The friendly little launcher containing all of your Chrome apps is being brutally killed off in favor of…nothing. Zip. Nada. If you hadn’t used the handy quick access Google App Launcher housing your apps, you’re part of the problem.
Google has cited low usage as the launchers main issue, contributing to its downfall. Simply put, its development is no longer sustainable (or, we venture, needed) across the major operating systems and will now be the sole reserve of Chrome OS.
When Will It Disappear?
Luckily for the apparently miniscule number of users actually putting the Google App Launcher to use, it isn’t going to immediately disappear from your system.
The gradual phase out will first see the launcher no longer enabled “when users first install a Chrome app.” Those users with the launcher installed “will receive a notice informing them that the launcher will be going away.” This will culminate with a final obliteration in July, when existing instances of the launcher will be removed.
The Chrome App Launcher came about during the advance of Google into web and desktop apps, exploring just how the lines between desktops and online environments could be blurred into a contiguous Google/Chrome-based experience. The users didn’t buy it, preferring to launch web apps through Chrome itself.
“The app launcher makes Chrome apps easy to open outside the browser, but we’ve found that users on Windows, Mac, and Linux prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome”
If you are an individual who enjoys opening apps from within Chrome, this can still be achieved by typing chrome://apps into the omnibox.
Are There Alternatives?
If you love the Google App Launcher and are desperately sad to see its demise, you should probably get out more. Finding like-for-like replacements for the Google App Launcher is more difficult than I thought (I had assumed the Chrome Web Store would be full of them!). Each of the alternatives I have listed allow you to faithfully launch your apps from within Chrome, but none offer the same desktop integration. Given the launcher’s integration with the major operating systems, this was always going to be difficult to replicate.
AppJump Launcher is a great replacement for the Google App Launcher. I personally like the option to group specific apps together which then appear in the app launcher itself.
However, I would like to have seen some more options for font and icon size. I can imagine that even with group organization, anyone with more than nine task or group specific apps is going to fill the launcher panel quite quickly.
Apps Launcher is much more basic, offering just your installed apps from an easily accessible panel.
While it is basic, you can change the color of the launcher icon, as well as alter both icon and font size. However, organization is via drag and drop which for any user with more than a couple of handfuls of apps installed might present itself as an issue.
The Omnibox App Launcher is something a little different. You’ll still be launching your web apps from within Chrome, but instead of opening a new panel, you can simply type “app” followed by “app name” into the omnibox.
The Omnibox App Launcher then lists those apps with similar names or relating to your search query. It is still basic, but if you’ve a large number of apps to search through this launcher will certainly save some time. Equally, if you constantly have to reopen one app this will negate a few extra clicks to get there. Quick and effective, this launcher is definitely worth a look.
A Taste of Things to Come?
Actually, yes, it could be. Users of Chrome are often largely happy with the browser’s overall performance, but that doesn’t mean improvements cannot and should not be made. One of the biggest Chrome gripes I encounter is its heavy system-toll, closely followed by its apparent sluggishness. Users are not wrong, and Google is all-too aware of these issues; last year saw the removal of the little used desktop notification center icon as it too was unused.
Is it a case of “goodbye, we hardly knew ye?” I don’t think so. Think about the thousands of times you’ve not used the launcher. Think about the thousand other times you’ve actively ignored the launcher, pushed your mouse toward the top right of your screen, and manually clicked the web app. Heaven forbid the icon is missing from the app drawer. That would be at least three more clicks to open it.
So, no, the Google App Launcher is unlikely to be missed, but if it is the heralding of a new Google era focusing on streamlining Chrome’s other flaws – I’m looking at you, power consumption – then I am extremely pleased to see it go.
Are you sad to see the launcher go? Is Google short-sighted? Do you have a replacement lined up? Let us know below!
Image Credit: Grim reaper by Fer Gregory via Shutterstock