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Document scanning coming to Chrome OS

Google fills in a gap in its browser-based OS, building software to run scanners and an interface to let Web apps use it.

Chrome OS logo on a Samsung Chromebox
Chrome OS logo on a Samsung Chromebox. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Slowly but surely, Google is shortening the list of tasks people can't do on devices running Chrome OS, the company's browser-based operating system. The newest example: support for scanners.

Right now, people with Chromebooks and Chromeboxes typically have to move to a machine running Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, Android, or iOS, to run their scanners. That's a hassle for users, and it hurts Chrome OS's competitiveness.

Technology called Lorgnette will build the ability to run a scanner into Chrome OS, though. In addition, Google is working on a programming interface that will let Web apps use the new service.

Chrome watcher and Google employee François Beaufort spotted the interface Friday, described in a Thursday email to a mailing list. According to Beaufort, the interface will let a Web app discover scanners attached over USB or a network and retrieve the scanned image.

The proposed interface can let a Web app tap into Google's Lorngette software or other operating systems' scanning software.

Handling peripherals is a tricky business for Chrome OS. The operating system uses Linux under the covers. But the software written for Chrome OS that people actually use works at a higher level, running in the browser. Interfaces for these Web apps don't always exist, so Web developers can't always write software that does what native apps for Windows or iOS can do, for example.

Mozilla is running into the same issues with its Firefox OS, a browser-based operating system designed for mobile devices. Mozilla has been gradually fleshing out the suite of interfaces, too, so Web apps can tap into hardware features such as accelerometers that indicate a phone's orientation or cameras used for video chats and photography.