Google is creeping onto your desktop

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Date: Tuesday, May 13th, 2014, 08:51
Category: Apps, Features, Google, Software

Chrome canary logoThis isn’t the first time Google has invaded the desktop space of other operating systems. Who remembers the train-wreck that was Google Desktop? However, this time Google might have it right…or at least close. Some of you may be aware of Chromium, the open-source project behind Google Chrome, which has nightly builds of the app which may squash bugs, introduce new ones, or add new “cutting-edge” features, which may not be ready for the general public. When a particular stable version gets the ok, Google cleans it up and releases it as an update to Google Chrome.

What many of you may not know, at least I didn’t, Google has its own experimental version of its Chrome browser called Chrome Canary. Advertising “bleeding edge” features under consideration for Google Chrome integration, Google Canary hides the secret behind taking over your computer. Ok, so we’re not talking about a Big Brother or NSA level takeover situation, just the means to integrate Chrome into your computer experience to act like a handful of applications you already have installed. After launching Canary, you’ll notice a new item in your dock (my dock is on the left edge of my screen) called Chrome App Launcher Canary.


Chrome canary app launcher


Hopefully they’ll work on the name, but what this does is pop open a mini version of the web apps page that you normally see in your browser, and from here you can launch them in a browser window or as an individual app that will work offline, meaning it doesn’t require an internet connection to run.

Chrome app launcher screen

The offline apps are a fairly new thing, and they are one part of the integration with your computer. You can see in the launcher window, some icons have shortcut/alias markers in the lower left, while others do not. The latter represent offline applications that will open in their own window (but still requiring Canary to be running) on your desktop. The others will open the appropriate web page versions in Chrome Canary. Here’s the window from the app Caret, a text editor, which even has tabs for each document.

Caret editor window

Without Canary, you could still open a local file with the File -> Open File menu command, but here is where the next phase of the takeover is introduced. Google employee François Beaufort, announced on his Google Plus feed that there was an interesting experiment hidden in Chrome Canary.

François Beaufort G+ post

The command, chrome://flags/%23enable-apps-file-associations entered into the location/search field, brings up a set of options that can be enabled. Enable the Apps File Association and relaunch the browser. After that, if you click on certain files on your computer and select the Open With… menu, you’ll find that you will now have the option to open the document with one of the offline apps you have installed. The option appears in the list regardless of whether Canary is open or not, but of course once one of the apps is selected, it will open Canary and the selected application.

Canary file assoc setting


Google Canary file assoc


And there you have it. If Google’s way of thinking takes off, you won’t need anything but Google Chrome installed on your computer.

How do you feel about the prospect of dumping all your local apps and REALLY working in the cloud? How would you feel about Chrome being the required hub for all this? Should Apple ditch the App Store and turn iCloud into this? Let us know in the comments or on the Facebook page.



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