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Chrome Dev Update Brings Aura, Notification Center to Linux Desktop

Linux users on the Google Chrome Dev channel will notice a startling difference the next time they upgrade: Aura has arrived. 

The new Aura graphical stack, which is already in use on Chrome OS and in beta builds of Chrome for Windows, allows Google to unify their UI codebase, making development across multiple platforms easier, more consistent and in sync.

‘Aura allows Google to unify their UI codebase, making Chrome development easier’

Prior to the development of Aura, all three platforms used different interface code.

On Linux, Aura takes the reigns from GTK 2 – itself unmaintained – to draw every nut and bolt of the browser that appears on screen. Buttons, dialogs, widgets and menus, etc, are all handled by the new UI layer. The only native element in play is that of the ‘top-level window’.

Cutting out the middleman allows Chrome to talk directly to the X11 display server and manage its own windows. It also makes heavy use of GPU acceleration (where accessible) to provide improved performance and bring interface animations in sync with other platforms.

GTK+ hasn’t been needlessly dispensed with. It’s still used where appropriate – for example in presenting file dialogs, IME support & other odd bits of system integration.

So that’s what Aura offers but what does this mean for the look of Chrome on Linux?

Aura: The Visual Differences

The Chrome interface doesn’t change dramatically with the arrival of Aura. A few minor quirks (some are bugs) are readily apparent, however, such as the default system not being used in menus or, for fans of seamless desktop consistency, no option to move window controls to the left in Ubuntu.

Chrome Aura running on Ubuntu

Chrome Aura on Ubuntu 13.10 – Picks Up GTK Colours, But Not System Fonts

But, elsewhere, it is business as usual. GTK theme colours are detected by default, system icons are used and, most importantly, feature parity is maintained.

In fact, were it not for the odd graphical or performance quirk you’d be hard-pressed to notice that anything had even changed. Which means Chrome devs are doing their jobs right!

chrome linux aura

Yes, you can even use the “Classic” Chrome  skin if you want

Notification Center

With its new GUI-drawing prowess in tow, the “new” Chrome Notification Center is finally available to Linux users.

Due to the fragmentation of Linux desktop environments, and the limitations of Ubuntu’s “indicator applets”, the experience is a little less elegant than its Chrome OS, Windows and Mac implementations.

Rich notifications look and behave the same, but the notification centre is an extra click away on Linux.

Clicking the notification tray icon on other platforms reveals the centre itself, but on Ubuntu (and most other desktop environments) users will need to first click the tray icon then the ‘Chrome – Notifications {num}’ to view unread alerts and access notifications settings.


App Launcher, Instant Extended API Are (Still) MIA

Not every new feature presently available on Windows, Chrome OS and Mac OS X builds is yet on offer to Linux users.

For example, the Instant Extended API that enables the (controversial) redesigned ‘New Tab Page’ and omni-bar focus is as-yet “unsupported”, and another feature unlikely to appear on Linux (due in part to the fragmentation mentioned previously) is Google’s trumpeted ‘Chrome App Launcher’.

But it’s not all bad news. Packaged app shortcuts do appear in the application launchers of Unity, Cinnamon, and the KDE desktop menu.

Packaged Apps in Unity Dash

Download Google Chrome Dev

Want to jump aboard the Chrome dev channel on Linux? Hit the link below to grab .rpm or .deb installers for your distro of choice.

Download Google Chrome Dev for Linux

  • 6ame9o


  • daniel brenha

    Is the right click menu as ugly as its windows counter part?
    The only things that bother me is system window borders and system fonts.
    Also I need hangouts app indicator, please tell me they have putted that in, please, please…

    • d2kx

      It is in.

  • rosko

    Oh great another unwanted icon in my systemtray. Good think I can choose to hide it on KDE.

    • Alfredo Hernández

      In GNOME Shell it simply doesn’t exist :( (or :D, depending on your point of view).

    • Joey-Elijah Sneddon

      It only appears when there are notifications to be read.

  • Alfredo Hernández

    It pisses me off that a mediocre typeface is used instead of your desktop’s one. Also, even if you use GTK+-like UI in the options, the folder icons won’t load. An last, but not least, it ignores your titlebar button preferences…

  • frontsideair

    I can live with bigger and uglier fonts on the tab titles and omnibar, but why can’t I use mouse scroll to walk around tabs? This is one of the nifty little features I can’t live with and not it’s gone! Woe is me!!!

    • bhaismachine

      This IS my favourite feature! One of the reasons why I use Chrome right now is because I can switch between tens of tabs just by scrolling on them. I was hoping it wasn’t gone with this major change. I am not sure if I even want to upgrade anymore.

      • Joey-Elijah Sneddon

        This is a feature in development, and currently only available in a development version of Chrome – relax!

        • bhaismachine

          I know worrying about features of something under heavy development is silly but it seems probably that the feature I am talking about will be gone. Let’s see.

  • Miguel Ortiz

    I’m using Manjaro Linux and the notifications do show up, but the center doesn’t. Odd…

  • Andreas Babouris

    “But it’s not all bad news. Packaged app shortcuts do appear in the application launchers of Unity, Cinnamon, and the KDE desktop menu.”

    GNOME 3 as well. :)

    It’s pretty convenient for apps like Keep; although I wish there was a layer of distinction between Chrome and desktop apps; ideally, the Chrome App Launcher should be available, and the user should also have the option to install *.desktop icons for certain apps they want in their launcher.

  • Alfredo Hernández

    Oh, come on, Joey. I was just complaining about desktop integration of Chrome, there’s no need to delete my comment.

    • Joey-Elijah Sneddon

      It was pulled for profanity.

      I’d also like to take a moment to remind everyone that this is a (fairly substantial) change that is still currently in development. The only way to be “affected” by it is to use an unstable, developer build of Chrome – which no-one is forced to do.

      Let’s all try to regain some perspective here.

  • Yvan Philogène

    Please Google, do every changes you want to do with Chrome. It is just too funny to see Linux users whining as soon as an update alters their glorified operating system :)…

    • jerk on the internet

      Almost as funny as trying to read your broke-ass grammar, fool!

  • Robert Lindgren

    I’m not sure if it’s just me, but the fonts are so extremely big on my 24′ screen (1920×1200) it’s unusable. It’s like kindergarten, had to revert to 32.

  • Jan Polášek

    That notifications center does not work for me in elementary OS, when I click to “Chrome – Notifications” option in chrome notifications appindicator, it just shows closing animation (it probably crashes)

    • almo

      how is elementary os? is it any good?

      • C–

        Looks fancy, works terrible, still a long way to go.

        • Hajdzik

          I don’t think so. That’s my first distro without bugs.

      • Jan Polášek

        For me it works just awesome, just a few bugs (default file manager sometimes crashes without a reason) and it’s the only really polished distro out there. I love it. But you should try it, because on your hardware, it can have huge amount of bugs, because it is still based on 12.04, which doesn’t have that good hardware support.

        • Slade

          eOS rocks …but rather update the kernel version to 3.9+ for better hardware support.

          • Jan Polášek

            Updating graphics drivers and kernels is important and I’m updating them regulary. I’m now using 3.13 and nvidia-331

      • Slade

        eOS rocks …but rather update the kernel version to 3.9+ for better hardware support

    • Hajdzik

      On Google+ Communities (elementary OS community) someone posted a screenshot of Chrome Notifications that work correctly, so as I assume it should work on eOS.

    • HomerSp

      I seem to have the same problem, but in KDE. Not really sure what the cause is yet but I will keep looking.

  • msx

    Err… for fragmentation you mean diversity, right? Anyways, as GNU+Linux is truly a wonderful wonderland of possibilities and customizations I do hope the guys brings back the ability to use native windows theming.

  • Greg Miernicki

    Been waiting for this day for a long time…. FINALLY ALL GREEN!

  • Nourman Hajar

    Well, it reverted back to the original UI in 33.0.1711 dev.

  • Heimen Stoffels

    It isn’t available anymore as of the current dev build :( Too bad because I really wanted to try this. Tweetdecks notifications suck so much with that tiny popup, Notification Centre would help a lot!

  • Simos Katsiaris

    False in Ubuntu if you disable the system theming and user the default chrome window decoration the buttons are in the right, if you enable the system decision they go to the left

  • sj

    I don’t see any mention here of the loss of flash that came with aura (using gnome3 on FC18). So now I can’t use street view in google maps because it relies on flash. That seems ironic to me.

  • Juan Sebastian Camargo Visbal

    I am not getting the Hangouts indicator in Ubuntu 13.10 :-( how do i enable it. Is there a way to get rid of the Chrome appindicator??