Chrome OS 74 is now rolling out with a wealth of big user-facing changes and further modifications spotted by 9to5Google that aren’t listed among new features on Google’s Chrome Releases blog. The sum of differences ranges from UI adjustments to functionality, features, and hardware-related changes but each should have a relatively big impact on end users.
Getting some big changes under-the-hood updates out of the way first, one big difference in Chrome OS 74 is the added ability to send system performance data with feedback reports when errors or bugs occur. Along those same lines, a new "Options page" has been incorporated that will let developers turn on or off logging for speech and other options via ChromeVox.
Here's what you'll see as a general user
The biggest change in the latest version of Chrome OS, setting aside compatible improvements noted with other releases, is that users will finally be able to manage their files offline without depending on the volatile Downloads folder to do so. That brings the system partially in line with its competing operating systems, Windows and Mac, with the ability to create both new files and folders in a nested format under a new "My files" location in the Files app.
Conversely, users will also notice that the search box found in the launcher drawer has been better-integrated with Assistant, making finding files and apps or searching the web much easier. On gadgets where the AI has already been widely available -- such as the Pixelbook or Pixel Slate -- users will see that's been moved from its standalone format to the position previously held by a search bar in the application launcher.
Hovering over items displayed from the search bar will now allow users to remove that item from suggestions.
Power users and business devices are getting a couple of new features too, starting with the added ability to annotate PDFs in Google's own Chrome PDF Viewer with adjustable highlighters and pens. The new eraser and the redo and undo buttons joining those two tools help ensure that mistakes made during annotation can be fixed easily.
Linux users will finally be able to play back audio from inside Linux containers with the update to Chrome OS 74, fixing a glaring hole in the Chrome feature that's been in place since the apps were first introduced. Audio input is still not supported but should follow in a subsequent update.
A dark mode for the browser or OS is plainly absent from this update, despite the fact that it has begun to arrive on all other Chrome platforms but that doesn't mean there aren't any changes in the UI either. On new tabs, Google has now replaced the gear-icon for settings with a new pill-shaped "Customize" button. The features found under that haven't changed but it is a noticeable difference with a more apt description for the underlying options.
USB Camera support will be big for some
The final major change that's arriving in this update is support for USB camera hardware. Interactions with attached hardware will, for the time being, still be routed through the stock Camera application, so this certainly isn't the change that some might have hoped for with Chrome OS 74.
It does open up possible use cases far beyond a standard built-in webcam though since it should support any hardware classified as a USB camera, with sources reporting it supports everything from secondary webcams to microscopes.
With future updates, previous code has indicated that change will be made even better with the addition of support for pan, tilt, and zoom control mechanisms directly from the Camera app.