This year I fell in love with Chrome OS all over again

This year I fell in love with Chrome OS all over again

Chrome OS login screen

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I bought my first Chromebook in January 2015. I still remember sitting in a hotel room in Vegas during CES week, a brand new Toshiba Chromebook 2 on my lap, looking confused at Chrome OS and how it took three minutes to set up , logged into my Google account and ready to go.

For two years I used this as my main laptop. It could do 90% if not 95% of the tasks I did on my iMac at a fraction of the cost. I was sold on the idea of ​​Chrome OS, but the Toshiba Chromebook 2 got very slow very quickly. I needed more power to power through my multi-tabbed, multi-tasking work setup, so I dipped into my wallet and splurged on a deeply discounted 2017 Google Pixelbook.

Five years later, I’m still using the same Pixelbook to write this article, and it’s still my only laptop. I haven’t seen any reason to upgrade since I do most of my work from my iMac and the Pixelbook does the job when I need it on the go. But my relationship with Chrome OS has ebbed and flowed over the years. For a while I appreciated its simplicity and minimalism, then I got a little tired of the lack of more powerful features.

Chrome OS has become much more powerful than I had given it credit for over the past couple of years.

However, 2022 changed all that. I realized that many updates and features were not showing up for me due to some crossed wires between a multi-user setup and a work account restriction. I reset my Pixelbook and see several features appear for the first time. It was like I had just gotten a new laptop. I spent a whole day getting to know everything new. And that’s when I realized that Chrome OS had become a lot more powerful than I’d given it credit for over the past couple of years, and I found myself falling in love with it.

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If you haven’t used Chrome OS lately, or you’ve only given it a cursory look and decided it wasn’t for you, let me give you a little tour of what’s now possible on the platform and my favorite new additions.

Have you used Chrome OS in the past year?

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Chrome OS and Android sit in a tree…

chrome os phone hub

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

As an Android phone user, I love all the integrations between my phone and Chrome OS laptop now. The Phone Hub feature, which had been in the works for so long I almost forgot it existed, is finally mature enough.

Photos, browser tabs, notifications, hotspot setup and many more integrations bridge the gap between Android phones and Chromebooks.

In one place, I can see the latest photos on my phone and the last websites I visited, set my phone to silent or find it, and check the current battery level and signal strength. My favorite integration is hotspot setup: Instead of reaching for my phone to share my connection with my laptop, I can request it directly from the Pixelbook. On top of that, there’s an automatic unlock when my phone is nearby, and notification mirroring with reply support. No third party app required.

Powerful tools

Chrome OS PDF Editor

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Next, Chrome OS now has a built-in PDF editor and annotator that lets me fill out any document, type in a text field, check a box, and add my signature in a flash. Using a pen with the Pixelbook makes this so much easier than trying to sign a PDF on the iMac with my big imprecise finger on a trackpad. Now, whenever I need to fill out a PDF, I just grab the Pixelbook because it’s more convenient.

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Chrome OS screenshot 2

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

My next favorite Chrome OS feature is the new screen recording tool, which does almost everything you’d expect. Gone is the limited snapshot feature, and instead I have full control over window, area and full screen capture. I can choose to take a snap or record a video, add a recording from the microphone, or even take a video of myself speaking – a great feature for work and school demos.

There’s also a separate new Screencast app that includes on-screen annotation tools and automatic voice transcriptions.

Beyond keyboards: Fingers and digital pens

Chrome OS displays large tab thumbnails in tablet mode

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Chrome OS has also become more finger-friendly for tablet use. The small targets that can only be reached with the precision of a mouse/trackpad are no more. Instead, we get big tab thumbnails, big connection switches, a better on-screen keyboard, some cool gestures, and lots of little improvements that make using my Pixelbook in tablet mode—or any other Chromebook tablet—much better than it was a few years ago.

And when I decide to grab my pencil instead of touching the entire screen with my dirty fingers, there are several amazing improvements. The Canvas app for drawing (with multiple pen types and layers) and the Cursive app for notes (with gestures, object moving and resizing, and image insertion) are preloaded and do everything I need them to do. A college student or heavy drawing/note user might need more robust tools, but for the average occasional user like me, they are more than enough.

Lots more to love about Chrome OS

Recent Chrome releases have also brought many small but important features. It’s a real dark theme now with an automatic sunset/sunrise schedule. Easy access to the calendar, music controls and recent files have also been added to the main shelf, so I don’t have to dig deep for more menus. The built-in image editor has added an annotation tool and more powerful cropping and resizing options, all of which are critical to my workflows.

And there’s a new clipboard manager (press Home key + V) that remembers the last five items you copied for easy pasting. This one, to be honest, is my biggest pet peeve on a computer because I often need to paste an item I copied a while ago. I use a third-party clipboard manager on my iMac, and I love that the feature is now built into Chrome OS.

From dark mode to a new clipboard manager, there are many more useful improvements to Chrome OS.

A recent addition to the OS has also brought support for multiple desktops, so I can save a bunch of open apps and tabs to come back to later. And finally, finally, there is a proper temporary trash holder for deleted items in the file browser.

The platform is much more powerful now, and the fast update rate (every four weeks or so) ensures that new features are never a long wait away. It’s certainly more fun than the glacial pace of Windows and macOS updates. All of this is slowly convincing me to stick with Chrome OS for my next laptop purchase – I considered moving to a Macbook, but I’m not so sure anymore. Now I just need a proper Pixelbook successor, even if I know it won’t come from Google.

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