Getting Started with your Chromebook

Chromebooks rare easy to set up and use. However, getting started with your Chromebook can be a better experience if you knew a bunch of things, especially those that make Chrome OS and Chromebooks different from other laptops and operating systems. This guide will do just that!

Getting Started With Your Chromebook

Chrome OS and Chromebooks are new concepts. A bunch of things about the operating system and the device are going to be new for most of us. There are a few things that people get stuck with during their first hour with a new Chromebook. (This is because Chrome OS makes things simpler, and not because it confuses people with complex things.)

I wrote this guide answering those questions and also adding few tips and tricks that will make your Chromebook experience more rewarding. This little guide will help you make the most out of your new Chromebook, from the moment you open the lid.

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Ready When You Are!

Ready When You Are! That was Google’s tagline when they launched Chromebooks the first time. You need to be ready for Chrome OS and cloud computing. Until you do that, Chromebook is “just a browser”

You are already doing it when you use Gmail, Google Doc or Dropbox. You are doing it at work, and at home. Imagine this. If I take your laptop and disconnect internet and delete movies from it, how long will you use it for?

So, do you think you are ready for Chrome OS and Cloud Computing? Lets get started!

Getting To Know The Keyboard

Remember I told you about Chromebooks being different from traditional laptops? The first difference that you will notice is the keyboard (well, the very first thing you might have noticed is that Chromebooks turn on when you open the lid, without having to press the power button).

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Instead of function keys, you have dedicated keys for managing your Chrome browser. Getting used to this may take a while. But once you get the hang of it, I am sure you will enjoy it. Chromebooks do not have a caps lock key (A few models, like the Acer C7 Chromebook has caps-lock though!). So what do you need to know to make the best out of the Chromebook keyboard?

Here is the first thing for you to do. Press CTRL + ALT + ? and you will see all the available keyboard shortcuts. A screen overlay is displayed with instructions. Press CTRL or ALT or SEARCH etc to see the keyboard shortcut combinations available using each of them.

The Search Key and Caps Lock Key

The caps lock is one of the first things that Chromebook users look for when they are new to this new operating system. Chromebooks come with a Search key instead of caps-lock. The search key opens the Chrome OS apps menu. Here is how it looks like:

chromebook-search

To get the caps-lock key back, go to Settings and search for Keyboard. From keyboard settings, you can change the function of the search key to caps-lock.

Chrome OS Apps Menu is quite useful. Refer to Chrome OS Apps Menu section of this guide for more information. But personally, I like the search key and when I REALLY need caps-lock on, I use the following keyboard shortcut.

ALT + SEARCH

Use this keyboard shortcut to enable or disable caps-lock. When caps-lock is turned on, you will see a up arrow like icon on the next to time on the taskbar.

No Delete Key

There is no Delete key in most Chromebooks. Here is the keyboard shortcut you will use:

  • ALT + Backspace:    Delete the next letter (forward delete)
  • CTRL + Backspace: Delete the previous word

To be honest, sometimes I wish if we had a real DELETE key on Chromebooks. Some times, I try the ALT + BACKSPACE keyboard shortcut at work, on my Windows laptop.You will get used to this keyboard very soon.

No Home or End Keys

I don’t regularly use Home and End keys on computer, but if you are someone who uses them,  these keys are not available on Chromebooks. Alternate keyboard shortcuts are:

  • ALT + Up Arrow key: Home
  • ALT + Down Arrow key: End

Dedicated Browser Keys

We talked a lot about things that you won’t see on a Chromebook. Now lets talk about things you get extra on your Chromebook’s keyboard.

Instead of function keys (F1 to F12, remember?) Chromebook gives you dedicated browser keys, or keys that you can use to perform some actions that you do on the browser. The following is a list of dedicated browser keys that you get.

chromebook-keys

Note: These might vary according to the Chromebook model you have purchased.

Some Touchpad Tricks

  1. Click or tap with two fingers for right click
  2. If that’s not easy for you, ALT + Click = Right click!
  3. Swipe with two fingers for scrolling

Find more information on this official help article from Google.

Chrome OS Launcher and Apps Menu

You can open the apps menu by clicking the apps icon on the taskbar or pressing the Search key. This is the Chrome OS Launcher. If you are an Android user, you will feel at home!

chromebook-lanucher

The launcher has the following features:

  • Today’s Google Doodle
  • A search box
  • 4 recently used apps
  • A link to go to the full apps list (All Apps icon)
  • Google Now (yes!) when you scroll down

google-now-chromebook

From the Apps Menu, you can:

  • Launch apps you have installed from Chrome Web Store: Click the app icon from the menu, and the app will launch on a new tab. Right click the app icon for more options like, pinning the the app to the taskbar,or the shelf as they call it.
  • You can right click any app to remove it from your Chromebook.
  • Search the web: You don’t need to open a new tab, open Google.com and then type in the search query. You are on a Chromebook now! Press the search key once to open the Chrome OS apps menu, type in your query and hit Enter. A new tab will open with your search results.
  • Do Voice Search
  • Do some basic maths or conversions: Since Google search is integrated to the Chrome OS apps menu, you can do basic maths from the search area of the menu. Try something now. For example, type in 4*4= and see what happens!
  • Search and install apps and extensions from the Chrome Web Store: Search results also show related apps and extensions from the Chrome Web Store. Click the Add to Chrome  icon to install the app or extension.
    search-results-chromebook
  • Search your contacts and start a conversation (currently in development)
  • And more in the making!

Change Time Zone

If you are in the USA, you might not need this, but for others, setting up the time zone is one of the basic things, while getting started.un

Click on time displayed on the taskbar, and then click date and time. You will be taken to the Chrome OS settings page for changing time zone.

Chrome OS can detect your location and automatically and set the timezone. However, if you get a wrong timezone assigned, you can disable this and set your timezone manually.

chrome-os-timezone

Clear the “Set time zone automatically using your location” check-box.

Change Wallpaper

Just like your PC, right click the desktop and choose Set Wallpaper. You can pick wallpapers available there or use your own image. There are plenty of apps that will change your wallpaper automatically and add some eye candy to your Chromebook.

Take Screenshots

CTRL + chromebook-keytakes screenshot of your current window

CTRL + SHIFT +chromebook-key allows you to take a partial screenshot by selecting the area you want to capture

Add More Users

Sharing your Chromebook with friends and family is really easy. You can let them use the Guest mode, or for a family member who might want to use your Chromebook occasionally, you can have them added to your Chromebook as a user.

There are two ways to do this. You can let them login right from the login screen of the Chromebook.

On my Chromebook, I have this feature disabled. I prefer adding users manually, which is the second method of adding users.

  1. Go to settings, and search for users.
  2. Click Manage other users
  3. Check Restrict sign-in to the following users
  4. In the Add users box, type in the Gmail address of the person you want to add.
  5. Click Ok.

Your Chromebook will add that person as a user. Since you checked the Restrict sign-in to the following users box, the login screen will no longer have the option for new users to login and create their own profile.

Guest Mode

Chrome OS has a guest mode to help you share your Chromebook easily without sharing your personal information; your bookmarks, saved passwords, extensions, apps, search history and more.

Guest mode does not save any information about the browsing session after the guest user logs out.  Read more about Guest mode here.

Screen Lock and Password Protection

To lock the Chrome OS screen, click the profile icon on the taskbar (or any of those icons there on the bottom right corner!) and click the lock symbol.

Or even better, press SEARCH + L to lock the screen!

Most of the time, instead of using this method, I tend to close the lid of the Chromebook and walk away. When I open it again, I open the lid and I am ready to go, instantly. But there is one thing that I don’t like here. If I keep my Chromebook closed and move away from it, anyone else can open it up and start using it.

I would like to have Chromebook ask for my password when I open the lid again, for a little more security. Here is how to do this:

Go to settings and search for sleep  and check Require password to wake from sleep next to your profile.

Using Chromebook Offline

Chromebooks work the best when connected to internet. However if you prepare a bit, you can be productive or have some fun while you are offline too. Prepare your Chromebook to use it offline too.

Manage Files

Remember the C Drives and D Drives from your windows computer? On Chrome OS we have Downloads and Google Drive.

To view the file manager, click Files from the Chrome OS Apps menu. If you like keyboard shortcuts, use this:

ALT + SHIFT + M

The file manager opens in a new windows and you will see Downloads and Google Drive.

files-app

Downloads

Downloads drive (l like to call them drives) contains files stored on your Chromebook locally. That means, files you see here are on the SSD card of your Chromebook (Hard Drive in some Chromebooks)

You can right click anywhere inside the Downloads drive to create new folders. It works similar to folders on your PC. So it won’t take much time for you to get used to do.

Contents of the Downloads drive are stored locally on your Chromebook. Anything you save here will be lost during  Powerwash (factory reset).Use cloud or an external storage device to store important data.

Google Drive

The Google Drive on your Chromebook lists files stored on your Google Drive account. These files are not on the local drive. They are on the cloud.That means, you can access them from any device, if you login to Google Drive.

Even though Google Drive lists all the files there, not all of them are physically present on your Chromebook. Files are downloaded when you try to open them. To make files available on the Chromebook (to access even when you are offline) check the Available offline against the files of your choice.

Click the settings icon on the top right corner for additional options on Google Drive.

Drag and Drop Between Google Drive and Downloads

You can drag and drop files from the Downloads drive or Google Drive to copy files between them.

  • When you drag a file from Downloads drive to Google Drive, the file will be uploaded to your Google Drive.
  • When you drag a file from Google Drive to Downloads drive, it will be downloaded and copied to your local drive, making it available for offline use.

Deleting Files

To delete a file, right click and choose Delete as you would normally do on a PC or a Mac. You can use the following keyboard shortcut as well:

ALT + BACKSPACE

Do not waste time looking for Trash. There isn’t any! If you accidentally deleted a file, click Undo on the top of the file manager window to retrieve the file.

Storage Devices

You can use USB hard drives and thumb drives, USB CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives (read-only).  When you connect a storage device, the notification try display a “Removable device detected” alert. Click this notification to open its contents.

removable-device-chromebook

If it does not, open the Files app and look for an additional drive like your Downloads and Google Drive.

usb-drive-chromebook

Just like you do on other type of computers, remember to eject the device safely before removing it from the Chromebook. Click the eject icon eject next to the storage device’s name to do this.

Updating Your Chromebook

Software updates are an important and time consuming affair in any operating system that you have used so far. Here is some good news for you; Chrome OS updates automatically in the background. The changes are applied next time you restart your Chromebook. You will see an icon when updates are downloaded and installed.

Note: Automatic updates require Wifi. Chrome OS will not download updates using mobile data or tethering.

How to you check if you are on the latest version? Go to Settings > Help > About Chrome OS. (or directly open chrome://chrome/ on a new tab). Click Check for and apply updates. This should tell you if your Chromebook is on the latest version of Chrome OS.

You can find out the latest version of Chrome OS here. Here is a prettier version of that, with Chrome OS version numbers of all the devices.

Accessibility and ChromeVox

When you open your Chromebook, type Control-Alt-Z to turn on accessibility. You have additional accessibility options in Settings.

ChromeVox is a screen reader from app that helps you with accessibility. Find more about ChromeVox here.

Further Reading