Chrome OS updated with Aura UI, looks more like a traditional desktop

By on April 10, 2012, 12:00 PM

Google is hoping to breathe new life into its browser-based operating system Chrome OS with a visual upgrade that makes it look more like a cross between Windows and OS X. The new "Aura" user interface marks a departure from the original idea of offering a single maximized browser window and nothing more, by allowing multiple overlapping windows instead and a few other features supporting the familiar desktop metaphor.

The fist thing you'll notice is a taskbar (or shelf, as Google is calling it) that stretches across the bottom of the screen an provides quick access to a bunch of web apps and offers at-a-glance system information such as battery state, network connections, and time and date -- not unlike the one found in Windows. This shelf disappears when the browser window is maximized and reappears upon sliding the mouse pointer over it.

There's also a new app and bookmark launcher that serves the same purpose as Chrome's new-tab page only now it is presented with a grid of icons right on the desktop, rather like OS X's Launchpad.

All these shortcuts are still basically fancy links but now you can detach and re-attach tabs from the browser interface so you have more freedom to manage multiple windows and switch between them with the shelf. Also, windows can be resized by dragging any edge. Previously, you could have as many tabs and extensions as you liked, but they were always limited to the primary Chrome frame in maximized mode.

According to Google, Aura is a "user interface framework for Chrome UI" that offers "rich visuals, large-scale animated transitions and effects that can be produced only with the assistance of hardware acceleration".

The company also implemented multi-monitor support and better handling of compressed files and mentioned that Aura should "provide the foundation of a flexible windowing system and shell for Chrome and ChromeOS on a variety of form factors", suggesting that more Chrome OS announcements might follow.

Chrome OS was launched in late 2010 with emphasis on "speed, simplicity and security" hoping to ride on the success of its browser. Back then, Google also took some shots at Windows 7 for being bloated or providing more power than typical users need. Whether the latest changes are an admission of defeat or not, it’s clear that the web-based operating system hasn't taken off as Google would have hoped for, so we can't be too surprised to see the company steer the project into something a bit more consumer friendly.

The latest Chrome OS 19 release is being pushed out through the Dev channel and will be available for Samsung and Acer Chromebooks; owners of the original Cr-48 Chromebook need not apply.

Images via Google Operating System blog.




User Comments: 8

Got something to say? Post a comment
Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Well, you know what they say... If your radical vision for how things should work falls flat, just copy what everyone else is already doing...

psycros psycros said:

Vrmithrax said:

Well, you know what they say... If your radical vision for how things should work falls flat, just copy what everyone else is already doing...

Funny, Microsoft didn't seem to get the memo..their UI paradigm worked fine for most people and now their pushing a complete dog that nobody wants.

psycros psycros said:

LOL, and thus it begins!! Having tricked Microsoft into misjudging the market and creating a UX that disenfranchises most of its customers, Google prepares to sweep in and steal them all away. AS I PREDICTED NEARLY TWO YEARS AGO. Next step? Windows compatibility/emulator - probably WINE with lots of Google tweaks, beta to be announced a month or so before Win8 goes RTM.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

psycros said:

Vrmithrax said:

Well, you know what they say... If your radical vision for how things should work falls flat, just copy what everyone else is already doing...

Funny, Microsoft didn't seem to get the memo..their UI paradigm worked fine for most people and now their pushing a complete dog that nobody wants.

Heh, how true. MS is in an odd sort of purgatory right now - they are trying to make a radical leap to something like what others are doing (Metro), but still have a massive grounding foundation in the windowed UI world that most of their users seem to prefer. They are trying to reinvent themselves in spite of their own continued success. At least when/if Metro bombs, they already have the desktop UI to fall back on.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

Oh I see now where this is going... Windows 8 buries standard desktop - Chrome OS is here to fill up the void. Smart thinking.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

So now it looks more like a flavor of linux that it rightfully is.

Guest said:

I like it, I won't be using it, but nevertheless.

tmzt said:

Interesting, but so wrong. Information is filtered through a few third parties when the facts are in the Chrome wiki.

This isn't a response to a heavier desktop or an admission of a failed model, and it's still web-based. It's just web-based in a smarter way. It's a cleaner iteration of the Chrome source code away from a native OS or toolkit dependent infrastructure and to a third way, called Aura. Aura is a cross-platform windowing toolkit wrapping the native facility, but also providing a single compositor for all WebKit and non-WebKit components in the tree, so that WebGL and CSS3 transformations can be accelarated whether in a web page or in the chrome itself. This means that the desktop you are seeing could very well be HTML5 and WebGL though I don't know that it is.

It's interesting to see the parallel development of Android and Chrome, because they are actually moving closer together in a lot of important ways. Both use GL for rendering, possibly with a shared heritage in BumpTop a company whose mobile 3D platform Google acquired a couple of years ago.

The Chrome story is bigger though, Native Plugin has the potential to do everything that compiled apps do on other platforms. (Though the developer story is lacking.) I'm just waiting for them to make Raspberry PI like device overseas as a PoE to DisplayPort endpoint device and include it with every Google Apps subscription. Boom.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.