How to use ‘Virtual Desks’ feature on Chrome OS


For the past couple of years, Chromebooks have been the absolute choice for students because of its affordability and useful features. It runs on the Chrome OS, which is based on the Linux Kernel and uses the Google Chrome browser as its principal user interface. Chrome OS is definitely not an alternative to Windows. But if most of your work is done on the cloud, it gets the job done.

Now Google has been steadily fine-tuning their Chrome OS to compete as an actual Operating System alongside Microsoft Windows and Apple’s macOS. The tech giant has recently launched the latest iteration of the OS named Chrome OS 76. It introduces a new feature that has been anticipated for quite some time now by the Chromebook users. As already seen on Windows 10 and macOS, Google is finally introducing the Virtual Desktop feature for productive and clutter-free user experience.

What is Virtual Desktop?

Virtual desktops, which Google calls ‘Virtual Desks’, let you separate the desktop into multiple desktops where you can organize and create app layouts and its own set of windows. You can have up to four desks at the same time in Chrome OS and switch between them quickly.

How to enable Virtual Desks?

The latest version of the Chrome OS is rolling out to most of the Chromebooks at the time of this writing. Make sure you update your Chromebook to the most recent version of Chrome OS. After that, swipe up to view all windows in the overview mode or press the overview ([]]]) key. You should see a new button in the upper right corner labeled ‘New Desk’. Click on it to start using Virtual Desks.

If you don’t see the option when you go to the overview mode, the feature has to be enabled manually. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Open Chrome, type chrome://flags in the URL box. And then hit the Enter key.

Step 2: Now type ‘Virtual Desks’ on the search bar.

Step 3: Click on the drop-down box next to “Enable Virtual Desks” flag, then select ‘Enabled’.

Step 4: Click on ‘Restart Now’ at the bottom of the page for changes to take effect. This will restart Chrome OS.

Warning: When you enable anything from chrome://flags, you can bump into a few bugs as you’re using experimental features that haven’t been properly tested. So be careful when you enable a flag.

Now if you are wondering how to use this new feature, we have a guide for you below.

How to use Virtual Desks Feature?

  • First, Press the overview key ([]]]) or swipe up to view all active windows in the overview mode. Now you should see a button labeled as “+ New Desk”. Click on it to add a new virtual desktop. You can add up to four desks at a time.
  • If you want to switch between virtual desks, press the Overview Key and then click on the preferred desk at the top of the screen.
  • Moving an app window between virtual desks is also possible. This feature can be useful if you accidentally opened an app window on the wrong desk and move the window without closing it.

Press the Overview Key ([]]]) while you are on the virtual desk view. Now click and drag the windows you want to move, to the middle of the screen. Then drag and drop it onto the desk you want. Just make sure to drag the app window to the middle first as Chrome OS closes the app when dragged straight up or down from the sides.

What’s next for Virtual Desks?

Currently, you can’t navigate between virtual desks with trackpad gestures or keyboard shortcuts. However, as reported by Chrome Unboxed, a bug note has been submitted at the Chromium Repositories which teases new keyboard shortcut commands to freely navigate between virtual desks:

  • Ctrl+Search + =: Add new desk.
  • Ctrl+Search + –: Remove desk.
  • Ctrl+Search + ]: Activate desks on the right (if any).
  • Ctrl+Search + [: Activate desk on the left (if any).
  • Ctrl+Search+Shift + ]: Move active window (or highlighted window in Overview mode) to the desk on the right (if any).
  • Ctrl+Search+Shift + [: Move active window (or highlighted window in Overview mode) to the desk on the left (if any).

We aren’t really sure when this feature will be added, but we hope Google implements it in the near future.

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