With Chrome and Chrome OS’s new super-fast four-week release schedule, it can get hard keeping track of all the updates that are rolling out to Google’s products. Following hot on the heels of the first three-digit milestone, Chrome OS 101 is now rolling out to the stable channel. If you would think that this minor-sounding release only entails a few minor changes, you might be in for a pleasant surprise, though. With Chrome OS 101, you’re in for a new dark boot screen and the new, long-awaited left-aligned launcher.
After rebooting to update to Chrome OS 101, you might notice a big difference to how things were in the past. The boot screen no longer greets you with a blinding white background and a colorful Chrome logo. Instead, Google has finally switched to a black background, with an unobtrusive white Chrome symbol and the lettering “chromeOS” next to it. That’s right, “chromeOS,” not “Chrome OS.” Google is getting serious about the rebranding it’s had in the works for a while, and the boot screen is the most prominent place to bear the new wordmark. You may or may not like it, but we can probably all agree that the black boot screen is a boon for anyone who has ever turned on a Chromebook in the dark.
Old vs. new
If you’re lucky, you might see another big change. Chrome OS 101 enables the new left-aligned launcher for some, a design we first spotted last year. This new launcher was actually supposed to launch widely in Chrome OS 100, but it hasn’t been enabled for too many people by default, if at all. 9to5Google notes that this is now changing, becoming enabled for many out of the box.
In contrast to the old stretched-out centered launcher, it’s much easier to navigate with a trackpad or mouse, with icons packed much closer together. It also offers the option to sort your apps by name, a organizational feature that was direly missing from the old version. You can even have Chrome OS sort your launcher by app icon color, if you’re so inclined.
If the new launcher isn’t active for you out of the gate, you can manually enable it via the chrome:flags#productivity-launcher flag (the entry is named “Productivity experiment: App Launcher”).
In its update notes, Google details a few further enhancements. Chrome OS now supports network-based recovery, meaning that you don’t need external devices or USB sticks to push a new copy of Chrome OS on the device, should things have gone completely haywire. This will be available for “most of the new Chrome OS devices launching after April 20, 2022,” so don’t hold your breath if you have an older Chromebook.
For those who routinely use the camera app, Google notes some smaller enhancements. On the left-side tool, it is easier to get to different options and it’s clearer which features are currently turned on or off. Those who use Google’s OneNote alternative Cursive can now quickly enable or disable pan and zoom, preventing accidental touches when writing. The lock can be turned on via the three-dot menu, and then accessed from a button at the top of the canvas once enabled.
While many people still don’t feel like Chrome OS is a real operating system, it’s increasingly clear that it’s a more than viable alternative to Windows and Mac for many people. The OS is already so feature complete that Google can focus on little quality-of-life improvements like the new launcher and the improved boot screen, which is just great to see.
Chrome OS 101 is now rolling out to the stable channel. If you haven’t received an update notification yet, try hitting the “Check for updates” button in the About Chrome OS section in the system settings.
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