January 27

On Chrome for Android, it’s all too easy to get more information about a word or phrase on a website by simply selecting it, then opening the new Google Search panel that appears on screen. Spotted by Chrome Story, a similar, but more powerful version of this feature, “Quick Answers,” is being developed for Chrome OS, similar to Look Up on macOS.

On Chrome OS, Quick Answers is powered by Google Search and the Google Assistant, and while it’s very much a work-in-progress, there’s enough to glean how it will work when it arrives. First, like many other Chrome features, it will initially only be available behind a flag in chrome://flags.

Enable Quick Answers

Enable the Quick Answers feature

#enable-quick-answers

Once enabled, you’ll be able to select any text or images in Chrome OS, then right-click it to get some relevant Quick Answers. By default, Chrome OS will simply pass the text and images off to Google Search and return certain relevant info from the search.

As of right now, the only Quick Answers that have been developed are unit conversions. For example, highlighting the text “23 cm” and right-clicking for Quick Answers would likely return something like “9.05512”. It’s too early to know for sure, but the result may even look visually like the answer card shown on Google Search, similar to how Look Up on macOS can pop up a dictionary definition and other info.

Google Search Quick Answers


Update 12/6/19: After a few more weeks of development work, Quick Answers is shaping up to be even more like Look Up on macOS than we first suspected. According to new code changes, Quick Answers on Chrome OS will be able to offer quick dictionary definitions and pronunciation for words, along with Google Translate results for words and phrases not in your native language.

Despite the continued development work, the flag for Quick Answers has still not become available in Chrome OS Canary. The feature’s developer has submitted the necessary flag again in a second code change with additional “eligibility” requirements. From the code, we now know that Quick Answers will require that you have the Google Assistant enabled on your Chromebook, which unfortunately means G Suite users will be left out.


Update 1/27/20: The folks at Chrome Unboxed have spotted that Quick Answers are now live in Chrome OS Canary, version 81. Simply enable the above-mentioned flag, and your right-click menu will now feature results from the Google Assistant. For example, right-clicking on a unit of measurement such as “5,280ft” will reveal a conversion like “1 mile.”

Right-clicking on a word in your native language will reveal a definition for that word, in case you ever need to elucidate its meaning. Meanwhile, the context menu for words in other languages will reveal a handy translation. Otherwise, if a relevant Quick Answers result isn’t available, Chrome OS will suggest to do a full Google Assistant query for that word or phrase. Trying this with “9to5Google” immediately opened our homepage.

Notably, as Quick Answers are powered by the Google Assistant, you’ll need to be able to use the Assistant on your Chromebook. For now, this means that G Suite accounts will not be able to access them.


Eventually, as the available Quick Answers become more varied and complex, Chrome OS will use additional information to help Google know what you might be looking for. If you have the Google Assistant-enabled and give it permission to view your screen’s contents, Quick Answers will use the rest of the page to figure out the context of your search.

As this feature is only just now being developed, and the “feature freeze” date for Chrome 80 has already passed, we likely won’t see even an early version of Quick Answers arrive until Chrome OS 81.

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