Why you want the new Chrome OS Beta update: Immersive mode and more

Even though I need my Chromebook Pixel for work, I still risk living on the bleeding edge. Instead of running the most stable version of Chrome OS(s goog), I took the plunge a few weeks ago to install the Chrome developer channel. That’s cutting edge, particularly for a work computer. Now Chrome OS device owners can enjoy the same new features but with some added stability: Google updated the Chrome OS Beta channel on Tuesday.

google-chrome-logo1That means most, if not all, of the nifty new features I’ve been using lately can be had without worrying too much about system crashes and glitches. To be honest, I haven’t seen too many on the dev channel, but beta is surely a safer place to be. So what’s new in Chrome OS 28.0.1500.20 (Platform version: 4100.17.0)

Immersive mode is one of my favorite new additions. Think of it as a full-screen mode that’s even better than the standard full-screen feature. In immersive mode, everything above a web page’s content is pushed off the top the screen; like an auto-hide feature for the URL bar, bookmarks, etc….

The Chrome OS launcher also autohides on the bottom of the display. The end result: You get a a true full-screen mode and gain a bit of working screen space. (Note: On the dev channel, I had to enable the feature in chrome://flags; you may need to do the same in beta.) Here’s a look at Techmeme in immersive mode, for example:

Immersive mode

If you look closely, you can see small indicators at the top and bottom of the screenshot; these show the open tabs and apps. You can mouse over these to un-hide the full information bars. I tend to skip that though: Using a three-finger trackpad gesture in dev, I scrub through my tabs quickly.

Here are a few of the other goodies in the new beta version:

  • The Files app — your Finder or File Explorer — gains new ways to view files. Files are grouped in new category additions: Shared with me, Offline and Recent.
  • When taking a screenshot, you’ll get a notification of success. Tap it to view or edit the screenshot, or ignore it and the notification panel will disappear.
  • Touch link higlighting isn’t something I use, but if you want some visual indication of where you’re tapping on a Chromebook Pixel, you can see it with this function.
  • Although the use cases are still relatively limited, screen rotation is also supported in this version.

Unless there are major issues with this beta build, I’d expect all Chrome OS users to see the new features in the stable channel within 4 to 6 weeks. Google is generally on a six-week schedule for Chrome OS updates, keeping the platform maturing on a refreshingly predictable basis.