How to enable the new Chrome OS start menu for the Chromebook

A few months ago I created a video showing the new Chrome OS launcher app menu. At the time it was only available on the developer channel. The good news is you can now get access to this menu on the stable channel.

At the time of writing, we’re currently on Chrome OS 97. That’s the latest operating system version available, which is stable to use. The new start menu is not available by default, but you can now get access to this menu using a Chrome OS flag.

If you’ve not used Chrome OS flags before you’ve nothing to worry about. They are really easy to find, and should not cause you any issues. If you do come across any problems when enabling a flag you can simply disable it, so everything is reversible.

The current default app launcher menu

The current app launcher menu, which is available by clicking at the bottom left of your Chromebook desktop. Has been the menu we’ve been used to using for some time now. Although I don’t necessarily dislike this menu. There are some improvements the new menu offers.

One of the most frustrating things about the current menu is app icons are all over the place. When you install new apps they don’t look for the first available position. This means if you install and uninstall a lot of apps. You’ll soon find your app launcher menu looking a bit of a mess.

You can of course arrange your icons but this is pretty time-consuming. Also, things can easily get out of hand again if you then install and uninstall a lot of apps on your Chrome OS computer.

The new Chromebook app launcher menu

I much prefer the new app launcher menu. It’s similar to what you’d expect if using a Microsoft Windows computer. Also, ironically, it’s very similar to how the menu looked on Chromebooks many years ago. Instead of taking up the whole display, which I find rather frustrating. The new menu takes up a lot less space, so you can search for apps and still see what is showing in the background.

One huge advantage is you no longer have to worry about apps being located all over the place. They are not necessarily in any order, but you do at least have no gaps. This makes it much easier to find the app you’re looking for.

Just like the old menu, you can easily group apps, which makes it much easier to manage. It also improves productivity because you spend less time looking for what you need. It makes sense to group apps that are closely linked. For example, you could put all drawing apps into one group.

How to get the new menu on your Chromebook

To take a look at the new menu you need to enable a flag. To do this open your Chrome Browser and type the following into the address bar:

  • chrome://flags

You’ll now see on your screen something similar to the image shown below.

What you will see when entering chrome://flags on your Chromebook
Chrome OS flags on the Chromebook

In the search box at the top type the following:

  • productivity app launcher

It should then show you the flag ‘Productivity Experiment: App Launcher‘. This flag is labeled #productivity-launcher. Simply enable this flag and you’ll then be asked to restart your system.

  • Enable the flag
  • Hit the restart button

Your system will then reboot. You’ll not need to enter your login details. It should simply take you back to your Chromebook desktop. From here, if you click on the start menu at the bottom left of your desktop. You’ll notice the new menu is now showing. It should look similar to the image below.

New Chrome OS app launcher
The new app launcher for Chrome OS

Your menu may be showing in a dark theme, so it may look a little different from what you see above. However, the menu itself and how it works are exactly the same.

Interested in another feature you can now use on the stable channel? Take a look at how you can now add a built-in calendar on Chrome OS, which you can access from the bottom right of your Chromebook desktop.

7 thoughts on “How to enable the new Chrome OS start menu for the Chromebook”

  1. Never bought another Chromebook after they butchered the app menu, and won’t ever buy another one until apps are sorted either alphabetically or by type as they used to be. Nobody ever asked for or wanted a laptop with phone-style menus. That’s not how we use laptop touchscreens. Even Windows 98 had a better menu.
    This is a step in the right direction, but still vastly inferior to the original start menu, app menu, launcher, or whatever the name of the week is.

  2. Maybe they’ve changed it again but I can’t find/don’t have that flag (Feb 2023). I really want that launcher! I’ve got chrome version 109 but this Chromebook is a Samsung Chromebook Plus v2, maybe it’s too old?

  3. Ah-never mind. It works with the keyboard enabled, it just doesn’t work when the keyboard is folded back onto the tablet.

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