Google to finally give Chrome OS the tablet mode it always needed

Chromebook tablets and 2-in-1s are about to get a bit more useful. Google has announced some changes for the Chrome OS operating system that will deliver a long-awaited new tablet mode and touch-friendly gestures.

The biggest change to deliver on Google’s promise is gesture-based navigation. A bit similar to the gestures in Google’s Android 10 mobile phone operating system, they will soon allow you to navigate to the Chrome OS home screen by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

You’ll be able to hold down your swipe afterward to look at all the windows and apps you have open, as well as swipe left and right to go back to webpages.

Google says it also has also given the “shelf” in Chromebooks a new look so that you can better take advantage of touchscreen devices. When such a device is put in tablet mode by detaching the keyboard or flipping the screen over, you’ll get access to a “quick shelf.”

This is similar in concept to the dock in Apple’s iPadOS, which shows you running apps and suggestions for new apps. Google’s version also offers quick access to pinned apps and other programs that are running. Google promises that even in laptop mode, the shelf will be more compact to give you more space for your windows and apps.

The last of the features is a tablet mode for Google’s own Chrome browser. It will be picking up a touch-friendly tab strip that will let you open a new tab with a big button. Controls for reordering tabs, dragging, and closing tabs will be open too.

There’s no time frame for these updates to roll out, but Google has listed the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 as the launch device. Presumably, the features are also designed for devices like the Pixelbook Slate, which lets you detach the keyboard or other devices like the original Pixelbook, as well as flip the screen back into a tablet-like state. Google, though, hasn’t made it clear when other devices should expect the software update to deliver the changes.

Despite Google scaling back the team designing its own Chromebook tablets, there has still been a rise in premium 2-in-1s from its partners. We’ve seen the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, as well as the Asus Chromebook Flip C436, both of which have 360-degree hinges.

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