The Chrome App Launcher

Martin Brinkmann
May 3, 2013
Updated • May 3, 2013
Google Chrome

Did you know that the Chrome Web Store displays different contents based on the browser that you are using? I opened it in Chrome's Canary version today and noticed that Apps were only shown as a single group on the website. All apps linking to a website that were previously displayed here have been moved to the websites group where you find them now. The stable version of Chrome on the other hand displays app categories on the store front that you can browse to narrow down your search, much like you can in the new websites group if you open the store in Chrome Canary or Dev.

Google has started to differentiate between apps that link to a website (now sorted into the websites category) and so called packaged apps. The core difference? Packaged apps can interact with Chrome APIs and services that websites cannot.

That's however not the only change between the two versions of the Google Chrome browser. When you add an application to Chrome Canary, you receive an "Introducing the Chrome App Launcher" intermediary page while you do not get that page when you add apps to Chrome Stable.

Here is a screenshot of how it looks right now:

introducing the chrome app launcher

Introducing the Chrome App Launcher

Sign in to Chrome to

  • Launch your apps from the desktop
  • Sign into all apps that use Google identity
  • Sync your apps, bookmarks, history, passwords and other settings across devices

A click on no thanks adds the application to your web browser but does not install the launcher. The first button however loads a sign in to Chrome page that requires you to log in to your Google account - again - to add the app launcher to your desktop operating system.

Note that you enable Chrome Sync automatically when you install the launcher. This not only sync's app data but also other information automatically. You can change the sync settings in the launcher's preferences after installation but not before that. If you do not want your data to be synced with the cloud, then it is best to pass and do not install the launcher on your system.

If you do, you will notice that a new icon is added to your operating system. I noticed it after adding the app that I wanted to add in first place. The launcher got pinned to the taskbar of my Windows 7 operating system automatically after signing in ta second time. A click opens a menu displaying the installed apps and a search on top of the menu.

chrome app launcher

You can launch any app from here so and it opens either in its own window - which is the case for Google Keep for example - or in the Chrome browser. The search only searches the installed apps which can be useful if the installed apps exceed the window size-wise.

The app launcher provides you with another option to launch apps installed in the browser. Other options include adding them to the operating system's start menu, desktop or if supported the taskbar. The existing shortcuts are not touched by this, so that you may end up with app shortcuts in multiple places on your operating system.

The feature seems to be available for Chrome Dev and Canary on Windows currently, but will soon also be rolled out to Linux and Mac versions, and later on to Beta and Stable editions of the web browser.


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  1. Pierre said on May 3, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Display apps launcher
    (afficher le lanceur d’applications Google Chrome)

  2. Adrian said on May 3, 2013 at 9:13 am

    This its also available in the current version of Chrome, once enabled via chrome flags.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 3, 2013 at 9:46 am

      Adrian, thanks for letting us know. Which flag is it?

  3. ilev said on May 3, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Tip : Get old menu style in Chrome

    add –disable-new-menu-style to Chrome’s shortcut target field.

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