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After a decade of Chromebooks, it’s time for Chrome OS to sort apps in the Launcher

I can’t believe it’s 2020 and I’m saying this, but you still cannot sort applications of any kind on a Chromebook.

When a new app is installed, the app shortcut simply gets added to the next available space in the Chrome OS Launcher and when that space is full, a new Launcher page is created with the next app shortcut appearing.

Chromebooks have been commercially available since 2011, although the CR-41 arrived in 2010, and they still don’t have what I consider to be a basic, “must-have” feature for an operating system.

In a way, I understand why. Everything at Google revolves around searching.

And when I worked at Google, I rarely saw my peers scrolling through an app launcher on any device, whether it was a phone or a laptop (typically MacBooks and Chromebooks). Instead, they searched for an app with just a few keystrokes, tapped the search result, and moved on.

But that’s not always how people outside of Google find applications on their devices. And more importantly, what’s the point of having a Launcher interface at all if you expect that everyone will just search for the app they want?

sort apps on Chromebooks Launcher

What has made this situation markedly worse over the past few years is the addition of both Android and Linux apps. At least for the latter, any Linux app installs made through Chrome OS get grouped in a folder called Linux Apps. That doesn’t happen with Progressive Web Apps or Android software.

You can create your own app folders and manage apps yourself if you want, so that’s something. But one of the things I like about Chrome OS is that the operating system doesn’t get in your way. Meaning: it lets you focus on doing things, not managing things.

So even a basic sort feature by type of app (Android, Chrome OS, Linux, and PWA) would a start. Alphabetical app sorting would be a nice option too.

The way the Launcher works now, I’ve actually started to manage my apps and ended up with 7 Launcher pages, some of them either empty or with a single app. That’s not very useful.

I’m sure there are multiple bugs (read: feature requests) for app sorting in the Launcher but I’m not going to search for them all. I did find this one, which is relatively recent and has 63 people following it. I starred it follow along too and if you’re in the “let’s get app sorting in the Launcher” camp, you might want to do the same.

Note: I’ve closed off comments for this post as of 8/13/3020; there are some in the approval queue that have devolved into personal attacks between commenters, which adds no value to the discussion.

author avatar
Kevin C. Tofel

40 thoughts on “After a decade of Chromebooks, it’s time for Chrome OS to sort apps in the Launcher

  1. I agree that alphanumeric sorting should be an option. But then you need the options of either always enforced or only when requested. What’s more important to me is that the OS remembers the relative location of app groups in the launcher and app shortcuts within the app groups after I move them. I think that’s what you call ‘self-managing.’ It seems to be doing that recently. I hate to admit this, but, when I search and find an app, I’d also really like the OS to be able to remind me of the name of the app group where I put the shortcut. ?

    1. I just want the drawer to have tabs for each app type i.e. a web apps tab, Android app tab and Linux app tab. This is quite essential for those who need to work with different tools for different toolsets. Example is 1password, where the web apps require the 1password web extension shortcuts and the Android apps require the 1password Android app. Having my parents trying to guess when to do what is a bit of a mess

      1. I really really hope Google listens to this! I’ve got my Mom in a Chromebook and she can’t find any of her apps unless I pin them to the task bar.
        The whole app drawer situation needs sorted out ASAP and is the biggest learning gap I’ve found for my Mom on her Chromebook.

        1. If most Google work thinks like you Google wouldn’t be there in a few years ! Just like blackberry !

          1. What are you talking about? I fully support Google dumping old products, apps, and services. The common view of consumers towards Google is Google never changing, but when Google does change they cannot be trusted because of the Google grave yard. Google cannot satisfy customers that expect everything perfect and free of cost. I am in favor for how Google is doing what it does right now, which is dumping old services in favor of new ones. Google moves forward literally because of people like me supporting them and building for them. Blackberry has always been junk, but Google’s service were on those devices just like ALL of the other tech out there…including Apple

        2. This one of Google disadvantages by employing this kind of person. Google management should sack him for spitting rubbish.

        3. You want me to get fired for agreeing with how Google runs it’s business? Really? Because I said someone downs k ow how to use a search button? You want to have me punished with no income for me and my family over that?

  2. It’s things like this that make me think at some point Chrome OS will get dropped. When developers at google get bored it’ll just be another project dropped. Google has little clue how to take products to market. They seem to just do everything, which is fine, but they need someone to lead them and market properly. I hope I’m wrong but I just don’t feel you can trust google to keep products around.

    It’s all well and good doing the exciting stuff like Crostini but at least get the work experience developers to polish off the rest of the OS at the same time. Then get someone like Steve Jobs to really make Chromebooks a success that will have staying power.

    1. Meanwhile Google has sold out of the pixel4a and thats just a pre-order. “Google will drop it like they drop everything” Some people are technologically illiterate so they don’t understand why Google drops old projects for new projects, or why Google merges products together. Chromebook isn’t going anywhere but up. Lots of schools use Chromebook. Maybe you should move over to Apple products. Everything is preset and spoon-fed to you

      1. “Google will drop it like they drop everything”

        Appears no where in my comment, please quote people accurately.

    2. Oh, I’m sorry. Let me properly quote you “When developers at google get bored it’ll just be another project dropped”. So instead of you saying Google drops everything, you really meant to say Google drops everything when developers get bored.

  3. Yes, it would be a great feature to have. However, iOS has the same issue with how apps are managed.

    From a use perspective, alphabetical (for easier finding), and sorting by installation date (troubleshooting) would be the most beneficial.

    Regardless, I find that ChromeOS “just works” better than MacOS or Windows.

    1. Yup, iOS has been this way since like, forever. However, in iOS 14 (I’m running the beta), apps don’t have to appear on home screens. And there’s a programmatic home screen that both organizes apps AND has alphabetical scroller. Even they see the light! LOL!

      1. I do wish that there was an app that allowed you to creat words into a circle or a curve without having to fight with making the making the curve or circle before hand.

  4. Asking users to know the “type” of the app they’re looking for would be a huge leap backwards.

    1. When your different app types work differently (i.e. web apps leverage extensions whereas Android apps use Android apis), knowing when to leverage off which is actually quite important. You can only do that if you know which app type is open at the time. I use 1password as an example, where when in a web app, you need to launch the extension for auto filling, but when in Android apps, you use the 1password api by calling auto fill

    2. That’s odd….. You can sort and arrange them on a Pixelbook so don’t know why they wouldn’t implement this on other Chromebooks seeing as it’s all chrome is?

  5. Well Android doesn’t either. The only time Android lists alphabetically is through third party apps.

    It would be nice if Google did right by their tech, instead of just throwing it out there.

    If Google wasn’t providing guidance Chrome OS would just be another framework, like Android. Google would set expectations as a reference and OEM would be free to abide by them, or not.

    So I can see why your expectations are high. Nothing with that, but I have learned how to take what I can get with Google. In an ideal world Google would treat Android with the care it treats Chrome OS. Or Google would deliver a Chrome OS phone.

    1. Am I missing something? It’s possible because I’ve missed things before but my Pixel sorts apps alphabetically in the app drawer. Love it. Wish my Lenovo duet and Asus 302 did that.
      Another frustration is I have three or four pages of apps that could easily be condensed down to one or two if all the spaces between app shortcuts would be filled. Why is it when you uninstall an app the other app shortcuts don’t backfill the blank space? Grrrr.

  6. It doesn’t choose the next available space. It isn’t that logical. I’ll end up with some pages with blanks and other pages with only one app. I have to rearrange manually. It’s a “feature” I hate.

  7. After two decades of relying on a menu, it’s time you grow up and just search for it.

    1. Typical narrow minded view.

      It’s the whole recall vs recognition thing… MUCH easier for many people to view the apps in some fashion (folders, scroll, etc), recognise the desired app and click, instead of remembering the name and typing it in. And the bonus of recognising forgotten, rarely used apps is lost.

      So instead of insulting people… grow up.

  8. My new chrome book launcher for really out of control as I started adding android apps. It was adding new pages with only two or three apps. Then it would add another page. I assumed “oh I can fix that later”. Eventually I just deleted them all from the launcher then tried to create five folders that make sense to me. Then I put the icons in those five folders.

    I even tried nova launcher. That didn’t work well.

    Tried Microsoft launcher. Also didn’t want to play with chrome os.

  9. It’s fine, It works great. All these requests and complaints I see indicate exactly how Windows has ended up so top heavy, slow and expensive to use. Go back to Windows if you don’t like it.
    Please don’t change anything. I love the ease and security of Chromebook.

  10. So Kevin Tofel, who owns a site about chromebooks, doesn’t even know what he is talking about. There is no possible way he has blank launcher pages because the page disappears if you move all apps out of that page. So obviously he had nothing to update his site with and needed the clicks.

    1. I find comments like these so depressing.

      Hey Kevin, I believe you employ some minimum level of moderation in the comment section… you know, for vulgarities and stuff. Would it be asking too much to have you remove comments from people who haven’t read the article?

      1. True, if we get nasty personal attacks between readers or language that crosses the line, I do trash those comments. And this was a personal attack but I’ve been writing online since 2004. I have a pretty thick skin at this point. ? He also called me on Twitter about this, which is his right but I did respond there, pointing out that other commenters have experience the same situation with blank Launcher screens as I did. To be fair, that’s not a common situation. Still if you’ve never seen something that doesn’t mean others haven’t or that I was making that something up. It’s like saying Antarctica doesn’t exist because you’ve never seen it and you don’t know anyone else who has either. ? Regardless, I made my Twitter response and I wish him well whether he comes back or not. I don’t losing sleep over these things.

  11. better still, why does it take two clicks to get the app drawer up, why not just one with a section for recently used apps

    crazy stupid

  12. Seems kinda basic, right? My work around is a pretty extensive use of app groups. Now everything fits on the first page, so I use 2 clicks to find an app. I had maybe 7 pages of Launcher previously, none of which were completely filled. It was a pain to manually move all the icons, but really only took about 15 minutes.

  13. Oh come on. First, my Chromebook (Lenovo C330) lets me reorder my Homescreen apps. But even if it didn’t, you acknowledge Folders are a helpful option. If you’ve got more than 1 or 2 pages of apps you should be using Folders anyway to better view and manage what you’ve got.

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