If you’re running ChromeOS and haven’t updated your device recently, you’re in for a great surprise: ChromeOS v117 offers a major redesign of the entire operating system and looks great! Here’s how to update and what’s changed…
The Chromebook experience hasn’t changed a huge amount in the last few years, even as new features have been added on a monthly basis. Flat, square-edged windows and not a rounded corner in sight have made it feel a bit outdated when compared to the more elegant Mac and Windows updates throughout 2023. Google has a lot of products and a lot of interfaces, however, which is why the company created its Material You user interface design and began applying it to its most popular products.
Finally, with ChromeOS 117, Material You has made it onto your Chromebook, and boy does it look good! At first glance, things have gained rounded edges, but there’s also an info card theme that neatly organizes sections of larger windows too, most notable on screens like the file browser. One of the most striking changes, however, is what Google calls Dynamic Color theming: It will pick accent colors based on your wallpaper!
To start, let’s get your system updated!
UPDATE TO THE LATEST CHROMEOS
I’ve written about this before, if you want a detailed tutorial on How to Update Your Chromebook, but you can also just go to “About ChromeOS” in the Settings app to check for an update. In the old ChromeOS (v116 in this instance), that screen looks like this:
You can see the old format with sharp 90º corners and a very plain, flat overall interface. I’m just about updated but need to restart, which is easily done by clicking on the “Restart” button. Once I do, going back to the very same screen in ChromeOS 117 shows just how much things have changed:
Utilizing Dynamic Color Theming, notice it’s picked up a pink/burgundy color scheme automatically from the Chromebook wallpaper here. This really makes the user interface pop and look far more inviting.
COMPARING CHROMEOS 116 AND 117
Now that the system’s updated, let’s compare some other screens and views, starting with both the Taskbar (I know, I know, Chrome calls it the “Shelf”) and Google Chrome. In this screenshot you can see my sunset over the mountains wallpaper too:
Chrome is in its own world in terms of colors, using a fairly dull grey. That doesn’t change (though a version of Chrome that supported Dynamic Color Theming would be really cool). Instead, note that the Taskbar (Shelf) has a barely visible contrasting second color on the lower right to break up the shortcuts, calendar, and mic control areas.
In the new Material You + Dynamic Color Theming interface with ChromeOS 117, Chrome doesn’t change, but the Shelf definitely looks better:
Notice also that the Notifications have moved to their own control (to the left of the date); click on it and there’s now a completely different and separate Notifications window too. A good update.
An easier place to see the differences is with the file system browser. Again, let’s start with ChromeOS 116:
Versus the very same window, but with the 117 interface improvements:
Notice how the entire view on the right side is now in a – rounded corner! – box, making it much clearer what’s going on, and that the “My files” highlight on the left is now fully rounded (versus the earlier version where it went clear to the left border of the window). Interestingly, the “About Chrome” highlight in Settings (see pic #2) still extends from the very left edge, but I expect that ChromeOS 118 will quietly fix these inconsistencies.
WHAT ABOUT THE SHORTCUTS WINDOW?
Another place that I think the Material You design and the Dynamic Color Theming work really well (along with some resizing of buttons that’s also part of the v117 update) is the Shortcuts window:
I really like the overt visual feedback of the time/wifi/battery shortcut color on the Taskbar (Shelf!) producing the displayed window and, of course, the more colorful shortcut window too. In fact, there are now four different highlight colors in use if you count ’em up, possibly too many. Still, it’s very attractive!
In summary, big kudos to the ChromeOS team for a really exciting update to the Chromebook experience with the release of ChromeOS 117. If you’re on an older version, you’ve got a treat in store when you next update your device.
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about operating systems for many years. You can find a lot more useful tutorials about Chrome OS in my Chrome OS and Chromebook help library here on the site. Why not check it out while you’re visiting?