New Chrome OS features make your Chromebook a better Windows replacement

Google Pixelbook android apps
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

After having brought support for running Android apps on Chromebooks, Google just launched Chrome OS 67 with support for even more apps. With the release of Chrome OS 67, Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, can now be installed as stand-alone apps, Google noted on its blog.

As its name suggests, Progress Web Apps are web apps, but instead of running inside a Chrome browser tab, they’ll have their own window and behave more like a native app. Microsoft announced support for PWAs on Windows 10 earlier this year, and one of Google’s first PWAs to launch this year is the Google Photos app. Like their native desktop app counterparts, PWAs can function offline and are speedy to operate and load.

On Chrome OS, Progressive Web Apps are deployed as a hybrid between a native app and a web app. Borrowing from traditional web apps, they’ll have shareable URLs and come with Google Cast support, ZDNet reported. Multitasking users can also switch between windows with an alt-tab key command. Google will bring support for Progressive Web Apps to Chrome browsers on MacOS and Windows in future releases.

If you’re an owner of a Chromebook with newer form factors, like HP’s detachable Chromebook x2, Chrome OS 67 also supports a new feature that can detect when a tablet is detached from the keyboard and attached to a new base. Support for Touchable Material Design 2.0 will make it easier for Chrome OS tablets, like Acer’s Chromebook Tab 10, to interface with Chrome OS using touchscreens. For those running Android apps on a compatible Chromebook, Google noted that Chrome’s page zoom feature is now extended to Google Play apps.

Other features aimed at making Chromebooks a better experience for users focused on productivity include support for zipping files on Google Drive using the Files app and split-screen multitasking in Tablet mode. Google is also giving users more control of how they put their Chromebooks to sleep by displaying a power menu with shortcuts when the power button is held down. A cleaner Bluetooth list, support for Android Debug Bridge over USB in developer mode, and Select-to-Speak ability for text to be read aloud round out the list of new features.

This update will automatically be rolled out to Chromebooks over the next several days. Along with these new features, Google announced that the latest version of Chrome OS also comes with security fixes and other small improvements. After having been broken since the Chrome OS 64, user Mace noted on Google’s blog that Google casting is now working again on public IP addresses with this build. If you’re looking for a new Chromebook, Google is also running a huge promotion on its Pixelbook right now.

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