Google’s ChromeOS operating system has come a long way in terms of features. From support for running Linux apps to using Android apps, ChromeOS is practically as good as Windows and macOS laptops for work and school these days. Heck, with the rise of cloud gaming and Steam on ChromeOS, the best Chromebooks can be great for gaming too.
Even visually, we’ve seen the OS evolve a lot over the years with features like a calendar in the system tray. But there’s one big visual change coming in particular that’s just as important for ChromeOS. It’s the long-awaited overhaul of Material You.
What is Material You?
If you’re unfamiliar, Material You is the new design language used in Google’s latest products. It has been used on Android, as well as several other Google apps and services. It embraces emotion and expressiveness and makes your device more personal, in part by incorporating your wallpaper colors into the system UI.
Although Google hasn’t confirmed that it’s bringing Material You to ChromeOS, rumors suggest it will. Android has been using Material You for a while, so that’s a long time coming. Thanks to the playground that is the ChromeOS Canary channel, I was able to activate it on my Chromebook. Just because it’s in Canary doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be released, but from the time I’ve spent with it, I’m hoping Google will make it official.
My Chromebook is visually united with my Android phone
One of the main goals of Material You is to make your Google devices more unified – or, as Google puts it, “vivid and responsive for every screen”. This particularly appealed to me, a Google fan who owns a Pixel 7 Pro and a large collection of Chromebooks. After enabling Material You effects with the qs redesign flag, my Chromebook is a natural extension of my phone.
In particular, the most commonly used part of my Chromebook, the quick settings area, looks so much cleaner, lively, and vibrant. And all because of a few changes to the new design.
The hardware you redesign in ChromeOS makes my Chromebook feel like an extension of my Android phone.
For one thing, using the notification area looks like I get when I pull it down from the top of my Android screen. It’s cleaner with bigger sliders for brightness and volume, which makes my Chromebook’s screen feel more inviting. Cursors are no longer designed for just mouse clicks. It’s reminiscent of what Microsoft did with Quick Settings in Windows 11 – bigger sliders that look great and are nice to interact with.
I also like how these sliders and other areas of the quick settings can dynamically adapt to colors. It’s been that way forever with Windows 10 and Windows 11, and I’m glad to see the change in ChromeOS. Indeed, while this first Canarian iteration of the Material You redesign seems a bit broken at the moment (it doesn’t work with all wallpapers like on Android), the sliders in the Quick Settings area seemed to adjust to the blue-colored wallpapers I set. It looks amazing compared to the old solid blue line in both light mode and dark mode. Google even thought about switching between dark and light themes, and there seems to be a (non-working) toggle to the left for that.
ChromeOS now feels a bit more alive with this Material You revamp.
To top it all off, the quick settings controls are now pill-shaped tiles, where your wallpaper color spills over to the button. It’s been controversial, with another ChromeOS fan on Twitter telling me he doesn’t like it, but it makes me feel good. In particular, the switch to pill form means the Quick Settings area looks more useful and informative. The Wi-Fi network zone, for example, points to the drop-down menu from the right, where it actually opens (instead of down). It’s a little natural touch that I appreciate.
It’s not really part of Material You, but I liked that Google separated the quick settings notifications into its own separate area to the left of the date. It’s something Microsoft did in Windows 11, and I’m glad to see it now in ChromeOS. It was still annoying to click on the date to see notifications and also trigger quick settings. Now things are in their own separate space, which is great considering Android apps tend to spam notifications.
There are still a few changes I would like to see
All around, these are some big changes to see in ChromeOS. It’s exciting and refreshing for Chromebooks. There are still more I would like to see, however. It would be cool to see the hardware you deploy in ChromeOS system apps, like Settings or Files apps. It would also be cool to see the profile picture in quick settings (it’s removed in this Canary iteration). But what Google has done so far is a great way to further integrate my Android phones into my ChromeOS, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.