Yes! This is the Chrome OS virtual desk you’ve been looking for! Image: Google
Google’s cloud-based operating system has come a long way since its inception. Every new software update brings it closer to parity with Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac operating systems. A new ChromeOS update, due out this fall, brings long-awaited features like native PDF and video editing. It also adds virtual desktops, which have long been a staple of Windows and macOS. This may be what helps convince some people to choose a Chromebook as their primary computer.
Virtual Desk, as ChromeOS calls it, will make it easy to group the apps you’re using so you don’t have to deal with errant windows. Once the update hits in late September, you’ll be able to save individual groups and back them up as you wish. This includes all the windows and apps within the desk. It will be interesting to see how Chrome OS handles bundling in Android apps and Chrome windows as part of the grouping.
If you work on your Chromebook, you can probably skip a big Charlie Brown-esque Argh! That’s when you found out that there is no built-in PDF annotator on ChromeOS. Thankfully, the next update is adding this capability directly to the Gallery app, which is your Chromebook’s default media app. You’ll be able to fill out forms, highlight, sign documents, and add text. Previously, if you wanted to do any of this, you had to find a qualified Chrome extension (I still use Kami) or some other service to do something directly, like sign a contract.
If you’re also managing your work schedule using a Chromebook, the software will offer better calendar integration and post-update push notifications. You’ll be able to view events directly from a pop-up in the taskbar instead of navigating to the calendar page in your browser.
The Google Calendar experience will be more streamlined when dealing with things like event invitations. Image: Google
Google has added a few other small features to ChromeOS to help streamline the overall experience. If you’re in class or perhaps presenting a “Looking Back” slideshow to friends and family, you can now easily cast your ChromeOS screen to a nearby compatible display. After the presentation you will be able to record, view and share the transcribed video.
If you use a stylus-enabled Chromebook, the update will add the Cursive app to the desktop so you can take handwritten notes. New light and dark themes are also coming that can help you stylize your desktop. You can also choose a wallpaper from one of your Google Photos albums and change it dynamically on a daily basis.
All of these new features will come to ChromeOS sometime in August. The Virtual Desk feature will debut at the end of September.
Making a Movie With Your Chromebook
Google Photos’ built-in video editor is coming to Chromebooks first this fall. Image: Google
Nobody considers a Chromebook a video editor, Actually, but it’s cool that you’ll soon be able to piece together clips you’ve accumulated in your Google Photos album. The feature is coming to other devices down the line—presumably, Android smartphones will get access to the feature through the associated Photos app.
Like the automatic album-making feature already available in Google Photos, the app will let you easily create “movies” from a bundle of clips. All you have to do is choose a theme and a few clips, and then let the video maker work its magic. You’ll also be able to create your own movie by selecting clips, arranging them in sequence, and editing them down. You’ll also be able to apply different Google Photos filters, like the Real Tone filter.
For serious video editing efforts, Google announced that LumaFusion, a video app popular with iPad users, is also making its way to Chromebooks. The app is much more sophisticated than this simple video editing suite, although you may have to pay for the app before you can access its features.
Google doesn’t have an official launch date for ChromeOS’s new video editing capabilities. Only that they’ll be available on Chromebooks first this fall.