Touchpad pinch to zoom will soon be made available on all Chromebooks

Touchpad pinch to zoom will soon be made available on all Chromebooks

Chrome OS, unlike Precision Touchpad devices running Windows 10 and 8.1 and newer versions of Mac OS X, doesn’t support pinch-to-zoom universally. So far, it’s been enabled on a handful of high-end Chromebooks, including the Google Pixelbook, Chromebook Pixel, Samsung Chromebook Plus, and Chromebook Pro. But that’s poised to change.

According to a merged commit we spotted this week in the Chromium Gerrit (Chrome OS’s open source code contribution tracker), all new and existing Chromebooks will soon gain touchpad pinch-to-zoom. It’ll be enabled by default in a future version of Chrome OS.

It’s history repeating itself. The Chromebook devices that currently support pinch-to-zoom, such as the aforementioned Pixelbook and Chromebook Pro, made an appearance in the Chromium Gerrit months before the feature came to the stable version of Chrome OS.

The new commit comes just weeks after Google added support for Direct Manipulation in Chrome, which lays the groundwork for smoother multitouch gestures on Windows laptops with Precision Touchpads. There’s no connection between the two, but it’s an interesting coincidence.

How Multitouch Gestures Work in Chrome OS

Chrome OS treats touchpads like touch devices, not mice. It’s one of the reasons for tracking, scrolling, and swiping tends to feel more precise on cheaper Chromebooks than their Windows equivalents.

Currently, Chrome OS’s basic mouse options and gestures, which can be found in Settings > Touchpad and Mouse Settings, include tap to click, which lets you substitute a right click for a double tap on the touchpad, and Australian scrolling, which inverts the system’s default scrolling direction (web content moves in the direction corresponding to your finger’s movements on the touchpad).

But those just scratch the surface. Chrome OS supports

  • Move between pages: a two-finger swipe to the right of the touchpad pulls up the previous webpage, and a swipe to the left shows your browser history.
  • See all open windows: a three-finger swipe downward on the touchpad displays all open windows, and a swipe upward hides them from view. (If you have Australian scrolling turned on, it’s the opposite: swiping upward displays the windows and swiping downward hides them.)
  • Close a tab: when your pointer’s hovering over a tab, a three-finger click on the touchpad closes the current tab.
  • Open a link: when your pointer’s hovering over a link, a three-finger click on the touchpad opens a new tab.
  • Touch scrolling: tapping and moving two fingers across the touchpad scrolls the webpage horizontally or vertically.
  • Switch between tabs: a three-finger swipe to the left or right cycles through tabs in the browser window.

Chrome OS has no shortage of multitouch gestures, clearly. But the addition of pinch-to-zoom will make the operating system that much easier to use.

About author

Kyle Wiggers
Kyle Wiggers

Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets or apps, he enjoys reading the New Yorker, tinkering with computers, and playing the occasional game of Rock Me Archimedes.