Chromebooks get a step closer to Apple’s AirDrop with Chrome OS 91

Following Chrome 91’s release for mobile and desktop platforms, Chrome OS 91 is launching on eligible Chromebooks. The major update introduces a sprinkle of new features that’ll sweeten the user experience — here are all the important bits Google announced today.

Seamless file sharing between Chrome OS and Android devices

For years, sharing images and transferring files between your Google devices was a hassle. Starting today, Google is launching Nearby Share with Chrome OS 91, its answer to Apple’s AirDrop. You’ll be able to send and receive files seamlessly without sharing your contact information, keeping your transfers private.

We covered how to use Nearby Share on your Chromebook when it was still in testing and this now applies to the latest stable version of Chrome OS, so be sure to check it out.

Revamped media viewing experience

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The media player got a complete overhaul in this release cycle. Video files will play in the Chrome OS Gallery app, replacing the barebones video player with a prettier, more functional one. The new UI gains a QuickTime-like floating box at the bottom with all the controls in it: play/pause, scrubbing, system-independent volume, full-screen, and brand-new buttons for skipping forward and backward by 10 seconds.

To try out the new media player, launch any video from the file manager.

Apps badges

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Notifications are paramount to a product’s usability and productivity, at least when done right. Chrome OS 91 makes notifications less annoying with app badges, a subtle way to hint that something new awaits within an app. A small, colorful circular badge will appear on the top right when the app has a pending notification.

Since app badges may be distracting for some, you can turn them off by heading to Quick Settings > Notifications.

Offline Google Drive access

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Chrome OS 90 first introduced the ability to save your Docs, Slides, PDFs, Sheets, and entire folders from Google Drive for offline use. Now, this feature is rolling out more widely with Chromebooks running Chrome OS 91. From the file manager, click the file or folder you need access to offline and toggle “Available offline” in its toolbar.

New wallpapers

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Chrome OS 91 introduces a brand new wallpaper collection by 3D artist Leo Natsume. Digital illustrations like the one above have become one of the hottest design trends in the past few years — the colorful, cheerful characters are a great way to brighten up your desktop.

Check out the new Imaginary collection by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting “Set wallpaper.” Alternatively, you can download mobile and desktop variants of these wallpapers here.

Miscellaneous changes

There are also a few smaller changes that are new to Chrome OS…

  • There’s a new collection of animated avatars by the same artist, Leo Natsume, for your Chromebook’s login screen. To change your existing account image, head to Settings > Personalizations > Change device account image.

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New collection of animated avatars for Chrome OS

  • The Chrome omnibox gets a slight visual tweak in Chrome OS 91 to improve usability. When clicking on it, the URL bar has a blue outline that’s easy to see. Hovering over a search suggestion will show a blue marker next to it.

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Small visual tweak to the Chrome omnibox.

  • The login screen will no longer flash white when signing into Chrome OS. Small changes like this go a long way to making Chrome OS feel more polished.
  • Admins can now enforce that users connect to a VPN before logging in, allowing for secure authentication. The built-in VPN supports L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN.

Look for these new features when Chrome OS 91 arrives on your device. The update may take a few days to roll out to everyone, so be patient if it’s not available yet. Overall, this is a decent update with some meaningful new features — Chromebooks continue to go from strength to strength.

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