ChromeOS Is Looking a Lot Like Windows With New Virtual Desks

A screenshot showing virtual desks

Yes! This is Chrome OS’s Virtual Desks you’re looking at!
Image: Google

Google’s cloud-based operating system has come a long way since its inception. Every new software update seems to bring it closer to parity with Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac operating systems. A new ChromeOS update, due 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. It might just be what helps convince some folks to choose a Chromebook as a primary computer.

Virtual desks, as ChromeOS calls it, will make it easier to group apps you’re using so that you’re not dealing with errant windows. Once the update hits in late September, you’ll be able to save the different groups and surface them back up at will. This includes all windows and apps within the desk. It’ll 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 likely let out a big, Charlie Brown-esque ARGH! when you found out there is no built-in PDF annotator on ChromeOS. Thankfully, the next update is bundling this ability directly into 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 worthy Chrome extension (I still use kami) or some other service to do something straightforward, like sign a contract.

If you’re also managing your work schedule using a Chromebook, the software will offer better Calendar integration and push notifications after the update. You’ll be able to peep on events straight from the pop-up in the taskbar rather than navigating to the Calendar page in your browser.

A screenshot of Google Calendar

Google Calendar will have a more streamlined experience when dealing with things like event invites.
Image: Google

Google’s added a few other minor feature additions to ChromeOS to help streamline the overall experience. If you’re in a classroom or maybe even presenting a “look back” slideshow for friends and family, now you can easily cast your ChromeOS screen to a nearby compatible display. You’ll be able to record, view, and then share transcribed videos after the presentation.

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 through that can help stylize your desktop. You can even choose a wallpaper from one of your Google Photos albums and have it dynamically change daily.

All these new features will hit ChromeOS sometime in August. The Virtual Desks feature will roll out in late September.

Making movies with your Chromebook

A screenshot of video editing on Google Photos

Google Photos’ built-in video editor is coming first to Chromebooks this fall.
Image: Google

No one thinks of the Chromebook as a video editor, per se, but it’s nice that you’ll soon be able to string together clips accumulated in your Google Photos album. This feature is coming to other devices down the line—presumably, Android smartphones will have access to the feature through the corresponding Photos app.

Like the automatic album-making feature already available in Google Photos, the app will let you easily construct a “movie” from a bundle of clips. All you’ll have to do is choose a theme and a couple of clips, and then let the video maker run its magic. You’ll also be able to make your movie by selecting clips, arranging them in order, and editing them down. You’ll be able to apply different Google Photos filters, too, like the Real Tone Filter.

For serious video editing endeavors, 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, though you’re likely to 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 first on Chromebook this fall.

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