Chromebook power tips: How to work smarter online and offline

Chromebooks may have cornered a niche market as lightweight laptops and desirable computers for education, but Google’s ambitions are far bigger. The release of two new flagship Chromebooks from Samsung and the arrival of Android apps illustrate that Google envisions its operating system as a full-blown competitor to Windows and MacOS.

They do involve a learning curve, though. Chrome OS somewhat resembles Windows in appearance and functionality, but some small differences can trip up a newcomer, and some of the most productivity-oriented features are buried. Whether you’re new to Chrome or an old dog looking for some Googley new tricks, this guide will help you sidestep the OS’s most glaring flaws and squeeze as much productivity as possible out of your Chromebook.

Mouse and keyboard tips

The changes start with the Chromebook’s touchpad—specifically, the apparent lack of a right-click button. But look closer: Pressing two fingers down simultaneously on the bottom of the touchpad brings up a right-click-style options menu (as is common on many laptops now), so you can copy links and open new tabs to your heart’s content.


Trackpad choices are simple and to the point.

Chromebook touchpads also support two-finger scrolling, and you can tweak advanced options—changing the pointer speed and enabling tap-to-click, for instance—by clicking Chrome’s menu button (the three-dot vertical icon at the top of any browser window), opening Settings, and diving into the Device section.

Chromebooks also support USB and Bluetooth mice, though you’ll need to click the system tray area at the bottom-right corner of the screen and ensure that Bluetooth is enabled for the latter. Nearby Bluetooth devices will appear in the panel; click their entries to pair them with your Chromebook.

Under Keyboard Settings, you can change the functionality of specific keys. If you miss the Caps Lock button, you can assign it to the search key and make other adjustments.

keyboard settings PCWorld

Customize the function that specific keys perform.

Keyboard shortcuts are crucial for productivity on a Chromebook, as they are on any other laptop. Your Chromebook supports all the standard Windows shortcuts and offers Chrome-specific ones as well. Even better, pressing Ctrl-Alt-? brings up an interactive diagram showing all the keyboard shortcuts available.

Taking screenshots is easy: Press Ctrl-Switch Window (on some models, this may be an icon that looks like a rectangle with two vertical bars on one side). You’ll see a confirmation dialog box, and the screenshot will save as a .png file to your Chromebook’s local storage—you’ll find it in the Files app.


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