Released two weeks late because of the Coronavirus, Chrome OS 81 is now available with several new features for tablet mode.
“With the latest Chrome OS update, Chromebook tablet mode is simpler to navigate thanks to new gestures, the launch of Quick shelf, and updates to Chrome browser that are tailored specifically for tablet mode,” Google’s Alexander Kuscher explains in the announcement post.
Here’s what’s new.
Gesture navigation. 2-in-1 (what I’d call “convertible”) Chromebooks now support gesture navigation in tablet mode. You can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to get to the Home screen, swipe up from the bottom of your screen and hold to see all open apps and windows, and swipe from the left side of the screen to go back to the previous page.
Redesigned shelf. Google’s answer to the Windows taskbar now auto-hides when the device is in tablet mode. To view it, just make a small swipe up from the bottom of your screen. An when the device is in laptop mode, the shelf is now smaller so you have more space for open apps and windows.
Picture-in-picture (PIP) improvements. Google has extended support for picture-in-picture to all Google Play Store apps on Chromebook, and they will work in tablet mode too. “Now when you’re watching a TV show or video on YouTube, Prime Video, Hulu or other apps, you can minimize the video screen and watch it while you’re doing other things on your Chromebook,” Kuscher says.
Chrome browser tabs improvements. When in tablet mode, the Chrome web browser will display large, legacy Edge-like tab thumbnails that Google says are touch-friendly and in no way a direct rip-off of the legacy Edge-like tab thumbnails. This particular change is coming first to the Lenovo Chromebook Duet for some reason, perhaps they have put the Windows Insider team in charge of scheduling. Google says it will bring the tab strip to other Chromebooks with tablet mode “soon.”