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Tech tips

8 useful Chromebook tricks you aren’t using but should

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. Tap or click here for Kim’s guide to Chromebook pros and cons.

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

When you have a bunch of windows open, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Luckily, overview mode lets you see everything going on at once. It saves time by quickly switching between windows or programs.

It’s easy to access overview mode. If you have multiple monitors, you can pull windows from one display to another.

To access it, hit the overview key on your keyboard. It’s the one at the top of the keyboard that looks like a rectangle with lines coming off to the right. (You can also swipe three fingers up or down, depending on your trackpad setup.)

Overall, this mode is a great way to keep track of all the irons you have in the fire. You can snap windows to either side of the screen, too, which is an efficient way to get more work done quickly.

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).

  • To zoom in, hit Ctrl and the + key.
  • To zoom out, hit Ctrl and the key.
  • Hit Ctrl + 0 to reset.

These two tricks are great ways to cut down on eye strain.

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. Tap or click here to find out which Chromebooks support Android apps.

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:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Look for Google Play Store.
  3. Turn on Install apps and games from Google Play on your Chromebook. (If you don’t see this option, then your Chromebook doesn’t support it.)
  4. In the new window, tap More.

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 in to the same Google account.

To set up the Smart Lock feature, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings on your Chromebook.
  2. Head to Connected devices and select your Android phone.
  3. Tap on Smart Lock.
  4. Select Unlock device and sign in to your Google Account.

Now that you learned this neat trick to unlock your device, let’s look at a fun tip for after you’ve opened your Chromebook.

5. Pin your favorite apps to your Shelf

The Shelf is the handy spot where you can keep your most-used apps. Instead of flipping through pages, you can jump straight to your favorite program. Follow these steps to add a new app to the Shelf:

  1. In the bottom left corner, click or back on the app launcher
  2. Right-click on the app or shortcut you want to pin to the shelf
  3. Select Pin to shelf

It’s as easy as one, two three.

You can also add specific websites to your Shelf. First, 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.

TECH HOW-TO: Easiest way to move files to a new computer

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. Tap or click here for step-by-step instructions on taking different types of screenshots.

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. That opens the keyboard shortcut overview, which looks like this:

If you’re looking for a specific shortcut, try typing it in the search bar. Tap or click here for the full list of Chromebook keyboard shortcuts.

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. Then, hit Restart. You can then sign in with your Google Account and follow the guided steps to set your Chromebook up again if needed.

Google is watching you

Google keeps tabs on its users’ internet searches, but you can take control of what it knows about you.

Click here to learn how to erase everything you ever searched for on Google.

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