Category: Chromebooks

Chromebooks are ready for your next coding project

Tom Buckley May 8, 2018 Chromebooks

This year we’re making it possible for you to code on Chromebooks. Whether it’s building an app or writing a quick script, Chromebooks will be ready for your next coding project.

Last year we announced a new generation of Chromebooks that were designed to work with your favorite apps from the Google Play store, helping to bring accessible computing to millions of people around the world. But it’s not just about access to technology, it’s also about access to the tools that create it. And that’s why we’re equipping developers with more tools on Chromebooks.

Pixelbook Android Terminal.jpg

Support for Linux will enable you to create, test and run Android and web app for phones, tablets and laptops all on one Chromebook. Run popular editors, code in your favorite language and launch projects to Google Cloud with the command-line. Everything works directly on a Chromebook.

Linux runs inside a virtual machine that was designed from scratch for Chromebooks. That means it starts in seconds and integrates completely with Chromebook features. Linux apps can start with a click of an icon, windows can be moved around, and files can be opened directly from apps.

A preview of the new tool will be released on Google Pixelbook soon. Remember to tune in to Google I/O to learn more about Linux on Chromebooks, as well as more exciting announcements.

The best hardware, software and AI—together

Rick Osterloh October 4, 2017 Chromebooks, Google AR and VR, Google Assistant, Google Home, Hardware, Machine Learning, Pixel

Today, we introduced our second generation family of consumer hardware products, all made by Google: new Pixel phones, Google Home Mini and Max, an all new Pixelbook, Google Clips hands-free camera, Google Pixel Buds, and an updated Daydream View headset. We see tremendous potential for devices to be helpful, make your life easier, and even get better over time when they’re created at the intersection of hardware, software and advanced artificial intelligence (AI).

Why Google?

These days many devices—especially smartphones—look and act the same. That means in order to create a meaningful experience for users, we need a different approach. A year ago, Sundar outlined his vision of how AI would change how people would use computers. And in fact, AI is already transforming what Google’s products can do in the real world. For example, swipe typing has been around for a while, but AI lets people use Gboard to swipe-type in two languages at once. Google Maps uses AI to figure out what the parking is like at your destination and suggest alternative spots before you’ve even put your foot on the gas. But, for this wave of computing to reach new breakthroughs, we have to build software and hardware that can bring more of the potential of AI into reality—which is what we’ve set out to do with this year’s new family of products.

Hardware, built from the inside out

We’ve designed and built our latest hardware products around a few core tenets. First and foremost, we want them to be radically helpful. They’re fast, they’re there when you need them, and they’re simple to use. Second, everything is designed for you, so that the technology doesn’t get in they way and instead blends into your lifestyle. Lastly, by creating hardware with AI at the core, our products can improve over time. They’re constantly getting better and faster through automatic software updates. And they’re designed to learn from you, so you’ll notice features—like the Google Assistant—get smarter and more assistive the more you interact with them.

You’ll see this reflected in our 2017 lineup of new Made by Google products:

  • The Pixel 2 has the best camera of any smartphone, again, along with a gorgeous display and augmented reality capabilities. Pixel owners get unlimited storage for their photos and videos, and an exclusive preview of Google Lens, which uses AI to give you helpful information about the things around you.
  • Google Home Mini brings the Assistant to more places throughout your home, with a beautiful design that fits anywhere. And Max is our biggest and best-sounding Google Home device, powered by the Assistant. And with AI-based Smart Sound, Max has the ability to adapt your audio experience to you—your environment, context, and preferences.
  • With Pixelbook, we’ve reimagined the laptop as a high-performance Chromebook, with a versatile form factor that works the way you do. It’s the first laptop with the Assistant built in, and the Pixelbook Pen makes the whole experience even smarter.
  • Our new Pixel Buds combine Google smarts and the best digital sound. You’ll get elegant touch controls that put the Assistant just a tap away, and they’ll even help you communicate in a different language.
  • The updated Daydream View is the best mobile virtual reality (VR) headset on the market, and the simplest, most comfortable VR experience.
  • Google Clips is a totally new way to capture genuine, spontaneous moments—all powered by machine learning and AI. This tiny camera seamlessly sends clips to your phone, and even edits and curates them for you.

Assistant, everywhere

Across all these devices, you can interact with the Google Assistant any way you want—talk to it with your Google Home or your Pixel Buds, squeeze your Pixel 2, or use your Pixelbook’s Assistant key or circle things on your screen with the Pixelbook Pen. Wherever you are, and on any device with the Assistant, you can connect to the information you need and get help with the tasks to get you through your day. No other assistive technology comes close, and it continues to get better every day.

Google’s hardware business is just getting started, and we’re committed to building and investing for the long run. We couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to our second-generation family of products that truly brings together the best of Google software, thoughtfully designed hardware with cutting-edge AI. We hope you enjoy using them as much as we do.

The Google Assistant, powering our new family of hardware

Scott Huffman October 4, 2017 Chromebooks, Google Assistant, Google Home, Hardware, Pixel

Today we introduced Google Home Mini and Google Home Max, a new Pixel phone, a new Pixelbook and Pixelbook Pen, and Pixel Buds. Something all of these products have in common is the Google Assistant. With new Assistant features throughout the entire line-up, they’re built with the Assistant in mind, ready to help you get more done.

But let’s take a step back. Exactly one year ago today, we first introduced the Google Assistant, which lets you have a natural conversation with Google. We said the Assistant should be helpful, simple to use, available where you need it and that it should understand your context—location, device you’re using, etc. And that’s exactly what we’ve been working toward. So before diving into what’s new today, let’s take a look at some of our highlights from the past year:

  • Hardware that works with your Assistant—Android phones, iPhones, headphones, voice-activated speakers like Google Home and others from several manufacturers, Android Wear and Android TV.
  • Your Assistant in more languages and places—Google Home in the U.K., Canada (English and French), Australia, Germany, France and, today, Japan. The Assistant on eligible Android phones and iPhones is also available in Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and, coming soon, Italian, Spanish (in Mexico and Spain) and Singaporean English.
  • Smart home devices and platforms that work with your Assistant—you can now control over 1,000 smart home products from more than 100 brands, including August Home, Logitech Harmony, Nest, Philips Hue, SmartThings and Wemo.
  • Features to make your Assistant better—we’ve introduced Hands-Free Calling, reminders, shopping, shortcuts, step-by-step instructions to millions of recipes, and more. And of course Voice Match, which enables different household members to get personalized help on a shared device. So when you ask a question, the Assistant can recognize it’s your voice and respond with your news preferences, calendar, commute, and reminders. Starting today, Voice Match will be available in every country where Google Home is available (U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan).

We’ve come a long way in the past year, but we’re even more excited about what’s still in store, starting with what we’re announcing today. Here’s a look at what’s coming over the next few months:

Choose a new voice: The Assistant now has two voice options, starting in the U.S., so you can choose a voice that’s right for you. Try it today by going to settings in your Google Home app or Google Assistant on your phone and navigating to preferences.

Spend time with family: The Assistant will soon have more than 50 new ways for families to have fun, and with support for kids’ accounts managed with Family Link already on Android phones and coming to Google Home, you can have fun whether you’re on the go or at home. Soon, you’ll be able to say “Ok Google, let’s play a game” and go on an adventure with Mickey Mouse, identify your alter ego with Justice League D.C. Super Hero, or play Freeze Dance in your living room. You can learn by saying “Let’s learn” and then quiz yourself with games like “Talk Like a Chef” or “Play Space Trivia.” When it’s time for bed, try saying “Ok Google, tell me a story” to hear classics like Snow White and original stories like “The Chef Who Loved Potatoes.”

Manage your routines: Your Assistant will soon be able to help you manage your daily routines across your devices. So, once you’ve set up your preferences, when you say “Ok Google, let’s go home” your Assistant can update you about your commute, text your partner that you’re on your way and play your podcast where you left off. And when you get home, just say “Ok Google, I’m home,” and it will turn on the lights, adjust to your desired temperature and share your reminders.

Transactions: Over the next week, you’ll also be able make fast and easy purchases with your Assistant, starting with 1-800-Flowers, Applebee’s, Panera and Ticketmaster. So you’ll be able to say, “Ok Google, talk to Ticketmaster” to your Assistant on your phone to find and buy your tickets.

Broadcast: With the new broadcast feature, your Assistant can round up the family and announce to Google Homes around the house that it’s dinner time. Just say, “Ok Google, broadcast: come on upstairs for dinner in 5 minutes.” The best part—you can even broadcast from your phone to Google Home with your Assistant. Just say “Ok Google, broadcast: I’m on my way!”

Explore with Google Lens: We’re bringing an early preview of Google Lens to Pixel phones. At the start you’ll be able to look up landmarks, books, music albums, movies, and artwork, by tapping on the Lens icon in Google Photos. Over the next few weeks, we’ll add more capabilities, as well as the ability to use Lens in the Google Assistant. With the Assistant, it will provide a conversational experience for quick help with what you see, right in the moment.

Get things done with Pixelbook and Pixelbook Pen: On Pixelbook, your Assistant can help you send a quick email, create a new doc or get the details of your next calendar event. And with Pixelbook Pen, you can circle text or images on your screen to get more information or take action. Looking at a photo and wondering where the beautiful mountainscape is located? Circle it and let your Assistant do the rest.

On the go with Pixel Buds: Pixel Buds are optimized for the Google Assistant on Android phones, so you can play music, have notifications read to you, get directions or set a reminder, all without looking at your phone.

Control your smart home with Nest: With Nest Camera, you can say “Ok Google, show me the entryway on my TV” to your Assistant on Google Home and keep up with what’s going on in your home. Coming next year, with the Familiar Faces feature on Nest Hello, when the doorbell rings and Nest Hello recognizes the person at the door, it will automatically have the Assistant broadcast that information to all the Google Home devices in the house. So you can know who’s there right when they arrive.

So that’s what’s new with the Assistant. We’re continuing to make it more helpful and more available on new devices—whether you’re at home, on the go or somewhere in between—and in new languages and countries.

With all of the improvements built up over the past year, the Assistant can help you get more done and give you more time to focus on what matters. And we’re excited about what the future holds—with our expertise in natural language understanding, deep learning, computer vision, and understanding context, your Assistant will just keep getting better. Over time, we believe the Assistant has the potential to transform how we use technology—not only by understanding you better but also by giving you one, easy-to-use and understandable way to interact with it. All you have to do is say “Ok Google” to get help from your own personal Google.

Optimize your Android apps for Chromebooks

Android Developers September 7, 2017 android developers, Chromebooks, Featured, Google Play

Posted by Cheryl Lindo Jones, Mobile App Solutions Consultant, Google Play

As more Chromebooks are enabled with Google Play, now is a great time to optimize
your Android app for Chromebooks
to reach a larger audience. The changes
made to optimize for large screens will benefit mobile devices that are able to
project to desktop monitors, like the Samsung Galaxy S8. The current
list of Chromebooks
that can access the Play Store continues to grow.

There are several differences to consider when optimizing your Android app or
game for Chromebooks:

  • Larger screen sizes and higher resolutions
  • Multi-window and resizable-window support
  • Different hardware input methods: keyboard, trackpad, mouse, stylus
  • Convertible Chromebooks enabling use in laptop and tablet modes

Chromebook users can change screen resolutions, switch between various input
methods, and convert from laptop to tablet mode at any time, so Android apps and
games should handle all of these situations gracefully.

Discoverability on Google Play

If Android apps or games require hardware not available in a Chromebook (like
cellular capability or GPS), those titles will not show up on Google Play for
Chromebook users, similar to Play on Android tablets. Developers should maximize
discoverability on Google Play by doing the following:

Set requested permissions and uses-features in the manifest to ensure
compatibility
with Chromebooks. Not all Chromebooks will have touchscreens,
GPS, or rear-facing cameras which are typical for smartphones. Update the
manifest so that sensors and hardware not commonly found on Chromebooks are not
required. Example:

<uses-feature android:name="android.hardware.touchscreen"
    android:required="false" />

Additionally, to educate Chromebook users on any Chrome OS-specific features
that have been implemented, for example supporting additional input methods like
keyboard, trackpad, and stylus, or supporting large, high-resolution screens
with a responsive layout, developers should update the app description on Google
Play. It would also be useful to provide screenshots showcasing how well the app
or game works on the larger screen, or how the title works on a Chromebook
specifically.

Optimizing functionality

While most apps and games already work fairly well on Chromebooks without any
changes, it is still a good idea to explore how to provide an optimized,
consistent experience for Chromebook users.

Large screens and resizable windows

Chromebook users will be more inclined to multitask, opening multiple apps
and/or games at once, taking advantage of the screen size, and operating in a
manner consistent with a desktop or laptop form factor. Unlike on Android
phones, they can also change the screen resolution to fit more onto the screen,
or enlarge the fonts, UI, and graphics, if needed. Multi-window support and
fully resizable window support are key for this usage. Graphics, fonts, layout,
and touch targets should be adjusted accordingly as the screen resolution and
orientation changes.

It is also important to note that just because an app or game window is not in
focus, it does not mean that it is not visible. For example, if a video app is
open in an inactive window, it should continue to play content “in the
background” because it could still be visible along side another app window. To
fully support multi-window
usage
in this case, pause video in onStop(), and resume in onStart().

Targeting Android N (API level 24 and higher) will signal to the Chrome OS
window manager that compatibility restrictions should not be used. This allows
for more flexibility and control on the developer’s part for supporting window
resizing.

The system will handle window
management
best if Android N is targeted, but for pre-N API support, windows
can be toggled between either a default size selected at app launch, or a
full-screen mode with either the window bar visible, or with window UI hidden in
immersive full-screen mode.

When handling different windowing modes, it is important to know that the window
area for an app or game will be offset by the presence or absence of the window
control bar. The app should not assume that the activity will always be at (0,0)
in the window. Adjust the layout and touch targets accordingly. It is somewhat
common to see apps or games become unresponsive after a window resize or
orientation change because it did not gracefully handle the presence of the
window control bar, or the higher resolution settings of a Chromebook screen.

Orientation support

Because of the laptop form-factor, Chromebook users expect landscape to be the
default orientation for apps on Chromebooks. However, Android apps often assume
that portrait is the default orientation to support, due to the typical way
users interact with their smartphones. To offer flexibility to users, it is
highly recommended to support both portrait and landscape orientations. Some
Chromebooks are convertible, so users can change between laptop and tablet modes
at will, switching between portrait and landscape orientation, according to what
feels comfortable for a given use case.

Most importantly, if possible, do not require a restart if the orientation or
window size changes. If a user is in the process of filling out a form, creating
or editing some content, or in the middle of a level in a game and loses
progress because of an window change — intentional or not — it would be a poor
user experience.

Developers can monitor window configuration changes using
onConfigurationChanged() and dynamically handle those changes by adding this
line to the activity’s manifest:

android:configChanges="screenSize|smallestScreenSize|orientation|screenLayout".

If it is absolutely necessary to require a restart upon changes to the window,
at least restore state by using the onSaveInstanceState() method so that work or
state is not lost.

Additionally, it is important to be consistent with the app’s orientation as the
user is navigating through activities. Currently, the system forces Android apps
to follow the orientation of the root activity to help maintain consistency.
However, this may result in a situation where, perhaps an app starts out in
landscape orientation, and a login screen normally laid out for portrait
orientation pops up, and now does not look optimized due to an unresponsive
layout. Also, it is still possible to have a case where a springboard activity
starts out in an orientation that is different from the primary orientation of
the app. Please keep these possible scenarios in mind when designing the layout
for activities.

Finally, developers should be aware of the differences in handling cameras and
orientation on Chromebooks. Obviously, Android phones have front-facing and
rear-facing cameras that are situated at the top of a portrait-oriented screen.
The front-facing cameras on Chromebooks are situated at the top of a
landscape-oriented screen. Many Chromebooks do not have rear-facing cameras. If
an app requires a camera, it would be best to use android.hardware.camera.any to
access the front-facing camera, if a rear-facing one is not available. Again,
developers should target Android N and, if possible allow the app to be
resizable so that the system can take care of properly orienting the camera
previews.

Supporting multiple input methods

Chromebook users are used to interacting with webpages and apps using a keyboard
and trackpad. Effectively supporting these two input methods for an Android app
means:

  • Supporting hotkeys for commands that a desktop app user may be familiar with
  • Using arrow and tab keys and a trackpad to navigate an activity
  • Allowing hover and opening context menus
  • Supporting other trackpad gestures to enhance productivity in desktop/laptop
    mode

Something as simple as hitting return to send text in a messaging app, or
allowing a user to navigate fields by hitting the tab key will make an app feel
more efficient and cohesive on a Chromebook.

While there is a compatibility
mode
for Chrome OS to emulate touchscreen scrolling and other touch events,
it would be best to optimize an Android app by declaring

<uses-feature
    android:name="android.hardware.type.pc"
    android:required="false" />

in the manifest to disable compatibility mode in order to further define custom
support for keyboard and trackpad.

Similarly, the system can guess at giving focus to the right views when
navigating via the tab or arrow keys on a keyboard. But for best performance,
specify how keyboard navigation should be handled
in the activity manifest
using the android:nextFocusForward attribute for
tab navigation, and android:nextFocusUp, android:nextFocusDown,
android:nextFocusLeft, android:nextFocusRight attributes for arrow key
navigation.

On a related note, some Chromebooks do not have touchscreens, therefore
well-optimized Android apps on Chrome should not assume the user can perform
typical swipe and multi-touch tap gestures to navigate through an app or game.
If primary functionality cannot be performed using only a keyboard or trackpad,
the user experience will be severely impacted on non-touchscreen Chromebooks.
Try to “translate” existing touchscreen tap and swipe gestures into something
that can be easily done on a trackpad or using the keyboard.

Newer Chromebooks are gaining stylus support, allowing for richer interactions
for sketchbook and note-taking apps, photo editors, games, and more. Developers
are encouraged to use available
APIs
to support pressure-sensitivity, tilt, and eraser inputs. To enable
users to comfortably rest their hands on the screen while writing, drawing, or
playing games with the stylus, support palm rejection. The system will attempt
to ignore input from a user’s resting palm, but in case such erroneous touch
events are registered, Android apps should gracefully handle ACTION_CANCEL
events to erase the erroneous inputs.

By supporting all of these additional input methods, users will be able to take
full advantage of the laptop mode for Chromebooks to work more efficiently, or
to be more creative.

Learn more

While a lot was covered in this article, we have additional resources for you to
learn more about optimizing their apps and games for Chromebooks. Read our Medium post
with tips to get your app running great on Chromebooks and watch our
session at Google I/O 2017, Android Apps for Chromebooks
and Large Screen Devices
. There is also training material on the Android
developers website for building apps for
Chrome OS
. If you have any questions, reach out to the Android developer
community
and post with the hashtag #AndroidAppsOnChromeOS.


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