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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.