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Getting Started with your Chromebook

The holidays are now over and many of you may have received a Chromebook for Christmas. Welcome to the world of Google’s desktop operating system.

I have written this guide to help new Chromebook users to get up and running with their new device, it may also provide some tips for you Chromebook veterans. This guide will apply to all Chromebooks, from the now retired Cr-48 to Samsung’s and Acer’s latest offerings.

Signing In, Updating Chromebook

When you first turn on your new Chromebook, it will require to first connect to the Internet. WiFi will be the preferred choice, but your Chromebook may have a Ethernet connection.

Once you are connected to the Internet, Chrome OS will start to look for the latest updates for your Chromebook. This is your first experience of why Chrome OS is excellent; automatic updates, bringing new features and improvements to your Chromebook every 6 weeks. If there is an update to download, the process will take around 10-15 minutes to complete.

Once updated, you will be next required to sign in with your Google account. This is the same account used for Gmail or you may have used it to enable Chrome sync on your computer. Once signed in, you will be required to select a profile picture; you can select your Google Account profile picture, or choose a Chrome OS profile picture or take a new picture of yourself using the built in web camera.

Thats it! You are all setup and ready to go. Chrome OS will take a few seconds to do the final setup. This is where Chrome OS really shines. If you currently use Google Chrome on your computer with Chrome Sync enabled, Chrome OS will now be downloading your Bookmarks, Extensions, History, Passwords and Web Apps from the cloud and applying them to your Chromebook.

Basically, you will be up and running within a few minutes, and you can start using your Chromebook without any other setup.

Learning the keys

Chrome OS itself uses similar keyboard commands as Google Chrome on your computer, however built into the OS itself, there is a handy keyboard commands reference, which lists all the available key commands.

Ctrl + Alt + ?

Chromebooks also has a different keyboard to what you may have seen on other laptops. For starters, there is no Caps Lock key. This has been replaced with a dedicated Search key which will launch the App Menu. The App Menu is a place where all your Web Apps are located, you can perform searches here; and soon it will be used to search Google Contacts. If you would rather have the Caps Lock key back, you can either use Alt + Search key which will act as the Caps Lock key; or to enable it permanently, you can change the Search key to the Caps Lock key under “Settings”. (chrome://chrome/settings/keyboard-overlay)

The Home, End, Page Up, Page Down and Delete keys are also missing, again there is a keyboard command to regain this function.

Ctrl + Alt + Up Arrow key - Home
Ctrl + Alt + Down Arrow key - End

Alt + Up Arrow key - Page Up
Alt + Down Arrow key - Page Down

Alt + Backspace  -  Delete the next letter (forward delete)
Ctrl + Backspace   - Delete the previous word

Finally, the Chromebook keyboard has replaced the function keys (F1, F2, F3, etc) with browser buttons.

Some of these browser buttons have secondary commands;

F4 + Shift – Full Screens the active window
Esc + Shift – Open Task Manager

Alt + F6 – Keyboard Brightness down
Alt + F7- Keyboard Brightness up

Ctrl + F4 – Mirror Monitor
Ctrl + F5 - Take Screenshot

Finally, the Power button has two modes. A short press will Lock the Chromebook, a large press will shut down the Chromebook.

Personalising

Like many desktop operating systems, there are plenty of customisation options. To change the desktop wallpaper, you can either right click on the desktop and select “Set Wallpaper” or access the option from Settings. You can select wallpapers which come part of Chrome OS, or select your own wallpaper.

Chrome OS has a “dock” for launch apps from and managing open windows. To add an app to the dock, open the “App Draw” and right click on the web app, select “Pin to Launcher”. Web Apps can also be managed to open in a certain way; either as a full screen app, a pin tab or its own dedicate windows. These options can also be selected by right clicking on the Web App.

Add New Users

Adding a new user on to your Chromebook is very simple. From the login page, select the “Add User” option and enter their Google account details. Like, with the initial setup, this user’s Chome sync data will be downloaded to the Chromebook. Each user account will have their own Download folder, personalisations and Chrome sync data. Each account is secured by their Google account password.

Guest Mode is available on Chromebooks, allowing friends and family to use your Chromebook without being able to access your data. Gust Mode works like Incognito mode, so their data is wiped once they log out of guest mode.

Under Settings (chrome://chrome/settings/accounts), user accounts and guest mode can be managed here.

Chrome Web Store

Like Google Chrome on your computer, you have access to the Chrome Web Store on your Chromebook. The web store is a place where you can download themes, extensions and web apps for your Chromebook. Themes add an extra layer of customizability, by theming your browser window. Extensions add extra functionality to Chrome, including some of the most essential features such as Adblock and Google Talk. Web Apps provide links to your favourite web applications like Gmail, Calendar and Google Drive; plus some Web Apps include offline support using HTML5.

Most web apps, extensions and themes are free to download, and will update automatically.

Switching Channels

Like Google Chrome, Chrome OS has different update channels users can be part of. Default is the Stable channel, in which stable version of Chrome OS will be available to download. While Beta and Development channels are still under testing and are not regarded as stable. You will receive the latest features using the Dev channel, but there will likely be issues. Beta channel will also receive new features before stable release, while still not regarded as stable, it is more stable than the Dev channel.

It is recommended that users stay on the Stable channel, however, if you are feeling quite adventurous, you can switch update channels. Click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar and select “Settings”. Click Help on the “Chrome OS” page that appears, and select the channel you would like to use.

Going Offline

While many see Chromebooks as a device you can only use with an active Internet connection, Google has provided offline functionality. Images, audio and video stored locally can be viewed while offline with the built in media player. PDF files and office documents stored locally can be viewed while offline. With Chrome OS’s built in support for Google Drive, files can be enabled to be stored locally to be viewed offline.

Many web apps from the Chrome Web Store can be used offline. Most notably, Gmail Offline, Google Calendar has offline support, Google Drive can be setup to allow for editing and viewing of docs and sheets offline, and you can play Angry Birds offline.

Minor Notes

  • If you are feeling quite adventurous, try out Chrome Flags (chrome://flags) which is where you can enable new features which are currently in development; such as Smooth Scrolling, GPU rendering, Memory Monitor in taskbar, Google Contacts integration and much more.
  • If you are having technical issues with your Chromebook, you are giving it to a friend or your selling your Chromebook; make sure you ‘Reset’ the device which will wipe your account and all your data from the Chromebook. Restoring to factory settings. This can be found in “Advanced Settings” (chrome://chrome/settings/factoryResetData)
  • A common misconception with Chromebooks is the ability to run Linux applications. While, Chrome OS uses the Linux kernel and has basic access to a Terminal (Ctrl + Alt + T), it can not run Linux applications.
  • Chrome OS supports a variety of USB devices, from flash drives and portable hard drives, to wireless mice and keyboards. You will be surprised by the extensive hardware support!
  • Chromebooks support multi-touch trackpads; two-finger scrolling and two-finger tab for right click menus are enabled by default.

Finally, this video produced by the Chrome team, may help you navigate your Chromebook. Please note, some of the UI has changed since the making of this video.

  • http://www.ryanbestford.com/ thedharmablues

    Useful start up guide, thanks. The tip re: enabling contacts integration via Chrome Flags very handy.

  • Keith

    Just a quick correction on keyboard shortcuts: Home and End are actually achieved using CTRL + ALT + Up/Down arrow respectively. ALT + Up/Down arrow reproduce Page Up/Page Down functionality. I would also add that right clicking can be achieved either by holding ALT + left click or by pressing two fingers on the touchpad at the same time.

    Good getting started guide and thanks for the info on Chrome Flags, I didn’t know about these experiments!

    • Ed Hewitt

      Thanks Keith. I have updated the post to reflect your corrections. I can see this guide being an evolving thing.

  • http://twitter.com/Rorschach55 Rorschach

    For my fellow Chromebook users, specifically those who have put their (ACER) chromebooks in developer mode, do you guys know what ctrl+alt+f6 does AFTER you’ve disabled sleep mode? I did it stupidly out of curiousity and the screen went black and I had to force shutdown my chromebook. everything was fine when I booted up again, but the command exists…so I wonder WHY.

    http://dpicella.blogspot.com/2012/08/chromebook-hack-to-disable-sleep-mode.html

  • Jamie

    I downloaded the Nike+ app off of the Google Apps, but i cannot find it, does anyone now here it is?

  • John Scott

    I bought a refurb Samsung Chromebook and my impression is that its just a overly simplified netbook with a very basic concept of using a browser for everything. Whereas most operating systems use a UI such as Windows for opening programs and apps. Google implemented everything through its browser. Linux is really there only to function for the hardware part of the Chromebooks. So far my impression is good although I would say the cloud print thing is going to confuse a lot of people and from my experience so far is not so great. While it prints to my HP just fine. I find it ridiculous to have to do it through a web site. Especially on a network printer which all of my Mac’s and PC’s easily connect too without all that setup. I find Chrome a bit of a stretch to be called a OS. After all, much of what can be done on a Chromebook can be mirrored on a Google browser. But, for what it is and for the low price I’ll ignore the fact its just a netbook with a browser and a ecosystem by Google and say its good for a second device.

  • Huu Nguyen

    You can run Linux applications, just not through the Chrome OS.

    There are currently two ways to get Linux onto Chrome, with varying degrees of risk and compatibility. There’s ChrUbuntu, which makes your Chromebook into a more traditional dual boot system, and then there’s crouton, which lets you run Linux on top of the Chrome OS. Both options let you run a completely separate Linux environment, and in those environments you can indeed run Linux applications

  • sniper

    can you take a picture of a theme only using the chromebook? if yes is it ok to use it as a wallpaper?

  • Samantha

    question: i’m using google drive on my chromebook, which is great, except i need to be able to use the function keys for it (for instance, shift+ f2 adds a note). do you know any way to do this?

  • brenda

    i bought the chrome book 14 hp and i have a built in web cam however when im on facebook chat window there is no webcam icon so i cant webcam anyone how do i fix this? it says my browser doesent support this when someone tries to call me?

  • john

    Your a douche……… Google found a way to f up Linux. Good job!!!!! Opi

  • yeny

    How do you open your extension because when i downloaded an extension and it said added to chrome and i don’t know how to open it

  • david clark

    how do you upload a plcture on to ebay to sell items

  • Becky

    I need help setting up my eprint..It was working but then it stopped. I followed the instructions but no connection..can anyone help??

  • Barbara Lee

    Very frustrated. Will not load Facebook at times. Will not load explore live cams

  • black iscool

    how do i download pictures from google free?

    • edsxz

      two fingers on the right side of ur keypad, tap, and save as will com up

  • black iscool

    you know what i think i should leave
    i mean this place is where questions go to never be answered
    :(

  • ricardo

    i like chrome;but looking at my experience with computers,I think that something is not right.First of all,if they really were emphasizing about security,every writing on chrome operating system would start off with security.Second,and i think i talk for everyone, and for all operating systems REGULATIONS on the computer. Computers are missing tabs and operating systems are already seems like its been hacked.I mean common!Lets play fair or else everyone should return their products back to the store…thank you ! Bingoson32@yahoo.com

  • Krystal Sheomangal

    I tried to do a screen shot with my acer chromebook and now it won’t go back to it’s regular factory settings the icons are enlarged too I clicked on powerwash and it won’t let me scroll down is there any way that you can help me as soon as possible? my email is ms.bosskrystal@gmail.com

  • sam

    still looking to find my program managers, where i can access Word, or uninstall programs and features i do not need

  • Brian

    We have a new Acer Chrome Book – finding it quite frustrating. Says Photoshop Express is installed, but we cannot find it!

  • max

    Chromebook is a neat little Toy> But to really get things Done you should Use or Install Ubuntu Linux a Fast Secure and Fun OS. And great Community Support, get answers anytime Fast!

  • Annabel

    I am trying to download microsoft office with an external CD drive. It says that its not supported. I need word, excel, publisher. How do I get it on my computer.

    • Joe

      Office is not supported on ChromeOS but you can use Google Drive to do all the same tasks you can do in office.

  • Misha

    I would like to know how to change the size of my user image because I want the whole (customized) image to fit in perfectly with being stretched and/or pulled, please and thank you.

    • Misha

      oops, I meant without not with, but you get the idea

  • Olivia

    How do i get my computer to stop fasr forwarding… please help i cant listen to any music