Dark and light themes in Chrome OS 88 are looking good on Chromebooks

Last month, I shared a brief video showing the progress of a theme switching function in Chrome OS 88. The feature is currently behind an experimental flag in the Canary Channel. In just a few short weeks, there’s been much progress: The latest Canary Channel version of Chrome OS looks and works much better as shown by the below Android Police video.

You can now switch between light and dark themes directly in the Quick Settings of Chrome OS without restarting your Chromebook. That change only arrived a few days ago removing the need for a system restart. I’m sure that the plan was always a quick switch. Changing themes of the user interface shouldn’t need you to restart a device.

And I think Google is making sure that it implements the theming functionality very carefully. Chromebooks got a “force dark mode” feature back in Chrome OS 78 that was eventually pulled due to system crashes.

I still say this is more a situation of Chromebooks getting a light theme and not a dark theme though. Most of the main user interface elements in Chrome OS are already dark, save for some windowed applications such as Files, for example. It appears that Google isn’t just adding the choice between two themes but it’s making each of them having a more cohesive look.

Even though progress is moving quickly, don’t expect to choose the light or dark side when the next major Chrome OS release arrives. This feature appears slated for Chrome OS 88, not 87, and even then it will likely be hidden behind the chrome://flags/#dark-light-mode experimental flag. Look for this around January 26, 2021, per the Chromium Dash release calendar.

About the author

Kevin C. Tofel has covered technology since 2004. He's used ChromeOS since Google debuted the CR-48 in 2010, reviewing dozens of Chromebooks since then. He worked for Google's Chrome Enterprise team from 2016 to 2017, supporting the launch of Android app support. In his free time, he uses Chromebooks to learn software engineering at Launch School. In 2019, Kevin joined the CS Curriculum Committee at his local community college.

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4 thoughts on “Dark and light themes in Chrome OS 88 are looking good on Chromebooks

    1. Some folks won’t care about this but many prefer a light or dark theme based on their vision, comfort level, etc… All other major operating systems (desktop and mobile) offer this, so I think part of the effort is keeping up with the market as well. Note too that a dark theme on a device with OLED display (only the Galaxy Chromebook for now) uses less power for the screen: Those black pixels don’t light up or use energy. That’s mainly why I use a dark theme on my OLED handsets.

    1. You can in one of two ways: You can either install an Android browser from the Play Store or you can enable the Linux beta and install any desktop browser that supports Linux.

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