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Chrome OS Drops Transparent App Window Borders, But Will Anyone Notice?

If you’re on the beta or dev channels of Chrome OS then you might have noticed a less than transparent visual change: window headers for certain applications are no longer translucent. 

Until recently, the window header of a single, unminimised Chrome OS app would be rendered in a slick, Aero-esque see-through style, like so: 



If more than one window was open the window headers would appear as a solid milky-grey colour:

chrome os audio player tile

While maximised windows would switch to a cool, ‘focus on the content’ black bar:


But transparency is no more. For undisclosed reasons (likely related to the refinement of window headers for packaged apps) all window frames, bar maximised ones, use a solid grey backing. Google has confirmed that this is an intentional change and not a bug.

Now, I’m not saying that these grey borders look bad. They don’t; they look okay. But that’s sort of the issue here: it’s just ‘okay’. Grey and white are used heavily in the Aura desktop UI, so the transparent flourish helped break up the look.

Admittedly, I use more than one app or window at a time, meaning most of the time I would be looking at solid grey headers anyway, so this is not — repeat, is not — an earth-shattering, enjoyment-wrecking change for me.

That said, the window frames were one of the most visually identifiable changes that arrived with the ‘new’ Chrome OS desktop a few years back so, out of nostalgia if nothing else, I’m a little sad to see them go. 

  • Nicolae Crefelean

    “okay” is quite a stretch but of course it’s still a matter of personal preference. I don’t like that dull gray. A change of color might help, but the transparency was nicer.

    • Zack Simpson

      I agree. I loved the transparency. It gave the OS a sense of liveliness that the dull gray does not. I often go out of my way to minimize all my windows except the one I’m working in to avoid looking at the gray bars.

      • michaelfillier

        If your time on Chrome OS is spent looking at a transparent bar and going out of your way to make it visible, I am sad to say that you are using it wrong.

        • Zack Simpson

          It doesn’t sound like you’re sad to say that at all. In fact, it sounds as if you were eager to pounce on the first user who made an opinion which contradicted your own. Like Nicolae said, it’s still a matter of personal preference. If I prefer the transparent bars, why is it so wrong for me to take a short moment to minimize a window or two to see them? Besides, minimizing windows takes 2 seconds at most.

          • michaelfillier

            Didn’t mean to offend. I actually don’t have an opinion on the matter, either is fine for me. I just find it a little funny that someone would occupy themselves fiddling with windows, just to avoid grey bars. Just seems tedious for something insignificant. But if it makes you happy, who am I to judge?

          • Zack Simpson

            My apologies if I came off as rude. Who knows… Maybe that’s why it takes me so long to get work done on my Chromebook. Not because of processing power, but because I get distracted by little things like that, haha. I think that ultimately I’ll be satisfied with whatever Google ends up doing to Chrome OS, because their design team has done a magnificent job thus far, and it will only improve from here.

  • Boothy

    Until you just pointed it out, I hadn’t even noticed (running beta channel).

  • It was probably done to maintain consistency.

    • Juan Carlos Cornejo

      I agree 100%. The first few days use on my chromebook, I was puzzled when the transparency came and went. Then I figured out it had to do with the number of open windows. I just felt it an odd visual choice.

      Gray is plain, true, but at least is always consistent no matter the situation.

  • miri

    In Dev channel, the headers are a ‘dull white’ and they turn transparent when defocused.

    • Boothy

      How’s it look?
      As a web OS there’s a lot of white in Chrome, does this just add to that?

      • miri

        I’d say it looks a lot nicer than the current grey and the only using transparency on defocused windows makes more a lot more sense than the previous implementation.

  • Boothy

    What about applying your Chrome Theme to all windows?
    And expanding the theme options (transparent for example)?

  • Samuel Horne

    Black. They should be black.

  • richardarkless

    I predict that this change will tie into this feature which was announced last month

  • jason

    Bad decision on Google’s part. More customization options are needed in Chrome OS are they’re just shooting themselves in the foot.

  • Klikini

    Off topic: How are there things under Downloads and Google Drive in the first files screenshot?

    • miri

      That’s an old screenshot.

  • Edward Ashdown

    I think this is a shame, the transparency was as the article says, ‘slick’. The grey is not a problem, neither is it intrusive but I thought the transparency added character. Not a make or break issue as outlined, but I would be interested to hear their reasoning (though I trust again that it is reasonable!).

  • ɳḁụkỏføx

    Transparency made the chromebook feel modern; seeing grey all the time makes me think I’m on win98.

  • Aw man, I’m going to miss the transparent window borders :L

  • Joe Montfort

    The transparent borders are kind of cool, but I notice that when a window is on top of another with a white or light background, the borders all but disappear, taking the “x” and min/max buttons with them, which in turn means closing or moving the window is sometimes hit or miss… just sayin’

  • Mik Furie

    So long as they go for a uniform approach I don’t. In the change at all. I quite like the idea of the plain white app windows as seen with the file manager. It feels crisp against a background and must be less resource intensive than transparency.

  • Rex Williams

    they should just allow a custom setting for color schemes……

  • noah

    It’s silly that we can’t make windows transparent altogether in chrome os. Heck with the borders, the whole window should be able to be transparent so you can multitask with data behind and in front. It pains me to have to chroot into ubuntu to get a little transparency. You can click & drag a browser and it goes transparent. Why not allow the feature everywhere?