The Finest Chromebook and Chrome OS Ideas and Tips

Chromebooks are great for cheap, easy-to-use Internet access. As a stand-alone platform, however, Google's Chrome OS is much newer than Windows and MacOS. There is a certain learning curve as you move away from Apple and Microsoft.

If you are new to Chromebooks, familiarize yourself with every nook and cranny for an overall better experience. To help you get started, here are some tips that will help you get to power user status in no time.

Use the link map

We could fill an entire post listing all of the keyboard shortcuts that are crowded in Chrome OS, but why bother? You can always see them for yourself by pressing the following buttons at the same time:

Ctrl + Alt +?

This will open a window with all of the keyboard shortcuts divided into six categories. To close the link card, just click the X button.

Enter unicode characters

Unicode list

Do you need to enter unicode characters? You can do this on a Chromebook. All you need to know is the Unicode number and key combination listed here. You have to enter the following:

Ctrl + U + number

For example, type Ctrl + U + 2122 to get the trademark icon.

Use the overview mode

Chromebook overview

Do you want to see all open windows and desktops on one screen? Simply swipe down with three fingers on your touchscreen or trackpad to activate this mode.

You can also display the Windows key or press F5.

Create new desktops

Chromebook create new desktops

Like Windows and macOS, Chromebooks can natively create new virtual desktops. This allows you to assign different groups of windows to different desktops, making it easy to organize more complex projects without confusing them or overloading a single desktop.

Simultaneously press the following keys to add a virtual desktop:

Shift + Search + =

You can also create and manage virtual desktops using the following steps:

Step 1: Use three fingers to swipe down on your touchscreen or trackpad. Alternatively, you can press the Show Window key or press F5.

Step 2: Tap or click New Desk in the upper right corner.

The new desktop appears next to your original desktop in a ribbon at the top of your screen. You can delete a virtual desktop by clicking the "x" in the desktop thumbnail.

Change the shelf position

Change Chromebook shelf position

By default, the shelf is at the bottom of the screen, but it doesn't have to live there indefinitely. If you like your taskbar on top or on the sides, Chrome OS offers this customization as well.

Step 1: Right click on the shelf.

Step 2: Move the mouse pointer over the shelf position listed in the pop-up menu.

Step 3: Select Left, Bottom, or Right from the expanded menu.

Adjust the resolution and zoom

Chrome OS Adjust the scale of the display

If you're finding text or images a little too difficult on your Chromebook (especially on newer high-resolution screens), you have two options.

Your first option is Display Scaling, which scales fonts, icons, etc. without affecting visual fidelity regardless of the setting. This is different from changing the resolution in Windows which can result in ugly graphics if it is lower than the native resolution of your screen.

Step 1: Click the system clock.

Step 2: Click the gear icon in the pop-up menu. This will open the settings panel.

Step 3: On the left, click Device Listed.

Step 4: Click to expand the ads on the right.

As shown above, you'll see a slider ranging from Small to Large. The default setting is "Small" or "100%". This is the native resolution of your display. You can move the slider up to 200% in nine steps, but it is still based on the native resolution of your screen.

For example, a 1,920 x 1,080 screen scaled at 200% looks like 960 x 540, but everything is enlarged and stays in focus. If you took a screenshot, the resulting image is still 1,920 x 1,080 for all of the larger elements.

There are keyboard shortcuts that do something similar:

  • Scale up = Ctrl + Shift + Plus
  • Shrink = Ctrl + Shift + "Minus"
  • Reset scale = Ctrl + Shift + 0

If the menus and other user interface elements are acceptable, but you want to change the scale of text and images on a particular website, enter:

  • Enlarge = Ctrl + "Plus"
  • Shrink = Ctrl + "Minus"
  • Reset zoom = Ctrl + 0

Chrome change font size and zoom

To change the default zoom and font size for all web pages, do the following:

Step 1: Open Chrome

Step 2: In the upper right corner, click the three-dot Customize & Control icon.

Step 3: Select Settings from the drop-down menu.

Step 4: On the left, click Appearance.

Step 5: Use the drop-down menu next to Font Size to toggle between five font settings.

Step 6: Use the pop-up menu next to Page Zoom to adjust the zoom between 25% and 500%.

Multitask like a pro

Chromebook snap screen

As with Snap Assist in Windows 10, Chrome OS lets you "snap" windows to the sides of your display, essentially splitting your screen in two. For example, you can open a browser on the left and Google Docs on the right that fills the entire screen – no stacked or floating windows.

Step 1: Select your first window and press Alt + (to snap it to the left. Re-enter it later to deselect it.

Step 2: Select your second window and press Alt +) to right align it. Re-enter it later to remove the trigger.

Alternatively, you can just click and hold on a window and drag it to the left or right edge of your screen. Release the mouse button when the target half is filled. Rinse and repeat with your second window.

Take a screenshot

Screenshot capturing works differently on each operating system. This can be frustrating when switching to a Chromebook keyboard because the Print Screen button is not supported. But don't worry: Taking a screenshot is just as easy, albeit a little different:

Ctrl + switch window (F5)

For more help on how to take a screenshot on a Chromebook, check out our dedicated guide.

Get your caps lock key back

Chromebook Get Caps Lock Back

By default, Chromebooks replace the Caps Lock key on the default keyboard layout with a search button that enables the Google Search popup. If you rely on a traditional caps lock key (or just want to yell at people with capital letters), there is an easy way to get this back.

Step 1: Click the system clock.

Step 2: Select the gear icon from the pop-up menu. This will open the settings panel.

Step 3: In the left menu, click Device.

Step 4: Click to expand the keyboard listed on the right under Device.

Step 5: Click the drop-down menu next to Search and choose Caps Lock.

In addition to the search key, you can reassign the Ctrl, Alt, Esc, and Backspace keys. You can also turn off all five.

Load the Task Manager

Chrome OS Task Manager

Despite its web-based roots, Chrome OS offers a task manager just like Windows and macOS. This tool can help you see how much memory, CPU, and network bandwidth your Chromebook is using. Enter the following to open Task Manager:

Search + Esc

Alternatively, you can access the Task Manager through Chrome:

Step 1: In the upper right, click the three-dot Customize & Control button.

Step 2: Highlight More Tools from the drop-down menu until a rollout menu appears.

Step 3: Click on Task Manager.

You can end a task by selecting it in the list and clicking the End Process button.

Check the system information

Chromebook system information

Unlike Windows and MacOS, you won't find a detailed hardware list. Instead, you'll need to open Chrome and load the About System page. Even then, the average Chromebook owner may not understand what the information is about except for the current version of Chrome OS.

Enter the following into Chrome's Omnibox to access this information:

Chrome: // system

Check your memory

Amount of memory for Chromebook View

A Chromebook is not ideal if you need a lot of storage space as it is primarily geared towards the web. Even with Android capabilities, Chromebooks typically have 16GB or 32GB of storage space. You can expand the storage with an SD card if your Chromebook supports it. They are easy to find and even easier to set up.

To see how much space is available on your local drive, do the following:

Step 1: Press the Files Icon on the shelf. It looks like a folder.

Step 2: With the app open, click the three dots More Button in the upper right corner. The amount of memory is shown at the bottom of the menu.

To view the space on an SD card, do the following:

Step 1: Press the Files Icon on the shelf. It looks like a folder.

Step 2: Click on the SD card listed on the left.

Step 3: With the app open, click the three dots More Button in the upper right corner. The amount of memory is shown at the bottom of the menu.

Show hidden files and folders

Chromebook Show hidden files

By default, Chrome OS hides all files and folders with names that start with a period. These files are intentionally hidden. However, if you need access, here's how you can view it:

Step 1: Click the folder icon on the shelf. This will open the Files app.

Step 2: Press the Ctrl and Period keys.

Repeat these steps to hide the files.

Get Chromebook Benefits

Chromebook Get Perks

Google offers a variety of advantages Just for buying a Chromebook, and they're a great way to try other services or apps. The benefits may change over time. However, currently they include:

  • One month of Calm Premium
  • Two months of Clipchamp Business Platinum
  • Three months of Disney +
  • Three months of YouTube Premium
  • Six months of Squid Premium
  • Twelve months of Dropbox storage (100 GB)
  • Twelve months of Google One (100 GB)
  • One year VSCO membership
  • Three months of Stadia Pro
  • Three months of Nvidia GeForce Now
  • Free Project Highrise game
  • Free House of Da Vinci game
  • Free in-app article pack for Fallout Shelter
  • Free Duet Display App

Wipe your Chromebook

Reset Chromebook to Powerwash

Do you want to factory reset your Chromebook to sell or start from scratch? Chrome OS makes this easy with Powerwash. However, you cannot keep files on the device and just reset the operating system settings like in Windows 10. You must first save all files to an external drive before performing a Powerwash.

Step 1: Click the system clock.

Step 2: Click the gear icon on the pop-up menu to access the settings panel.

Step 3: On the left, click the Advanced extension.

Step 4: In the advanced menu, click Reset Settings.

Step 5: Press the Reset to default Button next to Powerwash under Reset settings.

Step 6: A popup will appear on your screen. Press the Start anew Confirmation button.

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