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Neat In Every Way: Chrome OS Adding App Folder Feature

Screenshot 2014-02-17 at 20.16.26It’s been almost four months since support for Folders in the Chrome App Launcher was formally confirmed by Google developers in a bug report.

With Aura now enabled in the stable builds of Google Chrome on Windows, and due to land on Linux in the next month or so, we’re edging closer to the arrival of this long-awaited feature that will allow us to:

  • Add (and remove) apps to Folders
  • Name (and rename) folders
  • Sync Folder settings 

But how’s the feature coming along since our last hands on preview of it back in November of last year?

Let’s take a look.

App Launcher Folders

Of all of the new features winging their way to Chrome OS in the coming months it’s this one that I will find most useful. Why? Well, I have a tonne of apps installed that I use…

Just not very often!

Being able to group my mass of apps into folders will ensure that I not only have a tidier-looking app drawer, but that I’m also able to find an app when I do need it that teensy bit quicker (yes, even quicker than it takes to say ‘Ok, Google – Gmail‘!).

Creating Folders

The core element of folder creation remains unchanged from the version I toyed with in November. You simply pick up an app icon, drag it over another and then let it go to create a folder that houses the pair. Additional applications can be dropped into the folder icon that results from then on.

In Chrome OS the animations accompanying this task are much nicer than before, with the grey circle spotlight that appears during the ‘collision’ moment having a particularly ‘bouncy‘ feel to it.

Entering and Naming App Folders

Clicking on an App Folder icon opens it in the launcher with a slick ‘scale out from middle of app folder icon click point‘ animation. The same effect plays in reverse when navigating out. 

Giving a folder a name (or editing an existing one) remains dead simple: one simply clicks the title field near the top of the launcher and types away.

I did find myself instinctively hitting the ‘Return/Enter’ key after typing a name under the assumption that this would ‘save’ it. There is currently no visual confirmation to tell you a folder name has been saved, a fact not helped by the text caret continuing to blinking away, even after clicking elsewhere. But rest assured that names do take.

Removing Apps

Applications can be removed from folders through one of two ways.

The first involves entering a folder, picking up the icon you wish to remove, and tearing it away from the launcher and outside of the light-grey circular boundary that appears, then dropping it back into the main list.

Removing an App from the App Folder

Removing an App from the App Folder

The second (and arguably easier) way is to right-click on an app icon and select the ‘remove from folder‘ option.

When all applications have been removed from a folder the folder itself is deleted.

Small Bugs & Missing Features

Screenshot-2014-02-17-at-20.16

App List folders in Chrome OS

So far, so good. Or is it?

The biggest drawback to using App Folders right now is that folders are not saved between sessions unless Folder Sync (see below) is also enabled. Even then, you’ll find that Folder names vanish between sessions.

Other issues I came across during testing on Chrome OS and Windows included a lack of visual feedback when creating folders in the Windows builds of Google Chrome Dev in both Windows 8 mode and on the regular desktop and the ‘drag to remove‘ logic not always working.

The most frustrating quirk was when a target icon would continually move around as I tried to drop an icon onto it! There’s also no support for Folders pinned to the App Shelf. You can add them, but nothing happens when you click on them.

However, let’s not forget that this feature remains in active development. Minor bugs, hiccups and the odd missing feature is to be expected.

Enable App List Folders in Chrome OS & Windows

The ‘app list folder’ feature is currently available for testing on Windows and Chrome OS Dev Channel builds, tucked behind the enable-app-list-folder flag.

Folder sync through your profile will also need the enable-sync-app-list flag turned onthough do note that this won’t magically make app folders appear on unsupported platforms. 

  • ForSquirel

    This makes me happy. I agree about making things tidier. We already do this in windows, Linux, iOS and android that it only makes sense to do it in chrome.

  • Kenny Strawn

    Now 7 pages of apps can fit on one… Yes!!!

    Definitely something to be proud of: organization.

  • Curtis Mitchell

    This isn’t as high on my list as desktop icons but it is certainly a welcome addition

    • Sebastiaan Franken

      Who still uses desktop icons? That would require a tonne of extra code and it’s not going to do much because people start their ChromeOS device and a new instance of Chrome opens automatically, so you don’t even _see_ your deskop. Besides – the icons in the launchbar would be pretty obsolete, wouldn’t they?

      Mind you: this _was_ how ChromeOS did it, in version 18 I think. Then they changed to the current “clean desktop” which I (and a lot of people appearently) like.

  • http://franklinc.ca/ Franklin

    Removing apps from folders does not work on my pixel. It is a very nice feature though and needed.

    • Ryan Karolak

      I have the same problem. It also forgot the folders a few times so I ended up turning the flag off. They seem to still have some bugs, but I’m looking forward to them finishing this feature. It’ll help clean up the app list.

      • http://franklinc.ca/ Franklin

        Yes I forgot to mention that it forgets which apps go in which folders. I saw someone mention a flag to sync the folders. I haven’t looked yet.

  • Stijn Berendsen

    Every time I restart my Acer C720 Chromebook, the folders dissapear and I have to put it all in folders again. So it’s pretty useless to me

    • Sebastiaan Franken

      Wait till it trickles down into Stable. Things in Dev Channel ofen break, or don’t fully work as intended yet. Besides, this is stated in the article so you could have known this before hand.

      • Stijn Berendsen

        Yeah you’re right, thx

    • Tom

      Yeah I’m having the same issue on the HP 14

  • Boothy

    I’m guessing the full functionality is only available in the dev channel atm.
    I don’t have the enable-sync-app-list flag available in beta.

    Looks very promising/useful. My 8 pages could really do with being shrunk

    • Kenny Strawn

      Only implemented in the Dev and Canary channels… for now anyway.

  • CAC1031

    I hope they also include a way to make a copy of an app icon so it can be in more than one folder at a time.

    • Andy

      This is the opposite of what they should do. The icons need to stop being treated as shortcuts or decorative features. First and foremost, they need to speedup and smoothen the user experience of the launcher (I can’t speak for Chrome OS, but it doesn’t serve as anything more than a fancy icon in Windows and OS X), and then they need to give users a good motive to use it. Furthermore, I would appreciate it if I didn’t have so many options when it comes to opening apps since I’m not driven towards a specific way of using them.

      I honestly can’t be excited with launching YouTube from the app launcher when it’s much easier to type the URL on Omnibox. Even when it comes to packaged apps (which, admittedly, are enjoying some good usage lately), it’s easier to just put them on a native launcher than go through opening the Chrome App Launcher. I think some smart-sorting would help this whole situation, but more importantly, the distinction between apps and websites needs to finally become clear; all Chrome Apps (packaged or not) should open on a sandboxed environment and act as one would expect an app to act in relation to everything else on the system.