Chromebook, Chromebox and Chromebase device owners, be on the lookout. In the first sizable update since February, Google is rolling out Chrome OS version 34 to the stable channel for all applicable devices. The latest version bump brings along a number of bug fixes and security updates, and it also adds a number of new features that aim to make the search engine giant's desktop experience more powerful and robust than ever before.
Perhaps the most exciting addition in build 34.0.1847.118 is that of a new side dock which allows users to dock small windows and panels to screen edges. For example, you can throw the Calculator, Google Keep, or even a responsive website over in the side dock for increased productivity and getting the most out of your Chromebook. According to Google, these windows are all automatically managed in this mode.
Up next, sticky keys. Gone are the days where users are required to enter keyboard shortcuts and mouse+keyboard gestures (e.g., Ctrl+Alt+M or Alt+Tab) by pressing the keys simultaneously. Now, you can simply press the keys in sequence and you will get the same end result. This is a subtle change, but one that this author in particular welcomes with open arms. Additionally, a new onscreen keyboard has been added which allows you to type and use device features with a pointing device or touchscreen. This might not be that useful for most Chromebook users, but those of you with devices like the Acer C720p and others with touchscreens will likely get some mileage out of this feature. Last, but certainly not least, also included is a new measure that will help prevent users from accidentally deleting saved photos and documents. Offline backup for Google Drive has been turned on by default after a user logs in for the first time.
If you don't have a Chromebook yet, and you're thinking about getting one, now is a good time to pick one up. This latest update proves that they continue to get better and better, without the drama of a big Windows or Mac OS X update, and they make an excellent second-machine that are light and portable. they're also very affordable. For instance, the touchscreen Acer C720p (which would let you play around with the new onscreen keyboard) is barely $300 from Amazon.
As per Google, Chrome OS version 34 is now rolling out for all devices. It may take a couple of days for your system to receive the update, so don't panic if you turn on your Chromebook and you're still stuck on version 33 and it says your system is up-to-date, like mine is telling me now. It's a worldwide rollout, and as we all know, these things take time. The update will download in the background while you are using your device. Alternatively, the impatient (like myself) can manually check for the update by typing chrome://chrome in the browser's URL bar. This doesn't mean you'll get it right away, but at least you'll know whether the rollout has already hit your device.
Chrome OS device owners, it's your turn to sound off. What do you think of Google's cloud-centric operating system and of these new features? Drop us a comment in the thread below.
Disclaimer: This post was written on an HP Chromebook 14