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Chrome OS App Launcher Icon Changed to Search Motif


The New Icon

The Chrome OS App Launcher icon is to be replaced with a plain white magnifying glass icon, a recent Chromium code commit reveals.

Chrome OS’s app list button currently resembles a grid of stacked squares, and has done since the introduction of the Aura desktop back in 2012 and undergoing only minor changes in the intervening time (same can’t be said for the launcher itself).

The change in iconography comes as Chromium developers continue to refine the new ‘experimental app launcher’ which, all said, is far more than just an app launcher.

Google has already landed several changes that focus on aligning the layout with the main Google homepage; e.g., a clean prominent search field and Google Doodle support, and prioritising of search results.

The changes are part of a wider plan to turn the current app launcher into a more versatile launchpad, an ‘interface which is focused on search’. It is also working on integration of Google Now cards directly into the launcher UI.


Chrome OS Launcher With Google Now Cards

The New Icon

The new icon itself has only just been committed to the Chromium codebase and is, as you’d imagine, nothing too drastic. The commit landing the new icon changes reads:

“Changed the Launcher shelf icon in ChromeOS.

Was a 9-square app grid; now a magnifying glass. This better represents the new “Ares” launcher interface, which is focused on search. (The old icon is still used if the –disable-experimental-app-list flag is given.)”

The Chrome App Launcher has undergone a number of icon changes over the years but this search icon is the first to deviate significantly. With Google’s emphasis set on making the new launcher a search hub a change of icon is needed to better relate its features to users, new and old alike.

The experimental launcher is currently enabled by default in developer channel builds of Chrome OS though those on more stable versions can opt-in using the ‘enable-experimental-app-list’ flag.

This change has now landed in the Chrome OS developer channel.
  • Stephen Anderson

    It also now resembles the search button on the keyboard (replacement for the vestigial caps-lock key). Makes a lot more sense actually…

    • Johan Thiborg-Ericson

      Which, accidentally, opens the launcher ;) I shamefully admit I didn’t know this before.

      • JUDGE

        Yup, but it’s really slow!!! A plain second before the Launcher appears/disappears. For a “light” OS, it’s fascinating!! ^^
        I do not understand the fact that the moves via the keyboard is stopped when I reach the top/bottom/sides of the Launcher window; When I display my running apps, I can easily switch to any one from any side without being stopped.

  • Boothy

    Which is great!!!
    I mean, all I ever want to do on a computer is run Google search after Google search, nothing productive………. ;)
    Not that you can tell Google’s ad growth is slowing, and needs a shot in the arm……

    • Sebastiaan Franken

      You can *actually* launch applications with the new launcher too. Shocking, I know.

      • Boothy

        Yeah, slower. Not a real issue if you only use the mouse, but if you’re a keyboard junkie, its loads slower!
        And you can *actually* search from the existing launcher………..

  • Mason Atha

    I personally like the grid better, but the search icon is more logical if you use the newer app launcher.

  • FILA

    I dont like it. Makes it look like just a Search box and not a place to launch apps. Actually they had a leaked image last year maybe a future android release would kind of do the same.

    hopefully not

  • Makes sense to put the Google Now cards there instead of cluttering the notification center. The Now cards have been baked into Android’s launcher since KitKat; now it’s Chrome OS’s turn to get its own Google Now Launcher.

    As for the icon, it also makes a whole lot more sense. The app launcher, for one, happens to have a keyboard trigger, and it’s something that users press all the time to trigger it: the search key. So changing the icon on the UI button to match the icon on the keyboard shortcut makes all the sense in the world from a consistency/continuity standpoint.

  • liamdools

    Can’t wait to see it next year.

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  • James Ramsay

    Can confirm, It’s already in the canary channel build for today

    • What build? I’m on Chrome 42.0.2307.4 Canary, with a platform version of “6807.0.0 (Official Build) canary-channel peppy”, and am not seeing it. Moreover, “Your software is up-to-date” always shows whenever I attempt to check for updates.

      • James Ramsay

        Version 42.0.2309.2 canary (64-bit)
        Platform 6810.0.0 (Official Build) canary-channel wolf
        Firmware Google_Wolf.4389.24.58

        • That’s the Dell 11. Yeah, the Acer C720 is what I’ve got…

          • James Ramsay

            Ah. My build was from yesterday.

  • So, since 6810.0.0:42.0.2309.2 is still not showing up, I decided to plug ‘setInterval(chrome.send(“requestUpdate”), 100);’ into the “chrome://chrome” page’s JS console…

  • George Bock

    The App launcher does not work on the Toshiba Chromebook 2 when the resolution setting is 1536×864. The icons do not appear? Anyone else have this problem?

    • toomuchgame441

      The app launcher works for me just fine at that resolution on my Toshiba CB2, not sure why that issue is happening

    • Mark Permann

      Also true of my CB2.

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  • Panephysis

    OK, so make the icon match the keyboard – I get that. But I’m really going to miss the App Launcher itself when this change comes to Stable. I already have a quick and easy way of searching – Chrome! What I need is a quick and easy way of launching my apps, and this feels like a step backward in that regard. I’m sad. :-(

  • The Dark Days Incarnate

    Do an Win10 and have both!! and just use the GEL Icon

  • regs


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  • MrTribute

    Is it me or Chrome’s app launcher seems to be unavailable for Windows 10 since build 9926. Weird! Version 42.0.2311.11

  • ChromeDude

    How do I get the Google Now cards on my launcher? I’m on the dev channel.

  • Tricko

    Now opens a window covering 1/2 my screen and forces me to click a few more times. Hate the change.
    GO back to old launcher,

  • Kalan Petty

    If I wanted to search something I would do it through Chrome. All this change does it make users have to click more times to get to their app menu. Terrible change.

  • Bob Veats

    Let me have an All Apps button on my dock.

  • Scott W

    I was really enjoying the Chromebook, but this little change makes a dramatically negative impact on usability! Glad it only cost $180, won’t hurt too much when I stop using it all together.

    • S Blevins

      You can turn it off by going to chrome://flags/#enable-experimental-app-list for the URL and change it to disabled.

  • liamdools

    This and the new launcher single handedly forced me to switch to Linux. I know you can set the old one in the flags, but there will still have been a time where I update, turn on my Chromebook, and see that the decent menu is gone and no more with no choice to go back. Linux is awful enough, I’ll be switching to Windows soon, where I have actual choice on what I want my PC to look like.

  • 394349

    Is there anyway I can just get the old app icon back? I really dont like the search magnify.

  • Shalyn Copas

    I do not like this change at all! If I want to search something I can open my browser. I want easier access to my apps.

    • Riley Griffith

      There is a way where you can get the old app lancer back.