Chromebooks have no doubt gained in popularity and utilization over the last several years due to its affordable pricing, portability, and cloud computing approach. With those attributes it mind, it’s understandable why the device is being considered as an alternative platform in the home, schools, and now the workplace. Therefore, I thought I would share some helpful tips, as well as some useful web extensions that I’ve compiled for those considering a Chromebook, as well as those using one as their daily machine.
User Management: If you share your device with friends and/or family, then you’ll most likely want to keep your bookmarks, themes, and settings separate from them. Fortunately, that’s a simple task on a Chromebook. To do so, simply click + Add user from the main sign-in page. From there, the new user will be prompted for their Google account credentials. Sign in, and that’s it. The new user has been added and can now access the device using their account image displayed on the sign-in page.
If at any point a user needs to be removed, click the account you want to remove from the sign-in page. Click the downward arrow icon in the upper-right corner of the account picture and select “Remove this user”. Removing an account deletes it from the Chromebook but does not delete the Google account or any data and settings synced with the account.
For those of you concerned about your children potentially gaining access to questionable web content, don’t worry the Chromebook offers a “Supervised User” option via the + Add user function. When a supervised user is created it’s added to your account in Chrome, therefore you control and view the websites that your user visits. Supervised users don’t require a Google account or an email address because the device manager creates a profile for the supervised user through their own Google account.
As a manager of a supervised user, you can see the user’s browsing history and control the websites that the user visits, all from the supervised users dashboard.
Touchpad: The Chromebook touchpad has a number of useful gestures that will have you zipping around both the device and web, outside of straight pointing and tapping via a single finger.
- Right Click: Tap or click the touchpad with two fingers.
- Scroll: With two fingers on the touchpad, move them up and down to scroll vertically, left and right to scroll horizontally.
- Swipe: Using two fingers, quickly swipe left or right to move backward and forward through or while using apps. Using three fingers, swipe left or right to move through open Chrome tabs.
- Drag and Drop: Click the item you want to select with one finger and drag to desired location with the second. To drop, release both fingers.
Side Dock: With the recent release of Chrome version 34, Google introduced the ability to dock windows in an effort to assist with multitasking. Side dock allows users to dock small windows and panels such as Keep, Hangouts, and calculator to screen edges. Window sizes are all automatically managed in this mode to assist with screen real estate.
Keyboard Shortcuts: The Chromebook like any keyboard supported device has a plethora of shortcuts for users to uncover. I won’t attempt to provide a comprehensive list of all, but here are a handful of the ones I find most useful.
- Display keyboard shortcut layout: This is the “King” of shortcuts. It allows the user to view all keyboard shortcuts available on the device. Press “esc” to exit the layout view.
- Take a screenshot: To take a screenshot of the entire display/portion of the display.
ctrl+switch window/ctrl+shift+switch window
- Reopen the last tab closed: Google Chrome will remember the last 10 tabs you’ve closed. Very handy when you’ve accidentally closed a needed window.
- Activate pinned taskbar items: If you have a bunch of apps pinned to the taskbar (black transparent bar at the bottom of the screen), you can launch them individually using a combination of alt and the number keys. The number one represents the first item pinned to the taskbar all the way up to number eight.
alt +1 through alt+8
- Toggle caps lock: Chromebooks don’t normally contain a dedicated caps lock key, so if you’re looking for a quick way to toggle caps, try this.
alt + search key
File Management: Saved files can be accessed via the “Files” icon via the App Launcher. Use the left panel to navigate through file directories, including Google Drive. Any files saved from the web will be stored in the “Downloaded” directory by default, unless changed at time of download.
That said, Google Drive paired with a Chromebook is where it’s at! Google Drive allows you to access your files online and offline, from any device. You can choose to view all files, files that have been shared with you, were recently added to Google Drive, or have been made available offline.
Need a new folder? Just double tap (right click) the touchpad and select “New Folder”. Want to move files between storage options? Simply drag and drop the file from one location to another. For instance, “Downloads” to “Google Drive”.
Now that we’re done taking a look at some useful tips and hints, let’s turn our attention to extensions. This is where I personally get the biggest bang for the buck from my Chromebook and Chrome. Extensions for those of you who do not know, are basically small programs that run in your browser to enhance and expand it’s functionality. Chrome has a myriad available in the Chrome Web Store for just about anything imaginable. Here are a handful of my favorites.
Hangouts: While you can access hangout from Gmail or Google +, it’s nice to be able to chat and keep in touch when not using those services or if you don’t normally access them. Clicking the Hangouts extension launches the service and you are ready to chat from anywhere on the web.
Evernote Web Clipper: If you’re a fan of Evernote, then this extension is for you. The Evernote Web Clipper is a simple way to save, mark up, or share anything you encounter online. Clipped web pages or articles are saved to your Evernote account for sharing or accessing online from anywhere. Tired of banners and ads distracting you when you are trying to read an article? If so, you’ll love the “Simplified Article” feature that strips all that nonsense out of the page leaving just the article to focus on. The nicest feature of the extension in my opinion.
Streamus (Beta): This extension is fairly new to me, but I have been using it frequently since discovering it. Streamus brings the power of You Tube to Chrome as a music player extension. You no longer have to bookmark videos or run You Tube in browser window. Streamus works behind the scenes and brings you the music of You Tube as you want it. Search for artists and songs, create playlists, enable radio mode to suggest music based on your listening history, and more. It’s powerful, convenient, and best of all free. I encourage you to give this one a try.
Pushbullet: With so many of us carrying multiple devices, keeping them connected to share data is increasingly important. This is where Pushbullet comes in to bridge that gap. In order to get the most out of this extension, you’ll want to install the Pushbullet app on your phone and/or tablet and create an account if you haven’t done so already. Once you have both the app and extension installed you’re ready to go. You can now receive, dismiss, and manage notifications received on your mobile device from your PC or laptop.
In addition, articles and files that you come across on the web can be pushed to your mobile devices and will be there waiting for you in the notification tray so you’re sure not to miss it. These are just a few of the features available, so go ahead and explore what else Pushbullet has to offer. I think you’ll find it to be a valuable tool.
Goo.gl URL Shortener: There’s nothing complicated about this little extension. It provides all the same functionality available through Google’s URL Shortener web page, but does it without the need to navigate away from the current page you’re viewing. If you want to shorten a URL for a particular web page, click the extension icon, select “copy”, and you’re ready to share. The URL is even saved in your Google URL Shortener history so long as you grant access to the extension. As I said, there’s nothing to it.
Chromebooks accompanied with the right combination of apps, and extensions can without a doubt be used as ones primary laptop. It’s does take some getting used to this new computing environment, but once you’re settled in you’ll be loving the experience.
I’ve just scratched the surface in regards to all you can do with your Chromebook. However, my hope is that this sampling of tips and extension suggestions offers both new and existing Chromebook owners alike a look at all this device has to offer.