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Project Athena Unmasked: Chrome OS’ New UI


Just over a month after our report on the mysterious Project Athena the first working UI has been revealed – albeit in rough form.

Athena is a project bringing “a new kind of user experience” to Chrome OS, according to Googler François Beaufort. Indeed, all of the tickets we found in the Chromium issue tracker pointed to fairly radical changes in both the user interface and the fundamentals of the Chrome OS user experience.

At the moment, the “first draft” of the UI has only basic window management, but we can already see some of the elements previously discussed in the screenshot above, including an app launcher, card-based window management, and the alarming lack of tabs.

Chrome in Android L

Is Athena heading in the same direction as Android L?

The window management resembles the stacked tab interface seen in Chrome on phones and the recent apps list on Android devices. Similarities to Android are particularly interesting given that the L preview introduces a new activity model that makes Chrome tabs their own tasks in the Recents list. This could very well have the same reasoning as Athena dropping “tabbed content“.

The focus is now shifting away from the browser (or any app) to the individual tasks. As in the first draft of Athena’s UI, the focus is on the individual sites as points of entry for our various activities, not on Chrome as a window that contains several tabs for separate tasks we’re engaged in.

While it’s still a very rough work in progress, we’re starting to see more of the edge pieces of the Project Athena jigsaw puzzle fall into place. With Chrome OS getting some nice Android integration and the full-throttled move to Material Design, there’s a lot to look forward to as Athena takes shape.

  • Source link? :)

    • Heimen Stoffels

      Look at the bottom of the article.

      • It doesn’t appear in the Android App….

        • Heimen Stoffels

          Then you should file a bug report on that (just use the Contact page to mail Joey) because it does appear on the website version.

  • I’d love to know the design rationale for ditching tabs on the desktop, if that is indeed what they’re planning.

    • Roland

      It’s probably to make it look more like a proper OS (Windows, Mac OS X & Linux) don’t have a tabbed window UI so why should Chrome OS. I don’t think they’ll ditch the tabs within Chrome, just the tabbing of the Chrome Apps.

      • Joseph Dickson

        Agreed, I doubt they’ll ditch a design paradigm that’s obviously working in favor of a traditional experience that is languishing.

        I’ll admit that the first day I started using a Chromebook I felt limited, but after a week it feels natural to tab between running applications in the browser. In fact it works so well I’m using it full screen 90% of the time.

  • I don’t like it so far, but granted this is very early in the design. I’ll wait until it’s finished to judge :P

  • Ross
    • Heimen Stoffels

      My previous laptop, a Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13, also had a gyroscope and accelerometer but it wasn’t a true tablet (just a laptop with tablet mode). So this ticket says nothing…

  • Heimen Stoffels

    If this is gonna be the new workflow, then I’ll switch my Samsung Chromebook 2 to Bodhi Linux forgood. Too bad, because I really love how ChromeOS works at the moment.

  • Joseph Dickson

    This isn’t all that different than simply opening each app or tab in a new window. I’m guessing the “new feature is simply enhanced gestures and touchpad features.

    • Alucard291

      yeah and back in the late nineties we moved away from opening a new tab in a new window because it was messy and inefficient.

      And now we go back…


      • Joseph Dickson

        Give me tabs or give me death.

  • Ben Landvatter

    That looks intriguing.. as long as they code in a CTRL+ALT+arrow combination to move between them. (Think linux desktops)

  • Inquizitor

    I do not like this at all, looks like a completely gratuitous step backward in terms of window management. The stack card interface is bad enough on mobile but at least it makes some sense there.

    • Kenny Strawn

      It’s only supposed to be a mere window switcher (a la Flip 3D), under no circumstances is it meant to in any way, shape, or form detract from the window management experience…

  • Victor Joel Valdez-Hidalgo

    This is ugly! Don’t go Microsoft on us, Aura is what we want!!!

    • Kenny Strawn

      Aura looked just as ugly in November 2011, when it was just as much of a work in progress as Athena is now… By May 2012, when it finally got pushed to Chromebooks, however, it definitely grew to look awesome. Expect Athena to go through just as many changes before its public release…

      • Victor Joel Valdez-Hidalgo

        Yet that prototype looks similar to the final stages of Aura, that is what I’m worried about, but if this prototype comes out, all touch oriented looking like Android I’m jumping ship.

  • Alex Octo

    this looks ugly kepp chrome os the same but this is only in alpha , its uncomplete so let wait a see what the finished product is

  • moe

    hope they give it, its own unique look. rather then one size fits all. Like from Android to chrome os, there should be things unique to chrome os.. Its still early and good attempt!

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    No tabs in a desktop browser – dumbest idea ever

    • Will Palmer

      No tabs would be a killer for me.

      • view2share

        Would kill me too :o Kill, as in likely to sell the machine and move on.

  • Akshay Sharma

    Not looking good but in final design we may have tabs .

    • Boothy

      Tabs aren’t going anywhere.
      But they will be displayed individually on the app switched, as per Android L.
      Really can’t see how this will work on the desktop myself, but we’ll have to see.

      • Alexander Brown

        Personally I have always questioned the usefulness of tabs

        • DrMcLaser

          What ? You’d rather open additional windows ?

          • Kenny Strawn

            I would rather blur the lines between the Web and native (or native-like) apps still further, which is a feat Athena aims to accomplish by making web pages open not in browser windows but rather in Chrome app windows.

            Hardly ever do I open a new tab to type a URL on this C720, to be fair. No. I press the search key and type in the app launcher to search and open Web pages. The fact that an app launcher exists tends to make the New Tab Page, and by extension tabs, kind of obsolete…

          • Skid Roe

            why not?

  • Kenny Strawn

    Look on the bright side: Even if tabs cease to exist, app windows won’t be going anywhere in a million years.

    I envision the auto-detection of A, the presence of a keyboard and mouse/touchpad, and B, the absence of a touch screen, a la Windows 9 (Chrome OS’s Linux kernel does a profound job at auto-detecting hardware, to be sure) to determine whether or not the interface should be always-maximizing/Android-like or windowed. Supporting that vision is a flag (chrome://flags/#ash-enable-touch-view-testing) that enables a similar feature in Ash, one in which A, all windows must be maximized, B, there’s an on-screen button for toggling Overview Mode, and C, the touch interface in question overrides the on-screen keyboard flag to enable it by default.

    Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if the home card simply calls and loads a dummy page whose body contains only one <webview> element with the URL in question as its source in the resulting window (something simple enough for JavaScript to do) each time a URL is typed into either the home card or (when it’s finally implemented) the Ares launcher…

  • LiamTHX

    chrome://flags, don’t fail me now!

  • Bruh

    Though I like material design, I believe that this “stacked card” doesn’t look too functional. Space should be used meaningfully, especially so when there is a large canvas involved.