Chrome OS’s new tablet mode is a lot more like Android (and the iPad)

Navigate your tablet like it's a phone.

ipad pro pixel slate screen
Christopher Hebert/IDG

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Many updates have passed since Chrome OS introduced a proper tablet mode for convertibles with version 70, and while Google has certainly refined the system, it’s done little to fix its core navigation issues. The main problem: It’s kind of confusing. But the next Chrome OS update will go a long way to fix that.

With the upcoming version 81, Google is bringing a new way to navigate when you’re not using the trackpad. It’s similar to both Apple’s new gestures on the iPad Pro and the latest Android 10 navigation with three main components:

Swipe from the bottom of the screen to get to the home screen. Currently, you need to bring up the shelf and use the button on the far left or minimize your current window to return to the home screen.

Swipe up from the bottom of your screen and hold to get to your recent apps. This is exactly the way it works on Android and a smart change. As it stands, recent apps can be found by tapping the Switch window button on the right side of the shelf.

Swipe from the left side of the screen to go back to the previous page. While some apps work with a back gesture in Chrome OS (like Chrome, for instance), this will bring a system-wide gesture that takes the guesswork out of it.

pixel slate pixelbook tablet Michael Simon/IDG

Tablet mode in Chrome OS is getting some big navigation changes this week.

There’s also a new Quick shelf that’s accessible via a quick swipe up from the bottom of the screen. Also, picture-in-picture mode will now work for all Play Store apps, rather than just Chrome and Netflix. And finally, a new “a touch-friendly tab strip while in tablet mode” will let you see you navigate your open Chrome tabs easier.

While Google had previously paused Chrome OS updates due to the coronavirus outbreak, it has announced that it will be resuming updates this week, so the update should be arriving shortly. Chrome’s new tab strip, however, will take longer, debuting on the Lenovo Chromebook Duo with “the next couple of months,” followed by a wider rollout to existing Chromebooks.

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