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The Chrome App Launcher is a baked-in part of the Chromebook’s operating system and has been available on Windows and Mac since mid-2013 and late-2013 respectively.
It has got a reputation as Google’s version of the much-maligned Windows Start Menu. It certainly does have some similar features, but it’s also a powerful tool that can do so much more than simply open programs. It can make a range of web-based tasks faster, easier, and more streamlined – yet few people take full advantage of its capabilities.
Here we take a look at some of tips and tricks that will help you make the most out of the software…
Given that the Chrome App Launcher is designed and developed by Google, it should come as no surprise that it includes a built-in search function.
It works slightly differently depending which operating system you are using. On a Chromebook, simply press the search button (where the caps lock key is normally found) and start typing. On a Windows or Mac, you’ll need to open the launcher first, then click in the search box at the top.
The beauty of this search feature is that it does so much more than simply searching the web. It will scan your browsing history, the Chrome Web Store, your bookmarks, your apps, your contacts, and of course, Google’s auto-suggestions.
Pressing enter will take you to the first option on the list, otherwise just click on the entry you want.
A little-known secret of the Chrome App Launcher is its ability to include shortcuts to your favorite online locations.
Previously, it used to require you to enable experimental features through Chrome’s flags menu (a method we discussed when we looked at tips and tricks for Chromebook users). Now, however, it’s a fully-fledged feature – even though it’s still well hidden.
To add a shortcut, you need to navigate to the webpage you want to add. Once there, click on Chrome’s menu option (in the top right-hand corner), then follow More tools > Add to taskbar. Why it isn’t referred to as Chrome App Launcher is unclear.
You’ll then be presented with a pop-up box that will let you edit the title that’ll be displayed under your new icon. Click “Add” and the shortcut (along with its favicon) will appear in the launcher.
It should be noted that if you’re using a Chromebook you only see an option for “Add to shelf”. Luckily, there’s a workaround which I’ll come back to later.
Calculator and Unit Convertor
Converter and calculator apps/websites were a lifesaver when they were first unveiled. Thanks to the Chrome App Launcher, they’re no-longer quite as necessary.
Simply open the launcher and start typing your equation, and the answer will show up within the launcher itself – there’s no need to open any additional pages or apps. If you need a fully-fledged calculator it’s easily accessible – just hit enter and you’ll be taken to one.
The same process also works for an array of conversions relating to temperature, weight, distance, height, etc., but unfortunately it does not yet have the ability to perform currency conversions. It means you’ll still need to click on the Google search results or get a handy currency conversion app.
If you’re the type of person who has several pages of apps in your launcher, this feature is a real time-saver and organizational boon. It’s actually been around for more than 18 months, but in my experience very few people are either aware of it or take advantage of it; it’s probably Google’s fault for not giving these tweaks enough publicity.
Put simply, the app launcher can group your individual app icons into folders. If you put enough thought into this it means you can get all your apps on to one well-organized page.
If you’re using a Chromebook, using a combination of folders and apps pinned individually onto the shelf will make for a much smoother and faster experience.
Sync Your Data
If you have the Chrome App Launcher running on multiple machines, you’ll want to ensure that all the launchers are organized in the same way; it’ll prevent confusion and frustration.
Thankfully, there is an experimental feature in Chrome that will allow you to do this for Chromebooks, Windows, and Linux. Macs are not supported.
Firstly, navigate to chrome://flags in Chrome’s omnibox. Once there, find the option that’s listed as “Enable App Launcher sync” (hint – use Ctrl + F to find it, it’s a long list!). Change the setting to “Enabled”.
You’ll then be prompted to restart Chrome. Make sure you’ve saved anything you’re working on and click “Restart Now”.
Now all your Chrome App Launchers will be synchronized across all your machines.
Earlier in the article I mentioned a workaround for getting bookmarks onto the Chromebook’s app launcher. It makes use of this feature; just add the shortcut on your Windows or Linux machine, then enable syncing. Voila – it’ll now be in your Chromebook’s launcher as well!
What Tips Do You Have?
Have you found any hidden tricks you can do with the Chrome App Launcher? How useful do you find it? Do you think it has the potential to ultimately become the number one navigation tool on your computer?
We’d love to hear your input and opinions. You can let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.