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Google really wants you to use virtual desktops on your Chromebook


Google really wants you to use virtual desktops on your Chromebook

Most of us probably feel overwhelmed by the endless slew of browser tabs and and all the software windows cluttering up our PCs. Thanks to virtual desktops for Chromebooks, managing your tasks is way easier: you can create a workspace for each of your classes, or have a dedicated desk for gaming. Your organization possibilities are virtually endless — yet very few users take full advantage of this feature. It seems Google really wants you to realize how useful it is, as it’s experimenting with putting virtual desks front-and-center to the Chrome OS experience.

We’ve spotted ongoing work over at the Chromium Gerrit that displays your virtual desks persistently, internally called “bento bar.” The bar will show up at the top of your Chromebook’s screen when there are multiple desks. While its flag isn’t in the latest Chrome OS Canary build yet, we got it working on our Chromebook with some degree of effort.

A work-in-progress feature puts your virtual desks front and center.

Upon signing into your user account, you’ll see a thin bar that occupies a small portion at the top of your Chromebook’s screen. The strip fills up depending on how many desks you have — clicking on a label will zip your screen to that virtual desk. There are two buttons on the right side of the bar: an overflow menu that offers to hide or show the strip, and a shortcut that launches an expo of your active windows.

The new bento bar experiment is a big deal for multitaskers and students like myself who often use virtual desktops regularly. Instead of swiping over and over on my Chromebook’s trackpad or hitting the overview key first, the bento bar keeps all of my desks a click away. I care about getting tasks done efficiently, and this feature is a step towards that.

Bento bar is far from perfect — a reminder that the experiment is still in its infancy. There are bugs that prevent me from fully taking advantage of it, like covering a maximized application’s title bar and its awkward placement when the taskbar is aligned to the left or right side of the screen. I’d also prefer an option to auto-reveal the bar when moving the mouse against the top of the screen.

The bugs I’ve described will probably get ironed out when Google officially launches bento bar to Chromebooks some time from now. With features like custom desk names, handfuls of useful keyboard shortcuts, and smoother transitions, it’s clear that Google is getting serious about taking your productivity on Chromebooks at a whole new level. Fingers crossed we’ll eventually be able to set different wallpapers for virtual desks, too.

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