Chrome OS 85 Gives Chromebooks Handwriting Superpowers

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Stable Chrome OS 85 landed in the first week of September but there are still new features to discover. And that includes one feature, recently reported by Android Police, that brings massive handwriting improvements to Chromebooks.

Not only does the version 85 upgrade mean that the AI for reading handwriting works better now in Chromebooks. It does but that's not the unexpected change since more devices than ever ship with a stylus. Or are universal stylus-ready. Now, Chromebooks based on the eve, sarien, soraka, octopus, nami, rammus, nautilus, hatch, and nocturne boards all allow users to edit their handwriting on the fly. Just as they'd be able to do with a pen and paper.

How does Chrome OS 85 replicate handwriting on paper?

Of course, the parallels between handwriting input in Chrome OS 85 on Chromebooks and paper-based writing aren't direct. The text is still converted to plain text so that it can be more easily read, copied, and pasted. And so that it still works with web fields, among other things. But users can use common corrective symbols and strokes now to better control how that input turns out.

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The best way to explain that may actually be found in Google's own explanation. That appears when the handwriting keyboard is pulled up after the update. For instance, the example shows the user making a mistake while writing out a sentence. However, instead of waiting for the word to be recognized and deleting it, the user simply scribbles through the word.

Chrome OS responds by recognizing that the user wants to remove the word and removing it automatically.

That also works with words that have already been recognized and typed out as plain text. As long as that text still appears as handwriting in the relevant UI. In that instance, users even insert a correction for the crossed-out word. And that works just like a pen and paper too.

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After scribbling out the word, drawing a caret symbol (^) that points to the scribbled word will cause the system to create an empty space. Users can then use that space to insert the appropriate text. Even if its in the middle of a block of text.

What did Google change to implement this and will it come to more devices?

As noted above, this isn't quite ready for every Chromebook just yet. The scale of the rollout implies that it is intended to be a slow rollout. So it should arrive on more devices moving forward. That's if there are no problems with the new feature with this rollout. Previous updates that have worked similarly have typically taken just one or two system-level updates to roll out completely.

The change itself appears to be tied to a local AI library associated with reading handwriting. That's as compared to the old, cloud-based arrangement. It's also likely part of the wider keyboard update spotted in Chrome OS earlier.

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