Google's new Chrome OS: Back to the future

Google's new Chrome OS: Back to the future

Summary: Many new desktops, like Windows 8's Metro, default a single window that takes up the whole screen. The latest developer build of Google's Chrome OS goes back to the multiple windows on the display model.


It's back to the past with Google s new Chome OS Aura interface.

It's back to the future with Chrome OS' new Aura desktop interface.

I have little love for the new generation of desktop interfaces, such as Windows 8 Metro. They use a smartphone/tablet like metaphor in which each application takes up the entire screen. So, why did I buy all these 20-inch and larger displays? Google, in the latest developer release of its Linux and cloud-based Chrome OS, has reversed this trend. This developer Chrome OS update adds a taskbar and support for multiple windows to its light-weight, desktop operating system.

Say hello to Google’s new, old Chrome OS (gallery)

This new interface, Aura, is both a new desktop window manager and shell environment. Aura is an optional replacement for last year's Chrome OS single Web browser interface. With it you can have multiple, small browser windows, each with its own set of tabs, against a desktop screen background. These windows can be overlapped like the Windows on older desktops such as GNOME 2.x, Windows 7 or Mac OS X.

You also get, like OS X's dock, a status bar on the bottom of the screen with icons for each of the open windows and system status displays for as the clock and battery. When you maximize a window to full screen, the task bar vanishes. You can always bring it back though by moving your pointer down to the screen's bottom.

You can also tear off browser tabs and drag their windows to new positions or merge tab with another window's tab strip. Each window also gets a rectangle in the upper right that you can toggle to switch between its maximized and smaller displays. You can also resize windows by dragging any edge. If you click on an icon in the dock you'll see icons for all your installed apps and bookmarks. You can also find these on Chrome OS' new-tab page.

If Aura sounds familiar, it should. While so many of the new operating systems want to force you to have only one application at a time in front of your face, Chrome OS is returning to the older way of enabling you to have multiple windows up at once. This is a win as far as I'm concerned.

This latest edition of Chrome OS, 19.0.1048.17, includes numerous security fixes. In addition, it now includes better support for multiple monitors and it provides native support for the tar, gz, and bzip2 compressed file archive formats.

This is a developer's release, so it's for power-users only. While technically it's only available for users who already own a Acer AC700 or Samsung Series 5 Chromebook--the first Chromebooks, the CR-48s, are not supported in this release-you can also run Chrome OS from a USB stick or in a VirtualBox virtual machine.

I've always like Chrome OS. To me, it's a nice mix of Linux and cloud computing. Thanks to Hexxen, it's easy for a power-user to check it out. So, even if you don't have a Chromebook, give it a try. I think you might just like it.

Related Stories:

New Chromebooks to get a much-needed Ivy Bridge speed boost?

Google wants you to buy a Chromebook: Should you? (Review)

How to install Google's Chrome OS

Five Reasons why Google's Linux Chromebook could be a Windows killer

Topics: Hardware, Apps, Browser, Google, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software

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  • chrome os merging with android jellybean

    Chrome os is merging with android...

    Google is giving 2 options....

    1.chromebook=chrome os alone for educational and enterprise devices mobile=android jellybean deeply integrated with chrome that when connected through hdmi or docking chrome os starts...yep 2 in 1..............that works evey where wheter you are running windows or mac...... starting julywith google io , we are going to change the world...thanks tipper
    • Utter nonsense.

      Utter nonsense. Their design concepts are entirely different. All ChromeOS and Android share is both are mobile operating systems but are intended for different people, for different reasons.
      • Schmidt himself said it

        I have no idea whether it'll be in Jellybean (if that's what it's called) or not, but Schmidt himself said that we could look toward the two platforms merging "once the technologies matured." It'll happen sometime.
    • Bring on the lawsuits...

      Google is invariably going to be sued, for tying their products to the android system by force.

      Google Play now forces new bloatware onto an android system whether the user wants the sh1t or not.

      I can only imagine the crap they will force to a desktop.

      No thanks. If I wanted a forced AND locked ecosystem, I would be an apple guy.

      I expect drift from android for more power users, just as power users have drifted from Apple.

      Simply put, the MS evil empire has been taken over by Google and Apple, and oddly enough, MS appears to be the only player willing to play fair in the market, by letting consumers choose what lands on their hard drive, without rooting or any other potential contract manipulation etc etc.
  • Soo....

    It looks like Google simply copied and pasted Windows 7 and OSX into their code and called it ChromeOS. I'm impressed (not!). It still doesn't make ChromeOS worth anything, it's still garbage.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Well coming from someone...

      ...who still uses POS Vista, I'll take that with a grain of salt.

      Have you tried it? (NOT)
      • I have

        And it is utterly useless. I would take vista over it any day of the week. Of course our "author" is somehow unaware that Windows 8 doesn't force you to use full screen apps, it doesn't on the desktop (you know that envirornment where all the million Windows applications "just work"), and it doesn't even force it on metro, where you have the option to run metro apps, or metro/desktop side by side.

        I wonder if chrome now runs native apps, instead of the privacy invasion software that google tends to push. I don't get it anyway, no way I would actively use anything that google pushes out, I value my privacy. Best to use chromium os instead, most of the phone home stuff is ripped out.
      • Then you have a legitimate point

        Unlike Cylon who shoots off from the mouth.

        If you haven't used it then you have nothing to say.

        [i]Best to use chromium os instead, most of the phone home stuff is ripped out.[/i]

        So it's really not the interface itself or how useful it is. It's only how Google uses it with their version. Fair enough.
    • seriously...

      YEAH... now you can launch your web pages via a fake desktop and fake taskbar instead of from a browser... lol..

      they've actually made it harder to use and more convoluted to use for the sole purpose of scamming people into thinking that this changes anything, into thinking it a real desktop OS rather than a browser in hardware form.. Chome OS device = vastly overpriced, browser in hardware form..

      i'll say it again.. if these things cost $99 and lower they will sell.. other than that they just don't provide good value.. it's as simple as that.. this changes nothing...
    • Do you mean

      The taskbar that Microsoft copied from Apple in the 90's, that Apple copied from Sun Unix X-Windows in the 80's?
      But you're right, Windows 7 is still garbage.
      • Task bar/dock comes from NextStep OS (1986)

        The subject.
      • Windows 1.0

        Already had a similar taksbar, it predates osx by a very wide margin.
    • Geez

      Top rated comment? Seriously?
      • Yeah, go figure

        ...when you have enough sock puppets and ghost writers, anything's possible. :p
    • Gaming platform ?

      So how does this Chrome OS satisfy us the gaming geeks ?
      Albert Widjaja
      • NaCl games

        Native Client engine can be used to bring console quality games. I've bought Bation for 15$ and I was impressed to see it run inside the browser. It's up to game editors now to do the job. I think it is a good platform. The Chrome Web Store is a good way to discover the game, to download a demo then decide to buy the whole game. Chrome will soon be compatible with gamepads.
    • That's a little harsh don't ya think?!

      A lot of operating system UIs get inspired by their competing brethren. Basically what Google is trying to provide is concepts people are familiar with because we humans hate change (regardless if we admit it or not). I am glad Google decided to evolve Chrome OS a little bit to be more 'normal' than some browser UI bolted down to Linux-based operating system. I hope to see more like this from Chrome OS or maybe they should just make Chrome nothing but a browser and make Android their operating system no matter the device.
  • And surprisingly, not many people

    have any kind of love for Chrome OS at all.

    Now I'm confused, so help me out - When Windows 7 had multitasking (many windows at once) it was a non-issue as you only worked in one screen at a time, so it was meaningless.

    Now that you can open multiple windows with ChromeOS, and not Windows 8 (beta), this means everthing in the world now as people never work on one screen at a time.

    William Farrel
    • Hey, No Problem

      Glad to help. Sometimes working in a single window, whether for immersion or because multiple resources are orchestrated by the application, is preferred and sometimes working between multiple applications is better. Now, in the mobile world, multiple active windows won't fit on the screen, so applications tend to be immersive. With limited resources on a mobile device, where more RAM means less time between recharge, and where the file system is de-emhasized and the applications are sandboxed, cross application functionality is being implemented via pre-arranged relationships. This is looking like a very interesting answer to prickly issues of desktop security, and we are seeing this approach migrate up from mobile.

      Meanwhile, folks expects that mobile is going to be bigger than pc, so the mobile paradigms are eventually going to be the first ones assimilated by general consumers, so the pc experience is going to move toward the mobile experience.

      Add in that Microsoft, unlike the *nixes and OS X, did not put in virtual desktops, which is why folks like me roll their eyes as I minimize the windows I don't need to get to the one I do or find Alt-Tab an underachiever, and I think we have a clear picture why some people found something a problem in one context while others thought it wasn't a problem in another.

      Oh, and this fits in the picture somehow, Microsoft is suggesting that code developed for one target will run in another, regardless of power, resolution, or screen-size. If developers have to do serious tweaking to port Windows apps to mobile, they'll just stick with iOS and Android, where the bodies are.
      • Way to miss his point

        SJVN claimed that Chrome OS was the "new way the world should work" because people only needed to view a single web site at a time and didn't need this newfangled multi-window management. Then he slammed Metro UI for doing that very same thing. THEN he talks about how great Chrome OS is now because it has a window manager.

        I think this is a positive change for Chrome OS but how can you look at what SJVN writes and think there is any analysis happening? It's 100% pure, unadulterated fanboyism.