ChromeOS 103 rolled out a few weeks ago, but this update wasn’t just another security update with a few tweaks here and there. Instead, it introduced the Chromebook community to a few key new features that aren’t just impressive as living room tricks: they are also extremely useful. So useful, in fact, that I’ve already adopted a few regularly into my workflow.
For me, the 3 big new features that are now part of the general ChromeOS experience are Screencast, recent photos and Fast Pair. Although Fast Pair won’t officially roll out until a little later (hopefully the next ChromeOS update), the basics are there if you want to enable the flags and use them. I’ll tell you this: if Fast Pair isn’t ready and available when the Pixel Buds Pro ship later this month, I’ll activate those flags to take full advantage of it. Having your accessories paired quickly is a nice perk, but keeping them paired on all devices is the most enjoyable part of this new feature.
The 2 fantastic new features that I have already started using
The big features that have already become commonplace for me are Screencast and the Recent Photos section of Phone Hub. For the Recent Photos feature, the use case is quite simple and clear, giving users instant access to the latest photos they have processed on their portable devices. The best part about it is the fact that it doesn’t just limit you to camera roll (photos taken with the phone’s camera), but also features photos of apps you use as well.
It is interesting in several respects. First, it allows you to have very quick access to a photo that may have been sent to you in a messaging app that you want to quickly use in another app or service. For example, while writing this article, Gabriel sent me a photo of a smoking pig on his Traeger in WhatsApp. I immediately saw this in my Recent Photos section of the Phone Hub and can forward it to a group on Discord without needing to go find the image.
But most useful is the fact that this feature also extends to Google Photos, allowing me to take a photo on my Pixel 6 Pro, quickly edit it in Google Photos, and see the edited version in my recent photos to share in chat, social media, or in a new post. It’s so convenient and will be a feature I’ll wonder how I ever lived without for the very near future.
The second feature that I am learning to absolutely love is Screencast. We already made a full video about it, because it’s an amazing service created by Google, but the news with ChromeOS 103 is the fact that it’s now available for all ChromeOS users. And let me tell you, yYou should use it! Screencast gives you the option to create a long or short presentation that is incredibly useful to the person(s) receiving it.
With tools for on-screen annotations, a full (automatic) searchable transcript, and an included PIP webcam overlay, Screencast makes it easy to instruct and share complex ideas. Everything syncs with your Google account and can also be shared and edited like a Google document. It’s an amazing tool that I’ve only needed once so far since it arrived, but I will 100% use it regularly whenever some remote explanation or instruction is needed. It really is an awesome tool.
And for an operating system that gets a new update every 4 weeks, here are some valuable new features we have as Chromebook users. With the faster 4 week turnaround time on new versions of ChromeOS, I figured we’d be leaving feature-rich updates behind and swapping them out for small tweaks every time a new version came along. . So far, that’s just not the case, and the ChromeOS team is just breaking it down with some useful new features to go along with some of the nicest Chromebooks we’ve ever seen hit the market. It makes me excited for what’s next, and even more excited that we don’t have too long to wait.