Chromebook tips and tricks: Getting the most out of your Chrome OS machine


When Google first released its Linux-based operating system, most people were blown away by the idea that a computer could simply get rid of the desktop and focus solely on the browser.

Fast-forward over a decade and Chromebooks are still popular and brilliant for a number of reasons. Not just because they're affordable either.

Still, getting used to a device that's mostly all browser-focused can be a challenge at first, but there are a lot of things that you can do with your Chromebook that you might not realise.

There are numerous tips, tricks, keyboard shortcuts, web apps, extensions, and add-ons you can use at this very moment to get the most out of your Chrome OS machine and make it just as brawny and feature-rich as a Mac or Windows computer. Well, maybe not as brawny. But pretty close.

How to access Chromebook settings

Your Chromebook still has a settings menu that allows you to tweak all sorts of things including looking for updates, changing user account settings, adjusting accessibility settings and more

To access it go to the bottom right-hand corner of your display, then click on the status area, and select the cog icon to bring up the settings page.

You can also access the settings with shortcuts as well. Rather than clicking around just press ALT+SHIFT+S.

If you know what you're looking for you can search for it in the settings menu by pressing CTRL+F.

How to right click on a Chromebook photo 3

How to right-click on a Chromebook

When you start using a Chromebook some things can feel a bit awkward. Things you're used to doing on a Windows laptop that are second nature can suddenly feel confusing. Simple things like right-clicking on your trackpad for example.

Chromebooks have a different design that's a trackpad with a single button, but some of the controls on a Chromebook are done via gesture instead. One of these is right-clicking. So to right-click all you need to do is use two fingers to tap on the trackpad at the same time. This acts like a right click and opens menus in the same way it would in Windows. Simple.

There are several different gestures that you can use to navigate around your Chromebook or use it in different ways. These include simple actions to optimise your life:

  • Swipe up with two fingers on the trackpad and you'll scroll up a page. Scroll down by swiping down instead.
  • Swipe two fingers to the left and you'll go back to the previous page
  • Swipe two fingers to the right and you'll go forwards instead
  • Swipe up with three fingers to see all your open apps and windows
  • Swipe left or right with three fingers to switch between Chrome tabs
  • Swipe left or right with four fingers to switch between virtual desktops

Manage users on your Chromebook

Visit settings to manage who can log into your machine. Scroll down to the Users section and click on "Manager other users", where you'll be able to add users, enable guest browsing, enable supervised users, show users names and photos on sign-in screen, and restrict users. Chrome OS also supports multi-user logins.

Chromebook family link


Manage your children's Chromebook use

Chromebooks make a logical choice for buying for young family members as they're affordable and easy to use. But if you want to make sure your children are safe online then you'll want to look at Family LInk. This is a tool that's built to give you control over your kid's Android phones and Chromebook laptops.

We've written a detailed guide on how Family Link works and how to set it up to do things like manage screen time, restrict mature content or manage apps and website access too.

Accessibility options

To view accessibility options, type chrome://settings/search#accessibility into your browser URL bar, or just visit the Settings page and search for accessibility. You'll then have the opportunity to enable Chromevox spoken feedback, tap dragging, on-screen keyboard, and more.

How to screenshot on Chromebook

We've written before about the various different ways you can take screenshots on your Chromebook. There are various different ways you can both capture a screenshot or screen record while using your Chromebook.

To take a quick screenshot of everything on the screen with minimal fuss all you need to do is press Ctrl + Show windows key at the same time. The show windows key is the one with a symbol of a square next to two lines.

How to split screen on your Chromebook

Despite the small size and unassuming nature Chromebooks can still be used to multi-task when you want to. This includes simple things like split-screening your view so you can get more done with ease.

Activating split screen on a Chromebook is really straightforward to:

  • Open the app you want to use
  • Click on the maximise/restore button
  • Click and drag the app to the left or right hand side of the screen
  • Let go and it should snap
  • Repeat the process with another app and you can snap it to the other side for side-by-side view.

For more options on split screening, read our full guide here.

Pin apps on Chromebook


Pin apps for quick access

If there are things that you regularly need to access then you can easily pin these to have quick access to them. This acts in a similar way to the taskbar on Windows, but it's called the Shelf. To do this:

  1. Open the launcher by clicking on it via the Shelf
  2. Find the relevant app that you want to pin
  3. Right click on it (use two fingers on the corner of the trackpad)
  4. Click the option to pin to Shelf

Alternatively you can pin a web page from Chrome. With Chrome open to the relevant page:

  1. Click the three dot option menu
  2. Click on more tools
  3. Click on create shortcut
  4. Then open the launcher and find the shortcut
  5. Right click it and click pin to shlef

Once something is pinned to your Chromebook shelf you can access it quickly by just clicking on it, but you can also tap ALT and the number on your keyboard that corresponds to the app you want to use. For example ALT+1 for the first app, ALT+2 for the second, ALT+3 for the third and so on.

Useful Chromebook shortcuts

Improve your life with these simple Chromebook shortcuts.

  • Shift+Alt+M - Opens file manage to see all you local drives, Google Drive, Downloads folder, files, etc. This is the Files web app located in your Chrome App Launcher
  • Ctrl+Shift+L - Want to quickly log out out of your Chromebook account but don't want to exit out of open tabs and web apps? This combination locks the screen
  • Ctrl+Shift+N - For times when you want to browse the web without Chrome saving certain information, you can use incognito mode and this is the easy way to activate it
  • Ctrl+Shift+O - Use this combination to access your Bookmark manager in the Chrome browser. This page will let you easily move bookmarks, create folders, and organise all your favourite pages
  • Ctrl+M - This shortcut minimises the current window. Keep pressing the shortcut combination to minimise every open window until you see your desktop
  • Ctrl+H - View Chrome browsing history with this shortcut: You can also access this by going to the Settings page and select History in the right-hand menu
  • Ctrl+ Shift+Q - Quickly restart your Chromebook with this key combination
  • Ctrl+Shift+T - opens the last tab you closed
  • Ctrl+Shift+Tab - cycles through your open tabs
  • Alt+Search - turns on caps lock. There's no dedicated caps lock key so this is useful if you need it
  • Ctrl+Shift+Alt+Rotate/Reload - does a barrel roll and spins your screen
  • Ctrl+Shift+? - did you know that you can get certain benefits with your Chromebook? Hit this shortcut to see them

How to factory reset your Chromebook

You can clear all local user data stored on your Chromebook by resetting it to original factory state. This process is also known as a Powerwash. You'll need to go to the Settings page and click Show advanced settings at the bottom of the page. Find the "Powerwash" section, then click Reset, and finally, select Restart. You can also reset your Chromebook from the sign-in screen. Simply press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+R and then select Restart.

Obviously you'll want to back-up any important data before you factory reset or you'll risk losing your important things so make use of Google Drive to back up essential data first.

Valve has officially confirmed the next Steam sale dates photo 1


Install Steam on your Chromebook

If you're a gamer with a punchier Chromebook and a yearning to play something on your machine then there's good news as it's possible to install Steam on your Chromebook. There are a few steps to it and you'll also need to be running a compatible device but otherwise it's perfectly possible and there are a number of games you can play too.

We've written a detailed guide on how to do this, the Chromebooks it'll work on and the supported games.

Of course if this fails then you can always turn to Steam Link and remote game streaming to get your gaming fix.

Autohide the shelf

Mac OS lets you autohide the dock. Windows does the same with the taskbar. It's a pretty cool feature that will, as it sounds, hide your shelf until you hover over the shelf areas. But did you know you could do the same with your shelf in Chrome? Just right-click on the shelf and select Autohide shelf.