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The New Overview Feature in Chrome OS

Chrome OS recently added a Mac OS X-style ‘Exposé’ feature behind a flag on the developer channel – but what does it do? 

‘What it needs to’, is the (boring) answer to that.

At the tap of the F5 key (the ‘[    ]]]‘ icon on a Chromebook) all open applications are shown on screen together to allow for easy switching between them. Just click on the window you want to switch to and Overview mode exits, with the chosen app in focus.

Chrome Overview Mode

Overview Mode Enabled on Chrome OS Dev

Pressing the F5 key again exits the Overview, but clicking outside the area, hitting Esc, etc do not. The System tray, launcher, message center and app shelf all remain accessible in overview mode.

No other window management ‘features’ are currently available, so if you were hoping to be able to close or exit an app from the expose sheet you may be a little disappointed.

If you’re used to switching between your open apps using Alt+Tab then you’ll also find yourself encountering the Overview spread: a transparent dark background highlights the selected application in overview as Alt+tab cycles through them.

Some further refinements are on the drawing board, including:

  • Fading Shelf background when entering overview for a full-screen app open
  • Touch and (interestingly) voice commands for triggering Overview mode

See it In Action

Enable Chrome Overview

As long as you’re using the Dev Channel of Chrome OS on your Chromebook or Chromebox you can enable overview mode with a simple click:

  • Open a new Tab in Chrome.
  • Type ‘chrome://flags’ in the address bar and hit Enter/Return
  • Navigate to (or use ctrl+f to find) the ‘overview’ flag
  • Click ‘Enable’

After enabling the feature you will be prompted to ‘restart’ your device before you can use it, so make sure you save any documents and pin any important tabs you want to come back to.