Chrome OS Virtual Desktops To Let You Navigate Quickly With Gestures

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Quick and easy gestures for navigating between the upcoming virtual desktops in Chrome OS are now under testing based on a change in the Chrome bug tracker spotted over the weekend.

The newest addition to the feature would specifically utilize swipe and swipe lift gestures when those are started with four fingers on the trackpad at once — or presumably the screen for those who use Chrome OS tablets. The gestures, as shown in a code file attached to the new addition, will work in a left or right binary fashion, with users swiping to the left or right to move forward or backward through their open desktops.

Gestures for the most common navigation tasks

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The addition of swipe gestures for accessing virtual desk features would mean that users on Chromebooks and other Chrome OS gadgets are able to swipe between their open desktop environments rapidly for those instances where back and forth navigation is useful. The click and mouse navigation features that have been in place prior to this as well as the tab-through option spotted earlier this month would likely stay in place too.

Presently, two-finger swipes are used for browser navigation, with left and right swipes moving forward or backward in place of a keypress or on-screen UI interaction. Three-finger gestures, specifically three-finger downward swipes on the touchpad, are used to access overview mode. That gives users a quick way to access and move between open apps on the desktop aside from using the built-in keyboard shortcuts.

That leaves just a very few gestures for Google to experiment with for new features, namely with "swipe and fling" gestures and motions in new directions. It shouldn't be expected those remaining swipe motions will be filled out and used anytime soon, either, since it's taken so long for Chrome OS to get to this point — although that could change as more capabilities and features are added.

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Coming in Chrome 76? Probably not.

Now, the addition of gestures for accessing virtual desktops indicates that those are very close to being finalized but not necessarily that the gestures themselves are close to done. There will likely need to be a few adjustments made to make sure there aren't any bugs with both before the features land for the convenience of end-users.

The fact that these are appearing behind flags in the beta version of Chrome 76 doesn't mean they'll appear in the stable version of that either. In fact, one commit to the bug tracker explicitly states that it isn't expected to be enabled by default in that version of the OS. As of this writing, the only flag that seems to be required from Beta Channel Chrome OS 76 is labeled "Enable Virtual Desks" but there may be others required as prerequisites to the changeover too.

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That all means it's likely that Chrome OS 77, tentatively scheduled to land on September 17, is the earliest it might make its way to the Stable Channel. It could be pushed back as far as Chrome OS 78 near the end of October.