If you’re a Chromebook fan, then you know the lightweight laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS are a bit different than a regular Windows or Mac notebook. They have their own set of secrets and tricks.
One big appeal of a Chromebook is the affordable price. They’re also a good fit for people who are big users of Google’s various app services, including Gmail, Google Drive and Google Calendar.
Whether you’ve been rocking a Chromebook for some time, or you’re new to them, we’ve got some handy tricks that will help take you to the next level with your ultra-portable machine.
1. See all with Overview mode
Look up at the top center of your Chromebook keyboard. There’s a key that looks like a rectangle with lines coming out to the right. Click this to see all your open applications on the screen. This key lets you easily switch between open apps, which can help you manage limited screen real estate. You can also get to Overview mode by swiping up or down with three fingers on your touchpad…which direction depends on how you have your scrolling set, so try it out to find the right one.
2. Zoom in on your screen
Chromebooks tend to be pretty compact and many of them come with screen sizes under 12 inches. Get to know how your Chromebook’s zoom functions work and you will soon be magnifying your display whenever you need to. To make everything you’re looking at bigger, press Ctrl + Shift and +. To make everything smaller, hit Ctrl + Shift and –. The combination of Ctrl + Shift + 0 resets your screen resolution.
You can also make just the current page you’re looking at bigger or smaller (while the rest of the display stays the same). For that, zoom-in is Ctrl and the + key and zoom-out is Ctrl and the – key. Hit Ctrl + 0 to reset.
3. Use Android apps
There’s a whole world of Android apps out there that can run on your Chromebook, but there’s a catch. Not every Chromebook supports this feature. If your particular laptop works with Google Play, then you’re in luck. You may need to first update to the latest version of Chrome OS.
Here’s how to get Google Play: Go to Settings, look for “Google Play Store,” and turn on “Enable Google Play Store on your Chromebook.” If you don’t see this option, then your Chromebook doesn’t support it. Next, follow the prompts to get started and enjoy having millions of apps at your fingertips.
4. Unlock with your Android phone
You can bypass tedious password typing by using your Android smartphone as the key to your Chromebook instead. First, make sure your phone and Chromebook are near each other, have Bluetooth turned on, and are both signed into the same Google account. Now open up your Settings and look for “Screen lock” in the People section. Confirm your password and choose “Set up” next to the “Smart Lock for Chromebook” option. Follow the guided steps and you’re good to go.
5. Pin websites to your Shelf
The Shelf is the handy spot where you can keep your most-used apps, but you can also use it to put specific websites at your fingertips. Navigate to the site you want in Chrome. Click on the three dots in a vertical line and select “More tools.” Click on “Add to shelf” and then “Add.” Now that webpage will sit conveniently on your desktop for easy access.
6. Take a screenshot
Screenshots can be handy when you need to preserve something you’re looking at on your display. They’re just a keyboard shortcut away in Chrome OS. Remember that unusual key we used to access Overview mode? It’s the one at the top of the keyboard that looks like a rectangle with lines coming off to the right. Press Ctrl and that key to take a screenshot. If your keyboard doesn’t have that special key, then Ctrl + F5 will work instead. Chrome OS will save your screenshot to your Downloads folder.
7. See keyboard shortcuts
Chrome OS keyboard shortcuts are wonderful tools for boosting your productivity, but they only work if you can remember what they are. Get a refresher by pressing the combination of keys Ctrl + Alt + ? to pull up a visual map of shortcuts and key functions.
8. Reset your Chromebook and wipe your data
There are many reasons why you might want to perform a factory reset for your Chromebook. Maybe you’re selling it, giving it to someone else, or need to recover from a technical problem. Be sure to back up anything you want to keep to Google Drive. A reset won’t impact anything you have stored in the cloud.
Head into your Settings, choose “Advanced,” and select “Powerwash.” Click Restart. You can then sign in with your Google Account and follow the guided steps to set your Chromebook up again if needed.
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