Google has just released Chrome 99 on the beta channel, which brings several new improvements and enhancements, including new download workflow, handwriting recognition API, changes to how ad blockers work, and more.
Accessing your ongoing downloads or downloaded files on Chrome desktop is a bit of a hassle. This is because the downloads tab is hidden in the overflow menu. But with Chrome 99 beta, Google is testing (via Android Police) a simple shortcut for downloads in the toolbar in the top right corner. This shortcut was first spotted in Chrome 99 Canary in December. It’s quite similar to what we have in Microsoft Edge. The download icon turns blue — and may even have a ring in the future — when you’re downloading something and turns back to gray once the item has been downloaded. Note that the downloads shortcut isn’t live by default, so we’re not too sure if it will be ready in time for the upcoming stable release.
Next up, Chrome 99 beta adds support for a handwriting recognition API. Google has been experimenting with this API since Chrome 91, and it’s now live in the latest beta release. The API will make it easier for developers to build note-taking and drawing apps that seamlessly work across different platforms without having to use third-party integrations.
An API for web applications to make use of advanced handwriting recognition services (e.g. those on operating systems) to recognize text from handwriting drawings (inks) in real time. In this context, handwriting drawing means the temporal and positional information used to describe a human handwriting process.
In addition, Chrome 99 beta also introduces changes related to ad blockers. Starting with Chrome 99, Google no longer allows new ad blocker extensions to use Manifest V2. New ad blockers now must use Manifest V3, which many believe will make ad blockers less effective and hurt innovations. Existing extensions will be able to use Manifest V2 until next year, however.
Finally, web apps can now specify a different theme color and background color for dark mode using the color_scheme_dark field and force browsers to programmatically open a date picker.
Chrome 99 beta is now out on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, with the stable release to follow suit soon.