Development on virtual desktops for Chrome OS is well underway and now there's a new navigation method that's been added, first spotted in the Chromium bug tracker by Chrome Unboxed, that will make using the feature much easier when it finally launches.
Summarily, the new feature will allow users to press the 'tab' key on their keyboard to navigate through their desktops once they've moved into overview mode. More succinctly, it adds that so that it works in a binary fashion — backward or forward — while also squashing potential input bugs that might be experienced when navigating through opened virtual desktops.
Finally, it adjusts animations and element highlighting to make it easier for users to see exactly what they have selected.
What's the advantage of this for virtual desktops?
For the uninitiated, virtual desktops expand on the overview features already found in Chrome OS. The latter of those can be thought of as similar to the recent apps feature in Android. Moving into that mode via the appropriate keypress or gesture shows all of the apps and windows that are open, allowing for quick navigation between those.
It's also imperfect since other operating systems allow multiple instances, referred to as virtual desktops, for grouping and organizing tasks to keep things separated and the workspace uncluttered. A user might, for example, have a virtual desk dedicated for work and another for entertainment. They might even set up multiple desktops for either, for instance by separating large work tasks into their own space.
The addition of virtual desktops is a big step forward for productivity and parity for Chromebooks and other Chrome OS gadgets. Moving through the desktops via clicks or taps and swipes, conversely, is not ideal.
By adding in navigation via the tab key, the feature will be both more convenient but navigation through desks and their respective windows much quicker. It also will bring the keypresses for moving through those in line with how users can move through tabs in the Chrome browser and with moving between windows in the overview mode, making things more intuitive overall.
Chrome OS 77 launch now?
The first time the incoming virtual desktops were spotted, and the earliest they were expected to arrive, was just before the launch of Chrome OS 74. The date of that came and went without event and Chrome OS 75's rollout is already ongoing while the feature 'freeze' for version 76 happened way back in May. So it's unlikely the new feature will land with that update, which is slated to begin rolling out on August 6.
In fact, the feature freeze for Chrome 77 has already occurred too so there's a small chance this won't arrive in that firmware release either. That's presently scheduled for mid-September and despite the fact that the navigation feature is currently marked in as being planned for that release of Chrome.
However, the latest addition of navigation seems to indicate that virtual desks are nearly complete and it's expected to arrive in Chrome 76 as of this writing. So it may be that the search giant and Googlers have had enough time at this point and the tab-through feature could just as easily land at the same time.