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Navigating the Chrome OS Interface

Navigating the Chrome OS Interface

What you see next looks a lot like the current Chrome browser—and it's the complete interface for Chrome OS. Plus you're logged into your Google account, so you can directly access all your web-based Google applications, from Gmail to Google Calendar to Google Docs.

As you can see in Figure 2, the Chrome OS desktop consists of a series of tabs. Any new application you access opens in a new tab; you can also open new blank tabs by clicking the + to the right of the last tab.

Figure 2 The Google Chrome OS home tab

The leftmost tab is the "home" tab. Select this tab and you see a listing of available web-based applications. Click any application and it opens in a new tab.

By default, tabs open and close as you open and close applications. You can, however, "pin" your favorite applications to the tab list by right-clicking the tab and selecting Pin Tab. When you do this, the tab for that application always displays, but with a reduced width and showing only the application's icon.

You can open any web-based application in a tab; the application doesn't have to be from the Google family. In fact, Google says, only somewhat jokingly, that anybody writing a web-based application is writing for the Chrome OS. In a way, that's true.

When you leave the home tab, you navigate to web-based apps and regular web pages as you would with the Chrome browser, by entering the URL into the address bar. As you can see in Figure 3, the Chrome OS desktop also has the standard navigation and customization buttons found in the Chrome browser, including Back, Forward, Reload, Home, Page, and Customize; these buttons work pretty much the same as they do in the browser.

Figure 3 Google Docs running in Google Chrome OS; note the standard Chrome browser navigation/menu buttons

As you can see in Figure 4, there are also a handful of new controls above the row of tabs in the upper-right corner of the desktop:

  • The first control displays the current time; click this to display a menu to change date and time options.
  • Next is the battery control; click this to see how much battery life and time you have remaining on your netbook.
  • The third control is for networking. Click it to turn WiFi and Ethernet networking on or off, as well as to choose a WiFi network.
  • The final control, when clicked, displays an options menu. This menu duplicates many of the options you find when you click the Customize button, with a few new options thrown in for good measure.

Figure 4 New controls in the top-right corner of the Chrome OS desktop

If you want to view all running tasks, right-click above the row of tabs and select Task Manager. This displays the Task Manager, shown in Figure 5, which displays usage info for each running task/tab, and even lets you close down recalcitrant apps (by clicking the End Process button).

Figure 5 The Chrome OS Task Manager—a little like Windows' Task Manager, but with a lot less stuff running in the background

When you connect a digital camera, USB drive, or memory to your netbook, a new tab opens that displays the contents of the external device. You can use this tab to copy files (to Google's servers) or open them in your (web-based) applications.

Beneath the hood, you can see what files Chrome OS actually stores on your computer by entering file:// into the address bar. This brings up a directory tree like the one shown in Figure 6. There's not a lot there; Chrome OS is a lean and mean little operating system.

Figure 6 A directory view of what Chrome OS stores on your computer

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