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Five Features Missing from Google’s Chrome OS

Google’s Chrome OS has come a long, long way in just a few short years — but is it as good as it can be? 

The introduction of the Aura desktop two years back brought with it a renewed interest in the platform. By switching to a more traditional looking desktop layout Chrome OS found itself in a more appealing position to those previously put off the ‘browser-centric’ computing experience it offered.

Now sporting dedicated apps for music playback, file management, webcam snaps, hangouts, note taking and more, with each release the OS becomes more of a drop-in replacement for traditional OSes. The ‘average’ user whose needs are met by online services, with offline features, are dutifully served by Chromebooks.

But it’s not perfect. Here’s a list of five things that, off the top of my head, I ‘miss’ in the Chromebook experience.

Desktop Icons

I’m a tidy freak; be iapp list folderst on my real desktop or the one on my iMac, I like to keep my desktop free of files, icons and clutter.  That said, I do use the desktop as a sort of ‘temporary’ space while I’m working.

On Chrome OS the desktop is…well, it’s pretty much just a photo frame with an App Shelf. While you can change the background, you can’t actively put anything ‘on it’.

Adding in support for this would, as a quick glance at most Windows desktops would show, probably get messy. But it would make Windows converts feel a little more at home.

Limit it to just files, maybe an optional trash can for nostalgia’s sake, and a lot of folks will be happy.

Consistent Application Menus

Bit of an odd one this but with the variety and capability of Chrome Apps becoming ever more sophisticated, the sorts of features on offer are growing.  And with more features comes added UI cruft.

A set of ‘Chrome App’ UI guidelines for app developers might sound like a limitation on creativity but they needn’t be excessive or compulsory. Just offer some light documentation on where best to place menus and lists of items (e.g., in a hamburger menu) and the Chrome OS experience will benefit from a bit of consistency.

Google Play Music Upload

Google has since enabled this feature. See this article for all the details on how to use it.

Google Play Music Logo

As devices primarily made for the cloud it make sense that users can set up, use and get the most from online service. Well, unless that service happens to be Google Play Music.

At present it’s not possible to upload music to the service, which lets you store around 20,000 audio tracks for anywhere access, through a Chromebook. You can play, but you can’t add.

Hope is not lost; browser upload code was found in the HTML of the Google Music website suggesting that the feature is, finally, on the way.

Jump Lists

As a Mac user I like being able to right-click on the dock icon of an open application to access extra options, like a list of recently opened files, or options for opening a new window.

Chrome offers this for the ‘browser’ app, but nothing else. It would be great if developers could hook into and integrate more with the desktop to provide similar functionality.

Additional Cloud Storage Support

Would you like to browse local network shares through the File Manager of Chrome OS? How about Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive?

Murmuring on the Chromium Issue Tracker suggests something like this will arrive in due time.

I think it would be beneficial. Yes, it has the risk of cannibalising the buy-in of Google Drive but with the killer combo of lower prices than its rivals and the 100GB free offer, I don’t think they need worry too much.

These are just five issues off the top of my head. What ‘features’ do you consider to be missing from Chrome OS?

  • Joe Montfort

    Yes on the consistent app menus, Google music upload, and jump lists. No on the desktop icons and support of other cloud services. I’m probably in the minority on those “no” items, but:

    The “desktop” isn’t a desktop. I think its function is better left to being a “photo frame.” With the whole idea of Chrome being cloud storage, I use the SSD and file manager for those temporary files. Desktop clutter is not the only negative. It requires a directory and shortcut system to support it, or else there will be two local storage locations that might not be immediately apparent to some users. After all this time, there are still a lot of Windows users who don’t know the difference between a desktop shortcut and the file or app itself.

    Linking OneDrive or other cloud storage to the file manager is attractive, but I think the “risk of cannibalising the buy-in of Google Drive” might be a bit greater than you think, especially among those who might be considering an Office subscription that includes cloud storage.

    • http://www.dahayden.com/ David Alastair Hayden

      You’re not alone. I agree 100%.

    • http://familyoffortune.com/ Caleb Lee

      I agree with you about the desktop. The simple photo frame is one of the things that makes Chrome OS unique. It should stay unique, and not try to copy Windows.

    • Denis

      I would love to link my Dropbox… I managed to max it to 22Gb
      Anyway, too many cloud storages can be confusing. (where did I save that file?)

    • Roger Siegenthaler

      Cloud storage is more of a monopoly thing going forwards if chrome continues expanding like it is ;). MS got forced to support other providers so google should have to do so aswell… And just plain old sorry but OneDrive is better for many things apart from collaborative editing.

  • http://www.dahayden.com/ David Alastair Hayden

    For me no to all of those except consistent menus. I use the desktop on my Mac for a temp workspace when publishing projects. But it’s not necessary, and I often go weeks without touching the Mac. I don’t want or need that functionality on the Chromebook. It adds cruft.

    What I need isn’t anything from ChromeOS but from Google Apps. I need track changes in Docs.

    • http://mikebudny.com Mike Budny

      There are new Add-on’s (located in the top nav of your doc file) that may solve some of this for you, specifically the one titled, “Track Changes”

      • http://www.dahayden.com/ David Alastair Hayden

        I was excited when I saw the Track Changes add-on. But I tried it out for a few days, and it’s a no-go for large documents with numerous changes. Specifically, it was incredibly slow and had a few errors on a 35,000 word document. I regularly work with documents more than twice that size. It was slow on my HP 11 and on an i5 Mac with 16 GB of RAM.

        So alas, I’m still waiting and hope. I can’t understand why Google hasn’t implemented them. In talking with a lot of people, track changes is a major hurdle to adopting Docs either professionally or in their workplace. It may be the biggest hurdle of them all. It’s the only reason I have to have a Office 365 subscription.

        • http://mikebudny.com Mike Budny

          disappointing but very good to know, thanks David

          • http://www.dahayden.com/ David Alastair Hayden

            I haven’t tried but I suspect it works well enough on short documents, like 5-20 pages. I’ll know soon when I try it with my editor on a short story.

  • ignasigarcia

    To me, one specific feature request that has ben ignored for ages is support to either the smb or nfs protocols. We all love cloud storage, but sometimes the cloud is not that far away.

  • Juan Carlos Cornejo

    For me, expanding on offline support for Google services would be nice! I don’t mean Google Docs, I mean the ability to cache offline Google Play movies/shows as well as some of my music, for those times I don’t want to waste my mobile data allowances.

    That, and a full screen PDF presentation view that does not involve simply maximizing the window. Though, I guess that can be done with an extension/app….and I suppose I should put my money where my mouth is and make one myself :)

    • Rickey Shortt

      Being able to “pin” Google Play Movies and Music for offline use is another pair of things that would be awesome! If they can do that with Android, it seems possible here too. That said, I got my Chromebox today and think it is awesome!

      • Rob Clive

        Agreed – I’d love to be able to easily access my music, and if I knew I was working offline for a while, download an album or playlist. And then use the same google player to run the music that is local to my drive – basically, make google music player more like Amazon cloud player for Chromebook.

        Or, since all of my music is on amazon – an actual version of amazon cloud player for chromebook.

  • Stefan K. Søndergaard

    I miss word hyphenation in Documents for speach manuscripts, which I make often. Hypenation makes reading much easier and it is a pain to have another computer open Word to print documents made in my chomebook just for that reason.

    Access to local network resources would be nice too. And a faster built in PDF viewer.

  • dourscot

    The uselessness of the desktop has always baffled me. They could offer desktop icons as an option surely

    • http://www.dahayden.com/ David Alastair Hayden

      Maybe the Chrome team is like me and goes days or weeks without seeing their desktop. When I do are it, I don’t want to see any icons.

  • JPB

    Find my Chromebook and Remote Powerwash. I know we don’t have GPS on these things, but even a wifi location could help here and being able to do a remote power wash would definitely put Chromebooks ahead of other laptop systems which require expensive third party tools to do this.

    • http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ Joey-Elijah Sneddon

      Oooh, that would be a good feature.

  • Boothy

    Desktop icons, not really bothered about, I have no icons on mine on Windows, but that’s a personal thing (OCD).
    Agree with 2-4.
    5, would love to see additional cloud support, but don’t know what the incentive would be for Google?

    I’d like some consistence between android and ChromeOS with regard the Docs suite and Quick Office. The full docs suite is great on ChromeOS, but can be tedious at best on Android (and limited), whilst the reverse is true of Quick Office (it’s not even worth the Beta tag).

    I’d like consistency of opening as a window or tab. I set everything to open as a window from the app launcher, but open a document from the files app or from Drive and it opens in the full browser. Window please?

    • https://fossreviews.wordpress.com/ Ads20000

      I have an Android tablet and I use Chrome on Ubuntu on desktop and laptop (Xubuntu) and on Windows 7 at school so I understand your frustration. IMHO Ubuntu is great because it supports web and full native well and it’s well on the way to converging all form factors – desktop and mobiles. But, ofc, as a regular OMG! Ubuntu! reader I am very biased.

  • Craig Jackson

    Samba support

    • jmpch7

      Samba, Microsoft VPN, NFS, AD integration… all the “enterprise” features that may be lacking (are WPA enterprise connections supported?)

      • brontide

        Yes on WPA2-Enterprise, but you sometime have to hunt around since Chrome ( like linux ) can’t seem to autodetect the outer/inner protocol settings. LEAP/PEAP/MSCHAPv2…. have to be played with before it will connect.

        MS-VPN ( PPtP ) is broken cryptographically and encumbered, I’m not surprised that it’s hardly supported anymore. Chrome supports L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN out of the box.

        AD integration can be accomplished if your company has google for business account and the identity management tools.

  • maevian

    Ac3 support is the biggest missing feature for me

  • Darthus

    For me… the primary missing feature is really seamless Word support. I know you can upload/view and convert in Google Docs, but that’s a long process and then there’s a need to convert back to send it back to a Word user. In my experience QuickOffice does a pretty poor job of conversion of existing Word docs with a lot of incorrect alignment etc. I’m surprised there isn’t a Chrome App, even from a third party, that addresses this issue more directly.

    Office is one of the primary apps that people use on Windows computers, and without having an incredibly seamless way to handle these files in an elegant way in Chrome OS, I can’t imagine they will ever be a viable option for many businesses, or even students.

    • Sambamamba

      OneDrive/SkyDrive app in Chrome Store. You get a lite MS Office inside that.

      • Darthus

        Is this seamless? By that I mean, if I click on a Word Doc in Chrome and have the SkyrDrive app installed, does it open it? My experience in the past is that you have to upload the file to your Skydrive, and open it through that, it’s like 10 different clicks and takes forever. Far and away from native editing on a chromebook. Though I understand why Microsoft wouldn’t be too motivated to provide such a thing on a competing OS.

        • Rob Clive

          It isn’t seamless, you have to use microsoft onedrive (7 gig free storage). I’ve been using Microsoft cloud products on my chrome book to see how well they operate. Works well, but not as seamless as google – which isn’t too surprising.

  • jason

    Featured needed:

    1. I would like to be able to create my own folder on the left side bar of the files menu so I don’t have to store all my personal files in Downloads. Not all of us care to use your cloud storage Google!

    2. I would like to able to customize the transparency and color of the app menu and other windows. The white/grey background is tiresome and boring and is too bright and hurts my eyes at night.

    3. Offline video/audio/photo editing.

    4. Skype

    • Wesley Files

      The downloads folder is not cloud storage, it’s completely local on your device.

      WeVideo Next, Pixlr Touch Up. These things are improving.

      I think Skype will eventually be web-based, or else lose market share.

      • jason

        Chrome doesn’t allow you to make your own folder for your personal files. You have to store them all in the Download Folder, which you can’t change the name of either!

      • Roger Siegenthaler

        Skype already is partly, try it out on outlook.com there’s this weird web-plugin thingy for skype calls and all… it’s weird to say the least but it shows they’ve done something :).

  • Peter

    Nobody talks about an important missing feature: Be able to use your Google Drive files locally without connection as I do in Windows.

    • Rickey Shortt

      You can make other files besides Google Docs available offline. In the file manager, right click (twice?, or maybe there is a key combination I haven’t learned yet) and you will see a menu item for offline to select. Definitely works with pdfs, but I haven’t tried it with anything else yet as I have only had my Chromebox for a few hours now.

    • miri

      Because it’s not missing. It just hasn’t been enabled by default until recently.

  • Smallwheels

    Google could destroy Microsux if they would just make a superior office suite. Why won’t they do that? Even Apple won’t take on that task. That is a definite feature I need from Chrome OS. They also need to make working with large files faster. Scrolling on a large file in Drive just takes too long. I must abandon such files and only work on them in a different OS (GNU/Linux) with local storage.

    External DVD/CD support is something that could potentially get me to drop all other operating systems.

    I like to use my desktop to store files for projects that require information from numerous sources. When everything is put together I can then put it all into one folder and move it elsewhere. I don’t need to go hunting for the data in other folders when everything I need is handy on the desktop.

    This also means I like a robust file system.

    Google needs to buy a service like Skype or create one. What they have now isn’t as good.

    • https://fossreviews.wordpress.com/ Ads20000

      IMHO LibreOffice comes pretty close to a superior office suite. At least – a fully-featured fully-native one for about £500 less than MS Office. Just use a desktop Linux distro that supports native files properly and doesn’t ditch them all for ‘the cloud’! :P

      • Smallwheels

        You are correct. I have been using it on my Mac and GNU/Linux machines for years. They still aren’t as good as Microsux Office. I want to remain in Chrome OS and not have to dual boot a machine with GNU/Linux. I really just want Microsux to die since they ripped off so many millions of people with Vista.

        In 2008 I got my first Mac Book running OS X. I loved it compared to Windoz of any kind. I stuck with it until 2010 when I tried Ubuntu. I liked it but it was a lot of work to get set up. In 2013 I focused on Ubuntu and made it my primary OS. I don’t even have a machine that runs any form of Windoz.

        I could keep using GNU/Linux but I want to switch to cloud operation. That is why I want Chrome OS to offer an office suite that is superior to Office. Why switch to Chrome OS if I must switch to Ubuntu in order to do great word processing or to create presentations?

        • https://fossreviews.wordpress.com/ Ads20000

          I dislike cloud software on the grounds that the company that hosts the software has to make money to be able to host it. I prefer native (or even just native with web technology) because I can pay for the energy costs. I prefer Ubuntu for its interface mostly, Chrome OS sticks to the traditional desktop layout which I think is grossly inefficient and Chrome and Android have separate apps. I love the Ubuntu idea of having a combined apps for all form factors while being optimized for all form factors (arguably unlike Windows Store apps) and they can be native (with the modern Qt/QML) or web (but the app is still hosted locally so that you don’t have to download the basic layout from each page each time (I know, I’m ignoring cache)).

          However, I use Google Drive’s Docs to do a lot of my office needs because my school uses Microsoft software, it does the job well enough for me and it even has its own equivalent of the HUD :)

  • Joel

    Can I type, great, I’d like to see the custom desktop wallpaper get synced, remote desktop for Linux and chrome OS the sync time speed increased, and one thing that was cool recently was that Google play books didn’t show up double on my account that was a great time for me, i’d also like to see hulu work with the chromecast, and the google cast feature sped up when casting a tab, also i’d like to see cast entire desktop work better.

    • http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ Joey-Elijah Sneddon

      The custom wallpaper sync should come at some point, surely? I mean, it could just copy the image to Google Drive and load it from there.

  • Wally Arms

    Definitely agree with Google Music Upload. I may be in the minority but I favor “no desktop icons” for a clutter free look. For my at home routines I would like to see the following improvements:

    1. PDF treatment consistent with the Chrome Browser on other platforms (I want to be able to open downloaded PDF files directly from the download bar instead of having to navigate to the files application just to watch them open in a browser tab). If someone has figured this out let me know!

    2. Audio editing tools – something along the lines of Audacity that works locally

    3. An “ALT-TAB” equivalent that provides window overview and lets you cycle through to switch windows (F5 overview is nice but having to use the mouse to select a window is disappointing)

    4. With the recent changes to the borders – how about using the window border to show which window has focus (I know that the heavy underline in the shelf shows focus)

    5. The option to dock the shelf at the top of the screen anyone?

    6. This is more a problem with content providers than it is Google Play (and a Chrome issue not just Chrome OS), but I think HD movies from Google Play should play in HD in the browser on HD compatible pc’s and Chrome boxes.

    From an Administrator perspective, connections to network shares would be a big plus – as would options for terminal emulation, database connectivity, etc

    Despite the above wish list I am a big fan of Chrome OS and think it has great potential. It is my main OS at home now.

    • Ty McNulty

      Go into chrome://flags and disable, i think it’s called, “Overview mode” and instead of getting the little tiled windows when you press the window switch button it’ll cycle through.
      Otherwise I second your wishlist

      • Wally Arms

        Well I see now that after selecting Overview mode you can “ALT-TAB” to switch windows. Not sure how I missed that one…

    • Rickey Shortt

      I don’t know for sure if this works with the Chrome OS keyboard, but it does with a standard keyboard on the Asus Chromebox – with Overview Mode still enabled, if you hit the F5 (a.k.a. Window Switcher) key to pull up the tiled view of all open windows, you can then hit Alt+Tab to cycle through them and then let go of the keys when the tile you want is selected with a gray box around it. This avoids needing to use the mouse to select a window.

    • BrowserBook

      Support for Wacom devices. Chromebook would meet all my day-to-day use needs with that one addition.

  • Kenny Strawn

    “Web Clip”-like desktop widgets are something I’ve been suggesting for a long time, since they would be very easy on something like Chrome OS to implement… oh, and also the ability to pin folders to Chrome OS’s Shelf.

    • http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ Joey-Elijah Sneddon

      That would be a killer feature for devs. I believe (iirc) that both Nautilus on Linux and finder in OS X can do this.

      • maevian

        windows explorer can do this also

  • Wesley Files

    I would appreciate some opportunity to pay for the CD/DVD/BR license to hook up an external disc drive. Maybe I’m mistaken, but couldn’t a third-party add this with an app and/or hardware? I’ve heard of non-Chrome-OS-standard support for things like Bluetooth game controllers via Chrome apps built on NaCl.

  • http://hughisaacs2.googlepages.com/ Hugh Isaacs II

    I’d love to see widgets and live wallpapers on the desktop.

    • shawnfranklinwashington

      I wouldn’t mind widgets… I don’t want icons/shortcuts/documents… but I would like widgets.

  • John McMine

    I want to use the ChromeOS but, I prefer Kali an Ubuntu for my desktop. So, maybe it can be installed for my notebook http://pembelajarenjoy.blogspot.com/

  • Andreas Trygg

    Banking id, or e-certificate or whatever it is called in English.
    BankID.

  • Daniel

    I am missing a special Terminal-application, better window management (especially better keyboard-driven tiling support), SMB/NFS-support, multiple desktops (come on, even Mac OS X finally integrated this) and better integration of Hangouts.

  • brontide

    Really? Desktop icons? We don’t even have a video player with decent options.

  • Joseph Simon

    GTFO with this desktop icon crap. Garbage talk right there!

    • http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ Joey-Elijah Sneddon

      No need to be rude; these were just ‘off the top of my head’ as stated in the article.

      • Joseph Simon

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude..just sarcastic in a sense.

    • https://fossreviews.wordpress.com/ Ads20000

      What one Earth is the desktop meant to BE for? I say expand the ‘App Tray’ into an ‘App Screen’ and use that as the desktop to actually make use of the space! I think that Microsoft made a move in the right direction with booting to the Start Screen by default because it takes you straight to the apps and content, it makes so much more sense than booting to an image with a bar of a few apps on the bottom and you having to click a button to bring them all up.

      (I have my Ubuntu Dash full-screen when it comes up btw).

      • Isaiah

        Like Windows 1.01, 2.01, 3.11. And, since I see you use Ubuntu, any way to get the Ubuntu Dash to come up when I log in. 98% of the time I hit the Ubuntu Dash button, so why not make it a log-in app, but I don’t know how.

        • https://fossreviews.wordpress.com/ Ads20000

          [Sorry for the late reply] There’s a possibility that in Unity 8 (desktop) it will bring you straight up to the Home Lens like with the current Unity 8 (touch). We just need to wait at least another 2 years. Not too long in the grand scheme of things imo :P

  • Joseph Simon

    I’d rather see an easier way to setup OpenVPN.

    • ForSquirel

      AMEN!

      If’ you’re not a drinker before setting up a VPN on a chromebook you will be after.

  • Peter Frazier

    i’d like to see options for android development that aren’t some hacks.. not that setting up crouton on an external drive is particularly hard, just that its a pain..

    once i picked up my first Chromebook (the sARMsung) a year ago i was hooked. Now that I have upgraded to the Acer c720 its an even better experience. Part of me would love to see a Chrome/Android IDE chrome app included. This to me seems to be a MUST HAVE if their are serious in the education sector. I’ve seen kids suck up web dev amazingly fast.

    I do disagree with the desktop icon’s, even on my work laptop i have zero AND i change display setting so my desktop is clean and pure..

    menu’s, list’s, and upload to google music are good ideas and they are coming, CB’s are still a work in progress..

  • HarrydeHarry

    - MTP suport for android phones

    - Google Play Music download/safe offline (like in the android app)

    - Offline printer support

    - A way to play dvd’s when a external dvd player is connected (For viewing specific dvd’s from the library that are not easy to find online)

    - Let ALT+TAB go trough the tabs and not only the windows, since I mostly just have one window open with a lot of tabs.

    • Wally Arms

      ctrl+tab will cycle through the tabs on the window in focus

    • Magneira

      Also ctrl + 1, 2, 3… will go to the tab of the number you select

  • Michael Morris

    Bookmarked web pages on the app tray, similar to how you can put bookmark shortcuts on the android homescreen.

    • Wally Arms

      You can create your own web apps which accomplishes the goal – but definitely a little more work than dragging a bookmark into the app launcher or shelf (and you have to install on each machine if you use more than one Chrome device). I find creating my own fun, but ymmv :-)

    • Boothy

      If you’re on Beta you can Enable #enable-streamlined-hosted-apps.
      This then lets you create Apps from web pages. Persists if you then disable the option.
      Doesn’t sync across devices as yet.

  • Martin

    I want support for synching with OwnCloud storage!

  • BrowserBook

    If they could somehow implement support for Wacom devices, I could meet all my day-to-day use needs with Chromebook. MIDI keyboard support would be great, too.

  • Joe Cassara

    I’d like File.app to support multiple Google Drive accounts. (No, I don’t want to use drive.google.com via Chrome).

  • supasympa

    Funny I have just finished working on a Tab Switcher Chrome Extension that I felt was a missing feature in Chrome … you can download it for free here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/tab-switcher/aefpepbidagmonnpdeokjljpmkbbhiee

  • Nathanael Revoredo

    Being able to mess around with Zip files would be nice.. lol

  • DRalis

    Google should do for books what it’s already doing for music. Why can’t we have a storage area for ebooks with a built-in ereader? Amazon already does it. Other than that I’m a pretty satisfied customer at this point.

  • RM199724

    We are also missing Skype support.