Google’s Chrome OS may be designed for laptops and desktops at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you need to use a keyboard and mouse to interact with the operating system. There are already two touchscreen Chromebooks on the market, and developers are adding a few extra touches to make Chrome OS more touch-friendly.
It’s too soon to tell if that means we’ll eventually see Chrome OS tablets or all-in-one desktops with touchscreens, it does mean you can ignore the keyboard on your Chromebook Pixel or Acer C720P Chromebook.
Pinch to Zoom
The first big update is support for pinch to zoom, letting you pinch two fingers together on a touchscreen to zoom in and out of web pages, pictures, or other content.
Pinching a touchscreen to zoom has been a pretty standard gesture since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. But it’s a relatively new feature for Chrome OS.
Google introduced an experimental virtual keyboard in the Chrome OS dev channel in May, 2013. It’s inching toward a full release and recently it’s graduated from an experimental feature to an option in the Chrome OS Accessibility Options.
You’ll still need to run the Chrome OS Dev channel to access the keyboard, but you don’t need to switch any secret flags on or off to find it.
The keyboard looks a lot like the physical keyboard found on most Chrome laptops, complete with arrow keys, a refresh button, and volume and brightness buttons.
While you probably won’t really need to use this keyboard on a laptop (even one with a touchscreen display) it could come in handy on touchscreen desktops or maybe even Chrome OS tablets… if anybody ever builds one.
Google is also adding a few new features to Chrome OS that could come in handy whether you have a touchscreen or not. For instance, you can now create new folders in Google Drive even when you’re offline (Dev channel only), and the built-in audio player is getting a new look and a few new features.