Chrome OS 86 rolling out: Custom mouse cursor colors, accessibility updates

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After coming to Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android last Tuesday, Chrome OS 86 will be rolling out over the coming weeks. There are a number of usability improvements in this release with a focus on making Chromebooks “more accessible for people with disabilities.”

To improve visibility, as well as “add a personal touch to your Chromebook,” users can now theme the mouse cursor: red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta or pink. This preference is available from system Settings > Advanced > Accessibility > Manage accessibility features > Mouse and touchpad.

This feature is designed to help people with low vision and complements other ways Chromebook cursors can be customized, like adjusting its size for further visibility

Select-to-speak can now shade background text that isn’t actively being highlighted for TTS. This will improve focus for those with “low vision and learning disabilities like dyslexia.”

Similarly, the ChromeVox screen reader will automatically account for page language. There are also more speech customization options, Smart Sticky Mode, and improved menu navigation.

When exporting PDFs, Chrome OS will autogenerate headings, links, tables, and alt-text. This makes the file more legible for screen-reading software.

With version 83, Google replaced the enter arrow on the Chrome OS login screen with an “eye” button that shows the password you entered. However, that change was reverted over user confusion about how to complete a sign-in, and the preview button was removed. With Chrome OS 86, the reveal button is back and now coexists with the arrow. The clear text into ***** after 5 seconds of inactivity, while the entire input is cleared after 30 seconds.

Chrome OS 86 introduces a new photo editor for some. After opening an image, you can quickly access editing tools — removing a step — from the top bar.

Autocorrect now features visual indicators that note when a correction occurred. This is joined by a new visual way to undo them.

Family Link users can now sign in to Google Classroom and other Android apps with a school account. These supervised family devices will also see a new set-up process that makes it easier to create parental controls.

More broadly, the update screen during the initial out of box experience (OOBE) has been redesigned in Chrome 86 to note progress, time/battery estimate, and educational cards that highlight key Chrome OS capabilities.

For those that use multiple monitors, Chrome OS now identifies which tab in the Display settings corresponds to a user’s external display. There is also a new alignment overlay that highlights the edges of your screen.

Existing Linux users on Debian 9 containers now have the option to upgrade to Debian 10 from Linux settings. Meanwhile, expanded virtual USB support means you can access Arduino and EdgeTPU devices when using Linux apps.

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