How to test drive the exciting new Chrome OS Productivity Launcher

If you are unhappy with the default Chromebook menu / app launcher, there is an experimental option in the dev channel that you can try. Jack Wallen shows you how.

Photo: iStockphoto / Savusia Konstantin

Chromebooks love the cloud, and Google has gone to great lengths to make the intersection between hardware and cloud seamless. That does not mean you can not enjoy a more traditional approach to the interface.

One thing that has bothered me about Chrome OS for some time is the app menu. It seems that Google has always wanted to force a more mobile interface to users who were probably more at home with the tried and true desktop metaphor. So when Google teased a possible new “Productivity Launcher”, I was all ears.

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Before I continue, be aware that Productivity Launcher is currently only available on the ChromeOS dev channel. So if you use a channel other than dev, you can not test Productivity Launcher. To find out how to change your ChromeOS channel, read How to change channels on your Chromebook.

This new launcher makes it much easier to access your shortcuts, your content, device settings and more. And because it’s laid out more like a traditional desktop menu, it’s much easier for most people to use. In fact, I would say that when you get a taste of this launcher, you will wonder why Google did not go with it over the current method.

With that out of the way, let me show you how to enable Productivity Launcher.

What you need

Like I said before, you need a Chromebook running the dev channel. Other than that, it’s just a matter of activating the feature.

How to activate the productivity starter

Sign in to your Chromebook and launch Chrome. In the omnibar (also known as the address bar) type:

chrome://flags/#productivity-launcher​

In the resulting window (Figure A), click the drop-down menu associated with Productivity Experiment: Appstarter.

Figure A

productivity launcher.jpg

Enabling the experimental app launcher in ChromeOS.

You will then be prompted to restart your Chromebook. Do so and log in again. After logging in again, click on the menu button in the lower left corner of the desktop to reveal the new launcher (Figure B).

Figure B

productivity launcherb.jpg

The experimental Productivity Launcher in action.

You can launch any of your apps, open saved files and search for just about anything in this new launcher.

I am reasonably convinced that any user type will find this new launcher much more efficient than what Google is currently offering. Hopefully, those who make Chrome OS decisions will agree and make this experiment the default in the near future.

If you try this and you do not like it, you can always undo it by following the same steps to enable it, just select Disabled from the drop-down menu and then restart your Chromebook.

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