Google’s latest Chrome release tries to replace the Windows 8 desktop

Google’s latest Chrome release tries to replace the Windows 8 desktop

Summary: This week's Google Chrome update added some significant new features to its Windows 8 mode, effectively turning the browser into a stripped-down version of Chrome OS, with its own taskbar and window-management tools. But who's it for, really?

TOPICS: Browser, Google

If you’re reading this page using Google Chrome on Windows 8, the latest browser update, Chrome 32.0.1700.76, should be freshly installed on your PC. Google’s rapid-release cadence, with a new Stable Channel update every six weeks, means most new releases are relatively minor. Chrome 32 is different.

Chrome version 32 completely overhauls its “Windows 8 mode,” which allows Google’s browser to run as if it were a modern (Metro style) app. Under Microsoft’s rules, Metro-style browsers are able to sidestep requirements that apply to all other apps, including the mandate to be distributed through the Windows Store. The first Chrome release appeared in June 2012, in conjunction with a preview release of Windows 8. Chrome 32 is more refined, but it continues Google’s tradition of aggressively flouting Microsoft’s UI guidelines for Windows 8 apps. (The Windows 8 version of Firefox is still available only in beta channels.)

In desktop mode (the default setting for Chrome 32) you won’t notice too many major changes in this release, although the ability to quickly spot tabs that are playing a video clip or audio content is welcome). But everything changes if you select Relaunch Chrome in Windows 8 Mode from the Chrome menu.

Chrome Windows 8 mode menu

Choosing that option requires setting Chrome as the default browser. With that task out of the way, all open Chrome tabs are relaunched in Windows 8 mode, which runs in full-screen mode and replaces the Windows user interface completely. In Windows 8 mode, Chrome has its own taskbar (called the shelf), an Apps button at the left of the shelf that looks remarkably like the Windows Start button, and a clock on the right, where the Windows clock normally appears on the desktop. Chrome extensions and apps from the Chrome store can run in Windows 8 mode, with browser windows capable of being resized and moved just as they can on the Windows desktop.


The general layout is similar to a stripped-down version of Chrome OS, which runs on Chromebooks.

Although it runs as a Windows 8 app, Chrome 32 doesn’t follow most of the UI guidelines for those apps. Specifically:

  • There’s no pinch-to-zoom support. I opened Chrome 32 in Windows 8 mode on two touch-enabled Windows 8 devices. Although I could use a finger to scroll, select objects, and open links, the pinch-to-zoom gesture doesn’t work. That’s a particular problem on high-DPI screens (relatively small size, with full HD resolution), where the text for web pages is unreadable. You have to use the Zoom menu to resize pages in that mode.
  • There’s no app bar, either. Normally, swiping up from the bottom of a Windows 8 app (or, on a desktop PC, right-clicking or using the Windows key+Z shortcut) opens the app bar at the bottom of the screen, with additional commands. This functionality doesn’t work in Chrome’s Windows 8 mode. Likewise, Chrome Settings aren’t available from the Settings charm (Windows key+I) as they are in other apps.
  • The Share charm is unsupported. One of the signature features of Windows 8 apps is the ability to pass content between apps using the Share charm. Using the Windows 8 version of Internet Explorer, for example, you can send a link to Twitter, to Evernote or OneNote, or to a new Mail message. After more than 18 months of Chrome development on Windows 8, this feature isn’t enabled, which means Chrome doesn’t play well with other Windows 8 apps.
  • Web pages display incorrectly when using Windows 8.1’s snap mode. One of the signature features of Windows 8.1 is the ability to snap apps at variable widths. That capability is especially well executed with scenarios like opening a photo from the Windows 8.1 Mail app or viewing info about an available update from PC Settings. In those cases, the original app shrinks to occupy the left side of the screen, with the second app opening to its right. Because Chrome in Windows 8 mode looks like a Windows 8 app, you can snap it to half-screen size. But when you do, the app’s contents don’t resize to the new shape. The result is a mess, with half the screen (including the Chrome menu) invisible and inaccessible.

In Windows 8 mode, Chrome 32 has its own rudimentary snap capabilities, allowing you to arrange individual browser windows alongside one another. Using the Left and Right window controls, for example, you could snap Google Search on the left and a Google Docs window on the right of the screen.


It’s difficult to understand the benefit of Chrome in Windows 8 mode, at least in its current implementation. Touch is poorly implemented, making it awkward to use on touchscreen-enabled devices. On desktop PCs, the window-management tools are weak. If you’re a diehard Google customer, committed to Gmail and Google Apps, you can accomplish every task using the desktop Chrome App Launcher (which sits on the Windows taskbar) or the Apps menu in Chrome on the desktop.

In fact, the only real point of running Chrome in Windows 8 mode is to make the Windows interface disappear completely. Come to think of it, maybe that’s Google’s primary objective.

Topics: Browser, Google

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  • Nice feature

    I don't appreciate Google because of their practice but I must agree, they really found the best possible way to force themselves in. Pretty clever stuff.

    Now more people will get scroogled
    • Please grow up!!!

      Seriously? What are you? 5 years old? All this scroogled thing is crap
      Luis Olvera
      • Seriously Luis?

        You're clearly someone who doesn't pay attention. Scroogled was coined by Microsoft and has been used a lot in their new marketing. Stop being an idiot.
        • Scroogle LOL

          The Scroogle campaign sells lots of Chromebooks for Google. They should thank Microsoft for the added marketing support.
          • WhoRUKiddin???

            I mean really! Who do you think your kidding! That's so funny!

            "The Scroogle campaign sells lots of Chromebooks for Google"

            Ya! Ha! Now that really is a joke. Want some news?

            NO. the Scroogle campaign dosnt sell lots of Chromebooks for Google.

            We know this as a very empirical fact due to the reality that there have not been "lots" of Chromebooks sold.

            What a complete pile of crap.

            Go ahead and hate Microsoft all you want but give up your hopes that your FUD will ever be believed.
        • Microshafted

          Was around long before scroogled.
          Alan Smithie
        • "Scroogled" Was Not Coined by Microsoft

          It is the title of a story by Cory Doctorow published in 2007. The story tells about US government outsourcing the information gathering and processing work (Hi, NSA!) to Google.
      • Even a five year old...

        …Knows that Google steals your personal information and makes tons of cash out of it. Take a minute to read the confidentiality terms of any Google service or product.
        Google can sell or use for its own good any information it gets from using their software. That includes Google Search, Android, Chrome, Google Drive, Google Docs, Gmail, Maps, Google + etc… Whatever you feed to them can be used for profiling purposes, to sell ads, cross-reference informations with your contacts and relatives, understand who you are, what you like, what you want, how much you make. Google can sell these informations to who they want.

        Of course these are only the things that a five year old can understand.
        • This is re-educating Windows users to post-Windows era

          Chrome 32 is out. Among the feature list is an interesting one. The browser can transform itself to look like Chrome OS, Google‘s very own operating system. This feature is available only for Windows 8 users who use the browser in “Metro” mode.

          The arrangement comes with a application launcher on the bottom-left corner. For ease of access, apps for Chrome browser, GMail and YouTube are also present in the bottom shelf. Like in the OS, multiple browser windows can be opened.

          Yuri Wiitala, Software Engineer at Google writes on an official Google blog:

          Chrome on Windows 8 “Metro” mode gets a new look: Manage multiple Chrome windows and quickly get to your favorite Chrome Apps with an integrated app launcher. On the desktop, we’ve updated the default styling of UI elements like form controls and scrollbars to match the sleek design of the new Chrome Metro interface.

          This is a direct invasion of Microsoft Windows 8. What it means is that withing Windows users will be getting a Chromebook experience – cutting out all Microsoft tools and services. The more they will use this ‘Chrome OS’ experience the more they will get used to it and will realize that they actually don’t use Windows at all; that they can very well live withing ‘Chrome OS’. Next time when they would visit a store selling Chromebooks – they will be more comfortable buying it.

          Microsoft is already scared of Chromebooks and instead of working on improving it’s image or products started funneling money in anti-Google ad campaigns that ruined their image even further.
          • "Chromebook experience"

            An "experience" is one way to put it.
          • Yea a bad experience!

            The only reason I use Win8 Metro mode is because it is the only way chrome will activate the onscreen touch keyboard automatically. Otherwise you have to fumble to turn the keyboard on and off. If I'm docked to a hard keyboard, I immediately go back to desktop mode. Why? Because so many things don't work in Metro mode. Plugins for Hangout/chat and Earth maps don't work. Zoom plugins mis calibrate touch so you can't click things and generally the whole experience is reduced in capability. Chrome also is less efficient at video playback than IE. Video often stalls with a zero frame rate while the audio continues. Were it not for sync'ed bookmarks across my devices, including Android, I'd try to migrate back to IE.
          • MacBroderick

            Talking a pile of horses do-do as usual.
          • Yeah... i had the Chromebook "experience"...

            ...and it was awful. An underpowered machine running a rudimentary OS and an app-based programs.

            The Chromebook experience is the like the social-disease experience, in that the fun part is over really quickly.
          • All your describing is a migrain IT headache.

            Get serious. You dorks spend all day hear claiming nobody wants Windows 8 because of the UI difference, then on the other hand claim people will use this whole Chromebook interface and learn to enjoy it.

            Your all so full of complete and absolute nonsense.

            Don't any of these Chromebook loving/Microsoft hating idiots ever think through the logic of their position.

            Completely idiotic.

            Absolute madness.

            "Up is down when it suits my argument, down is up when it works better that way for what Im trying to convince you of, down is sideways when it would be the only way my point of view makes sense and sideways is up when I cant make my ideas make sense any other way".

            Im so sick of this absolutely nonsensical way of looking at reality around here.

            Its purely idiotic and some of you absolutely mad Windows haters have got to at least make some meager attempt at growing a brain before you start writing.

            Lord save us all from the idiots.
          • CO-EXISTENT

            I can get a t100 for $350, with full windows and offline office and all the neccesary legacy apps you need, plus touchscreen, plus i could get the chromeos experience, why would i then buy a chromebook?
        • so is advertising that effective on you?

          just because i see a banner ad of something i previously looked at doesn't mean i'm gonna buy it. of course they are using your information (PS everyone is now). it doesn't mean you have to use or fall for their advertising methods. stop spreading fear.
          • Fear? Yes you should be afraid

            If you have the impression that Google’s sole use of your personal data is to display an ad here and there that are focused on your preference then you lost it some time ago. Google is way beyond that.

            First, they force people into using Google + by converging information about you there. I use to have a Picasa account. One day all my pictures became part of a Google + account and where made public for my contacts… and my contacts where… you guessed it, the people that Google face recognise from my pictures.

            Second, Google is changing the search results based on what they know about you. You think it’s a good thing? No it isn’t. These practices can make loose access to better information for what you are looking for because they are making money making sure you click on the link they want you to click.

            Third, Google sells your personal information to third parties. Can you trust these guys also?

            Forth, Google logs and keeps everything they know about you, cross-check these info on all their services and combines them with your relations. The list goes on and on.

            The issue here is that Google knows probably more about you right now than your friends and relatives. They know more about you than you Government. Google is a private company whose CEO seems like a nice guy but… will it be the same guy in 25 years from now. Will Google become a foreign company one day? Will they have to sell their Database one day when they become irrelevant?

            What appears like a free product just plainly isn’t. The price we are paying for using Google product is just too high.
          • Hardcore Criminal

            You must be a hardcore criminal having so much to hide. What is it people are concerned about? Knowledge of their sexual deviances? Shopping patterns? Your social network? I have nothing to hide. But also... your point that Google+ was forced on you? My Picasa was converted to Drive, not Google+. Also, Picasa isnt the only game in town. Dont bitch about services you are choosing to use, you have other offerings out there.

          • Hardcore Criminal not

            I'm a lending fraud investigator and tens of millions of people from coast to coast have been unlawfully foreclosed on inclusive of myself. The so called sub-prime lenders used analytic programs to profile the victims and many of them like myself had home nearly paid off and they just plain forged the Docs. I never even got a loan with Ameriquest just a bogus cash out refinance check and 30 days later a foreclosure notice for being 90 days late and police cars parked in front of my home 24/7 and police following me around threatening me harassing me and falsely arresting me. In court the judge physically violently scribbled out my evidence and threatened every one in the court room to keep their mouths shut. Then things really escalated when I started reporting the crimes to FBI, DOJ, A.G.s etc and Ventura county sheriffs tried to ram me off the road after they had my leg broken severely right after a meeting with the CA. A.G. Which had been given a huge donation from the crook I was trying to put in prison, the same crook that set up 53 shell corps to fuse Bushes 2004 election and had his employees directly run McCains 2008 campaign, Roland Arnal.

            Ironically when the police used the Patriot act to hold me under investigation without charges I got even more work done on the computer than I did traveling from coast to coast and I filled RICO (Mafia) charges against the biggest lending crook in the world and Bush got him out of the country to the Netherlands to evade my subpoena despite my best efforts to keep him her by appealing to the Dutch through the news and working with Obama on the foreign relations committee to try to prevent Arnals nomination as ambassador to the Netherlands. Senator Lugar rigged the vote to begin the nomination debate and Senator Lincoln Chaffee clear the legal path for Arnal which by that time had been found guilty of several hundred thousand counts of fraud in 49 states, by declaring that since Arnal was the sole owner of Ameriquest corporation he had no personal liability and that legally speaking only corporations are considered people with criminal and personal liability. Senator Lantos sided with the Republicans and Chuck Hagel pointed out the truth about Arnal. Unfortunately Deval Patrick Governor of Massachusetts convinced Obama to let Arnal go to to a huge payoff and Arnal became nominated and transferred his stolen billions to his second wife.

            IF you really believe what you said is true and your not just joshing us then your brain is likely to short circuit when you find out the truth about what the government is doing with information they share with corporations especially the financial services industry.

            Absolutely Google uses the information sharing model and it's not just about profits is about sharing the info with the government for profiling and targeting.

            A law abider is a far bigger threat to a corrupt government they are preemptively preventing law abiding citizens from exposing government based corruption and crimes.
          • "You must be a hardcore criminal having so much to hide"?????????????????

            What kind of an anti western democracy comment is that???

            Is Putin your hero or something???

            Where did you grow up?

            No respect for the individual citizen? Is that it???

            Whats wrong with you??

            Go join the goose stepping party.

            They share your twisted anti western views on personal privacy.