Google is rolling out a major Chrome OS update, delivering a wealth of productivity and usability features with version 84. The update is detailed, as has become the standard for Chrome OS, via the company’s Chromebook Community Help forum. And there are some very interesting changes that are well worth noting here. Not only is Google making multi-monitor use easier. It’s also improving battery and CPU optimization, changing onboarding, photo and video capturing, and more.
Of course, those changes all stack atop updates delivered elsewhere too. Chrome 84 changes noted with the desktop iteration of the software will be delivered in Chrome OS too. For example, app shortcuts have arrived, bringing quick access to individual app features with a ‘right-click’. Security and battery features such as warnings about insecure downloads, SameSite cookie management, and more are present too.
But even without touching on those alterations, there’s quite a lot to cover for Chromebooks.
So what Chrome OS-specific features are there in version 84?
The most immediately noticeable changes in Chrome OS 84, in terms of features, are going to be those made to Overview mode. Namely, those are changes centered on multi-display use, aimed at productivity. Now, users can enter Overview mode and slide windows to the right or left edge to easily set up a split-screen configuration. Or, when multiple displays are linked up, users can do the same and move windows easily between monitors.
Prior to this change, multi-display use was a much more convoluted process that really only worked well for multimedia. Now, the system responds to multiple displays much more similar to other operating systems. The click-and-drag feature will make being productive much better for those who have multiple displays.
Sticking to display-side changes, Google also enabled a change that will allow users to resize on-screen keyboards easily. And that works exactly like resizing windows. That’s with a tap-and-drag on the corners of the keyboard itself.
Another major change for power-users is the ability to control microphone access for Linux apps. That should mean a fix for one of the longest-standing problems with that feature. Linux apps, since their addition, haven’t been able to record audio. Google says the setting is togglable at any time.
The last of the major changes, setting aside smaller alterations, applies to photo and video captures with a Chromebook. Now, the default Chrome OS camera will save video files as MP4 files — allowing better compatibility with other apps and services. And users will also be able to take photos with the volume keys when in tablet mode. So users can simply tap the up or down key and start or stop recording — or snap a photo.
…but wait, there’s more!
Stacking atop all of those changes and the plethora of security updates across all variants of Chrome 84, there are at least two more big Chrome OS-specific changes with this update. As with everything else here, those will be rolling out over the next several days to weeks.
First, Google changed its “Get Help” app branding to “Explore.” That change comes with a new rocket-shaped icon. But it also helps explore helpful walkthroughs, tutuorials, and other Chrome OS help topics while users are both online or off. The updated tool additionally offers up the latest feature changes and a search option for those who want to dig deeper.
Finally, the ChromeVox screen reader menus are now searchable. Opening the menu automatically puts users in a search field and the arrow keys can be used to navigate away and through menu items.