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Enhancements Coming to Chromebook Expose (ALT + TAB)

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Expose, or the carousel of open windows that you see when pressing ALT + TAB is getting new features. You will be able to browse select a window using your keyboard.

Update: Video

First Look - Improvements to the ALT + TAB menu on Chromebooks
Chromebook Expose Mode, Now
Expose Mode, Now

Improved Expose

The ALT + TAB menu on Chrome OS will soon become a lot more user friendly. A code change request that I spotted today talks about handful of interactive features for the Expose mode.

The flag, named “Enable Alt-Tab interactivity improvements” adds the following options:

  • Mouse behavior
  • Three-finger touchpad swipe
  • Left/right arrow navigation
  • space/enter confirmation

The last two gestures will be pretty useful. Especially if you prefer using the keyboard instead of a mouse to interact with your Chromebook desktop. A related code change makes this clear.:

“Currently a user can only cycle the window cycle list using alt+tab or alt+shift+tab. Also, the user can only confirm their selection by releasing the alt key. This CL improves the interactivity of window cycler by introducing the following changes. Pressing the left and right arrows now move the selection while the window cycler is open. Pressing enter or space now confirms the selection.”

Three-finger Swipe

The first two features, however, are a bit vague.

My guess for the first one is that we will be able to interact with the ALT + TAB menu using mouse.

Now, the second one, three-finger touchpad swipe. According to the official article, it should display all the open windows. I couldn’t get this to work on my Pixel Slate, running the Canary channel.

Are they adding this now, or is this flag talking about an improvement?

The bug associated with this change is private. However, the change request has the following description:

“The kInteractiveWindowCycleList flag was already created on the ash-side but it was not linked with Chrome yet. This CL adds the flag, allowing users to interact with Alt-Tab using their mouse, different keys, and three-finger touchpad scroll.”

That also does not give away much.

Looking further at related code changes, we can see this:

cros: Add three-finger touchpad swipe scrolling to window cycler.:

“As an ongoing effort to make the window cycle list more interactive, this CL makes it so users can three-finger swipe horizontally on the touchpad to move the focus ring in the window cycle list.”

Does this mean, we can use three-finger swipe to browse through the list of windows in the ALT + TAB menu?

Touch Selection

Another feature, not mentioned in the current flag is touch selection. At present, you cannot select an open window from the ALT + TAB menu.

Here is code change request to change this behavior.

“As an ongoing effort to make the window cycle list more interactive, this CL makes it so users can select and confirm a selection by tapping a preview item in the window cycle list.”

Summary

As part of various productivity enhancement features for Chrome OS, Google is improving Expose as well.

We already know about a productivity-enhancing clipboard and screen recording. This morning, I also wrote about the new “Holding Space“.

Is Chrome OS getting back on track? Is the focus back on being the user-friendly, easy-to-use operating system again?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.



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