Chromebooks Get Dark Mode But You Don't Want It Just Yet

Chromebooks dark mode title image from Android Police

Google has finally rolled out a new system-level dark mode for Chromebooks on the Canary Channel. That's according to recent reports highlighting the incoming change in images.

Now, technically, this 'dark mode' is an extension of the theming already seen on Chromebooks. The present UI utilizes a combination of light backgrounds on windows and dark-themed elements such as the Chrome OS shelf. What Google is doing, as noted in earlier reports, is separating the two. So there will be a new light mode and dark mode.

As might be expected with the change, that means users can keep the standard white UI, also applied to the Chrome OS shelf and other areas. Or they can opt for a true dark mode that shifts even system-level windows to black. Elements on any given section of the UI will be swapped to their light or dark counterpart too, for readability.


Here's why you shouldn't try this one out just yet

This feature isn't going to be ready for quite some time though, based on its current standing. That's because it isn't just in the least stable channel of the Chrome OS ecosystem. More directly, a channel that takes some effort to get to and from and which almost nobody should be using.

The dark mode feature for Chromebooks is also tucked behind no fewer than two experimental flags. Those are features kept partitioned away from the wider user base. And which can disappear at a moment's notice or be turned on later during development and with a major platform release. The flags are found at "chrome://flags" but will only appear if users are on the Canary Channel.

The two flags in question are "#enable-webui-dark-mode" and "#enable-force-dark" with the former being used to force websites and the Chrome browser UI dark. The latter is presumably used to turn the Chromebook UI dark.

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When will dark mode arrive on the Stable Channel for Chromebooks?

Because the feature is still hidden behind multiple flags in unstable, beta Chrome OS, it could take some time to release. In fact, its appearance behind two different flags implies that there are two halves to the change. And that there are bugs being worked out separately in both. So they may not even arrive at the same time.

In either case, the feature freeze for Chrome 88 is set for October 30. So Chrome 88 is likely the earliest update this feature could arrive with, albeit likely still in testing channels for now.