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Google Adds New ‘Side Dock’, Virtual Keyboard To Chrome OS

Google has updated the stable channel of Chrome OS with a handful of minor new desktop features.

Version 34 of the cloud-centric operating system, the first major update since version 33 this past February, is rolling out to all Chromebook, Chromebox and Chromebase devices as of today, Google say.

But while the usual speed, stability and security improvements that each stable update brings remains more than welcome, it is the new functionality arriving on the desktop that most users will be looking forward to.

Side Dock

The side dock is new in Chrome 34. It’s a small area to the edge of the screen in which users can ‘dock’ small windows or panel apps into. Windows placed in the side dock are all “automatically managed”, say Google.

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Only applications or windows that are a certain width can be ‘docked’ to an edge. Perhaps best thought of as a more stringent version of the ‘snap’ feature, which allows windows to automatically ‘fit’ side-by-side rather than an entirely new feature.

When used with responsive websites, like Twitter, the side dock really comes into its own.

The side dock manages windows automatically and allows several apps to be docked, but shown one at a time.

Offline Mode By Default

The update also enables Google Drive offline backup by default after the first login, a change which will help prevent users inadvertently losing saved photos and documents.

Keyboards

Two fairly big keyboard changes arrive in Chrome OS 34. The first, sticky keys, means users can now enter keyboard shortcuts (e.g., Ctrl+Alt+M or Alt+Tab) in sequence rather than, as is default behaviour, simultaneously.

Also new is an onscreen keyboard to allow touchscreen Chromebook owners to type sans physical keyboard or those with accessibility needs to use a supported pointing device. The keyboard provides a row of function keys – like volume, brightness and window management – commonly found on physical Chromebook keyboards to further extend its usefulness.

Chrome OS Keyboard

Getting Chrome OS 34

Google Chrome OS 34, rolling out through the stable channel now, will be downloaded automatically as you use your device. To force check for the update enter chrome://chrome in the URL bar.