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A clever way to bring widgets into Chrome OS

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Some weeks, Chrome OS gets so many new features, it feels like we’re practically drowning in possibilities. And man alive, is that ever a delightful sensation (even with the metaphorical lack of oxygen).

One part of the Chrome OS experience that hasn’t changed much in recent years, though, is the desktop environment — y’know, the Chromebook’s exceptionally humble home screen. Sure, the taskbar area (a.k.a. the Chrome OS shelf) has learned a few new tricks over time, but the desktop itself has remained vexingly blank and free from advanced functions ever since its inception.

That’s a stark contrast to Android, where the home screen is an all-purpose panel for both app shortcuts and interactive widgets. Widgets in particular have the potential to make so much important info readily available, and they’d be every bit as helpful in the even more productivity-oriented Chrome OS setup.

But despite all my wishing and summoning of magic virtual-genie spirits, Google has yet to grant us the ability to place widgets on a Chromebook’s desktop. (It’s astonishing, I know. I’m starting to wonder if my sorcery powers aren’t as potent as I’ve been led to believe.) You can install Android apps on a Chromebook, of course, but widgets? Nope. Fuhgeddaboutit. Not gonna happen, Horatio.

Or so you would think. Google may not officially support Android widgets on Chrome OS as of now, but with a little creative tinkering, you can build yourself a custom panel filled with any widgets you want and then make ’em all available from anywhere on your Chromebook system. It’s a custom Chrome OS productivity dashboard, essentially, and it’ll take you all of four minutes to set up.

Here, look — here’s a Chrome OS widget panel I plopped together in a matter of moments just now, with widgets showing my Gmail inbox, a Google Calendar monthly view, a Todoist task list, and a Google Keep notes collection:

JR

Once you get this thing goin’, my goodness, you’re gonna be zippin’ around and takin’ care of business like, well, nobody’s business. So crack those phalanges, grab yourself a fistful of crackers, and get ready: It’s time to treat yourself to one heck of a Chromebook upgrade.

The Chrome OS widget secret

First things first, to pull this feat off, you’ll need to snag the secret ingredient in our zesty and suspiciously greasy geek-stew recipe. It’s an appetizing app called Taskbar, and while it’s primarily designed for Android, it works deliciously well on the Chromebook side of things. So go get it — either via the dedicated Play Store app on your Chromebook or from the Play Store in your browser — and get it loaded up onto that stunning little system of yours.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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