Google’s Chrome OS launched almost exactly five years ago, and it’s come a long way since then. What once was simply a series of browser windows that couldn’t even keep themselves open in the background has gained support for offline services, multiple displays, and even Android apps now. However, there are still some basic things Google needs to shore up, like the lack of storage management. That’s starting to change in the latest dev release.
Chrome OS (like Chrome) has three channels — stable, beta, and dev. The dev channel is the first stop for new features that eventually filter down to beta and stable. It’s by definition an unstable release that has more bugs than the other channels. The latest dev release is v53, and it is here that Google has included a secret storage manager interface. Chrome OS also has a basic file manager, but it shows startlingly little information about your remaining storage. The other current alternative is to download a third-party system info app like Cog.
According to Googler François Beaufort (who also developed the aforementioned Cog tool), the experimental storage manager is disabled by default. To enable it, you’ll have to venture into the Chrome flags to chrome://flags/#enable-storage-manager. Enable that flag and restart the device to see the changes. The storage manager pops up as a new button in the settings under “Device.” It shows you the total capacity, space used but downloads and offline files, and remaining available. The “downloads” and “offline files” labels are links to the relevant settings as well. It is still missing support for external storage, though.
Chrome OS is essentially a system-level Linux kernel that runs Chrome with a custom window management environment. It’s not literally just Chrome, but many of the platforms features are based on Chrome web apps. Until recently, the vast majority of the tools available on Chrome OS were web-based. You could cache data offline via services like Drive (and Dropbox with some extra legwork), but your local storage on a Chromebook was never really eaten up. That may very well change with the addition of Android apps.
Android is designed to run apps locally and store data cached on a device. This has the potential to make Chrome OS much more powerful, but it requires new ways to manage everything. Android apps via the Play Store are only supported in the dev channel on the Chromebook Flip right now, but it will come to most Chrome OS devices in the next couple months.