An older feature adding Picture-in-picture (PiP) mode in Chrome OS and elsewhere is gaining new life thanks to a quirk of an extension noticed first by TechDows that allows users on the OS to play local files in a native PiP window.
The extension, Picture-in-Picture Extension (by Google) was meant to allow PiP mode for a variety of web files such as those streamed from the likes of YouTube and other services regardless of platform. As it turns out, the extension can also be used to play back local files on Chrome OS in a miniaturized, resizable, movable window that stays surfaced.
Once enabled via the installation of the extension, the steps to accessing the feature aren't difficult at all. Users simply need to open a new tab in Chrome and then click and drag a locally stored file to the resulting window. That will place the media in that window and then a context click -- right clicking via alt+click or a two-fingered click -- brings forward a "Picture in picture" option.
Not quite native... or is it?
Although this seems to be a repurposing of an older Chrome extension released by Google, it may turn out that was ultimately a stop-gap measure on the part of the search giant. That's because, as Android Headlines discovered while trying the feature out, the Chrome extension may not be required anymore on some Chrome OS gadgets.
We tested the feature using an HP Chromebook x2 and, surprisingly, right-clicking on a piece of media that's been dragged from local storage into a new Chrome tab already offered up a PiP option without the extension in question installed.
The implication of that is that the feature was added in the recently rolled-out Chrome OS version 73 and no longer requires an extension at all. That may or not be the case with every Chromebook or other gadget running Google's laptop OS.
Google's failure to report on the feature may be down to one or two caveats and drawbacks that are reported across various sites around the web in conjunction with local PiP playback. Namely, users with extended displays via Chrome OS's display out protocol will likely notice jitters and inconsistency when moving the PiP window from display to display. Others are reporting that resizing the window or adjusting the size of it while media is playing can also reportedly force-close the window.
We didn't notice either of those issues though and it seems apparent that Google simply wasn't focused on offline or local features -- placing this particular feature on the back burner for now. It isn't immediately clear exactly what range of file-types will work here either but, presumably, any file type supported for playback in the browser itself will work.
Where does this change lead?
Changes to the file system that were noted under development near the beginning of the year suggest that the newly spotted PiP features could be the tip of the iceberg. In January, commits were spotted pointing to Google allowing users to have a much more diverse set of local file management tools.
At the time, those features were tucked away behind flags in the hidden settings menu for Chrome and Chrome OS and in the Canary Channel but that's just one of several changes that are expected over the next several updates. Google is additionally opening up local file use for Linux users and better integration of extended storage mediums such as SD cards and USB-connected accessories.
So this latest change may just be a smaller part amid a larger set of changes that will make the system operate more in line with more 'offline' operating systems such as Windows and macOS.