, but in many circumstances, they are a necessary evil — especially in the offices and schools where Chromebooks have a stronghold. Chrome OS has been slowly expanding its support for printing over the past few years, as native printing (without Google Cloud Print) arrived in mid-2017, and last year's Chrome OS 78 update made further improvements. Now Google is preparing another key update: a print manager.
Brydge announced a pair of made-for-Chrome OS accessories, the C-Type keyboard and C-Touch trackpad, forever ago. The keyboard has been available since last May, but the trackpad has been delayed repeatedly. Yesterday, Brydge confirmed that it's nixed its plans to release the pad at all.