[Concept] ChromeOS Virtual Desktops - I could do better than that.

Virtual desktops are on their way for ChromeOS. It’s a feature that has long been a part of Linux, OSX and even Windows and, while it’s more than welcome on Google’s OS, there’s something about it that still bugs me.

It’s fair to say that Google has been borrowing a fair amount from Apple in terms of UI design over the past few years - the ‘almost-got-it’ gestures introduced in Android Q, for example, take a beat directly from Apple’s own gesture navigation even in terms of the visual style of the navigation bar itself. When it comes to virtual desktops, it seems Google are doing a similar thing. The desktop bar that appears at the top of the screen is near-identical in design to Apple’s long-running implementation.

ChromeOS virtual desktops as modelled by aboutchromebooks.com

But when it comes to ChromeOS, doing things this way can lead to clashes with how the system already works. Take a look at this excellent video by Kevin Tofel, for example, at the 59 second mark.

Swiping up on a window to assign it to a different desktop clashes with the gesture used to dismiss windows entirely; the user has to first move the window to the side and THEN move up to place it on a different desktop.

Well, I could do better than that.

In this circumstance, it is preferable to keep the swipe-up-to-dismiss gesture because this is a familiar gesture to how Android has worked to force-close apps since Android P. In a system using the same apps (now that Android is almost universally available on ChromeOS), you would want to keep interactions as similar as possible - so we want to keep the swipe-up-to-dismiss on ChromeOS. But that doesn’t mean we want to keep the rather odd idea of swiping sideways first to move a window up, almost as if it were having to unlock it somehow from its position on the screen. And we certainly don’t want to be in a position where moving a window up towards where the virtual desktops are positioned at the top of the screen actually dismisses that window instead - because that just makes no sense.

Instead, we need to move the virtual desktop indicators themselves. While in a system like OSX, many of the controls and indicators are positioned along the top of the screen, in ChromeOS everything hangs around the bottom of the screen: so that’s where the virtual desktop indicators needs to be.

Everything about the way ChromeOS worked before can stay the same. Sipe-up-to-dismiss still makes sense and pulling the window in any other direction lets us rearrange things or pull the window down to a new desktop.

Simple. Right?


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