Google is reinventing the Chrome OS launcher for the first time in years as it marks the one-hundredth update of its Chromebook operating system.
The Launcher, Chrome OS’s version of the Windows Start Menu, is where you access apps, web apps, recent programs, and the search function. In recent Chrome OS versions, the app launcher would span the entire screen horizontally, taking up valuable space even when it was not in full-screen mode.
With update 100, the launcher opens as a compact overlay on the left side of the screen instead of from the bottom. As a result, browser windows or open apps aren’t covered every time you want to conduct a search or find a new app. From the clips Google sent us, the new Launcher looks similar in many ways to the Windows 11 Start Menu in that it’s a small, floating translucent rectangle.
The changes aren’t just skin deep. Finding and organizing apps should be easier now that you can arrange apps by name and color along with the option to list them manually. Newly downloaded apps will adhere to your organization method instead of being tacked on to the bottom as they are now.
Also improved is the search function, which shows a more detailed preview of your search term so you can get relevant information without leaving the launcher. I could see this being useful when you want to quickly check the current temperature, stock prices, or define a word. Google says you can use the search previews to bring up Chrome OS shortcuts, like the button combo for taking a screenshot (ctrl + shift + show windows) or turn on caps lock (alt + search). You can even use search to scan through Chrome tabs instead of flipping through each one only to realize what you’re looking for is in a different window altogether.
Google did not provide a firm release date for the new launcher, only committing to “coming soon.” It joins a handful of upcoming Chrome OS additions, including the ability to edit text using your voice via the dictation feature and create and share GIFs from the default camera app.