The latest software update is available for Chromebooks, adding 8 big, new ChromeOS 104 features. This release is a smidge late as it’s actually been around 5 weeks since the ChromeOS 103 Stable Channel release. Based on what ChromeOS 104 features are added though, I think we can give Google a pass.
1. The ChromeOS Monthly Calendar view is stable
Although it’s been around in various test forms for several months, the Monthly Calendar view is generally available on Chromebooks. You don’t need to enable an experimental flag to see the new view.
Look for it on your ChromeOS Shelf next to the time, wireless signal, and battery life indicator. Just click the current date, which is always shown and you’ll see a Monthly cal.
Even better, is that the calendar is tied to your Google Calendar data. So if you have an event on any given day, you’ll see a small dot for it. And if you click on that day, you’ll get some basic information about your scheduled events. To open the event in the Google Calendar Progressive Web app, click the event to see the full details.
2. Closing a virtual desk consolidates open apps
The ChromeOS Virtual Desks feature is now a little faster when it comes to closing a desk. Well, at least if you want to close a desk and still keep the apps on it open, that is.
In ChromeOS 104, use a three-finger swipe up to see your desks. If you hover over any desk, a close icon will appear. Closing the desk will now move any open apps from that desk to another active desk. Previously, you’d have to move any open apps to another desk if you still wanted to use them.
In the below image, I prepared to close the desk with the Twitter app.
Once I did, Twitter was automatically moved to my other virtual desk. This may not sound like a huge, positive change, but more Virtual Desk enhancements are in the works.
3. Native PDF annotations in the Gallery app
This feature was pre-announced by Google last month so it’s not a surprise. It’s useful enough, however, that it’s worth a second mention. You can now sign or annotate a PDF directly within the ChromeOS Gallery app.
While you can mark up a PDF with a finger and touchscreen, this feature brings benefits to having a stylus-capable Chromebook. And the stylus too, of course. You might not have a device that supports a stylus now but keep in mind: Many new Chromebooks will support a USI stylus. You can also find a list of Chromebooks that already have USI Stylus support here.
4. Google Play Store results in Launcher searches
I covered this feature previously when it was still experimental but it’s available for everyone now. And if you use Android apps on your Chromebook, this is a great feature. When using the Launcher in ChromeOS 104 to search, you’ll see relevant results from the Google Play Store included.
5. Animated screen saver with Google Photos support
I wrote about this a few months back when I enabled the animated screen saver feature in the ChromeOS Dev Channel. After a few releases, this one is among the new ChromeOS 104 features.
There’s no need to use an experimental flag. Just right-click your Chromebook’s Desktop and select the “Set wallpaper and style” option to see the new screen saver interface.
Select the “Turn on” button to see your screen saver options. Here I’m using a Google Photos album of my dog, Norm, along with one of the two new animated screen savers.
6. Chrome Remote Desktop supports multiple displays
Up until now, if you used the Chrome Remote Desktop to connect to another computer, you could only view the main display on that device. With ChromeOS 104, you can seamlessly switch between multiple displays that are connected to the remote device.
7. Grouped notification improvements
Google is also touting a leaner and meaner ChromeOS notification feature in this release. Notifications from multiple senders, presumably of the same notification type, are grouped together.
8. A working Dark Theme is finally here
It seems like Google has been working to add a Dark Theme to Chromebooks for at least a year. Oh, it’s actually been even longer: Almost two years.
Finally, this feature is fully baked. You can choose from a Light or Dark theme and even have your Chromebook automatically change between the two, based on the time of day. The settings are in the same “Wallpaper and style” options as the animated screen saver.
What’s coming in ChromeOS 105 and 106
There are a few more new ChromeOS 104 features here and there, most of them being small by comparison. However, Google has tipped its hand by sharing expected launch dates for some other features.
The Chromebook video editing support announced last month will arrive “as early as ChromeOS 106”, for example. And an adaptive charging function could be here sooner. Google says as soon as ChromeOS 105, which is just four or so weeks away.
When it does, ChromeOS will “analyze your device usage patterns and keep your battery working in the optimal charge range to avoid overcharging thereby delaying battery deterioration.”