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How to get the most out of your Chromebook

Computerworld | Nov 29, 2019

If you have a Chromebook, you probably know there isn't a lot to figure out when you first start using it. You sign in with your Google account and you're pretty much good to go. But there's plenty of tips and shortcuts you might not know about. Check out JR's tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Chromebook.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

Hey, what's goin' on? I'm JR Raphael. If you've got a Chromebook, you probably know there isn't a heck of a lot to figure out when you first start usin' it. You sign in with your Google account, all your stuff shows up, and you're pretty much good to go — right?

Well, it's true that Chromebooks are pretty simple, by design — but they also have some pretty useful advanced options and shortcuts that are just waiting to be found. And you don't have to be a power-user to embrace 'em.

So grab the nearest Chromebook, and let's teach ourselves a few new tricks — shall we?

First up is Chrome OS's Overview interface. This thing's all too easy to overlook, but you shouldn't — 'cause it can save you some serious time and make your life a whole lot easier.

To get to Overview, either tap the button that looks like a box with two lines next to it on your keyboard — or, if you're using a Chromebook in its tablet mode, tap the icon with that same shape in the corner of the screen.

You can also swipe down with three fingers on your trackpad to get there — or, in tablet mode, swipe down from the top of the screen itself while any app is open.

So here we are in the Overview interface. You can see all of your open apps and windows, but there's more. If you've got a lot of stuff open, you can actually search for it here to find what you need...

And here's an important trick: When you're in your Chromebook's tablet mode, you can drag any app to the left or right side of the screen to start a split-screen setup. After that, drag any other app to the other side — or open a new app, if you want — and there ya have it. Easy multitasking.

Another cool gesture to remember: When you're looking at a web page in any Chrome tab, you can swipe left on your screen — or on your trackpad, using two fingers — to go back one page in your browsing history.

Swiping toward the right will take you forward.

If your window's got more than one tab open in it, try swiping left or right on your trackpad with three fingers. That'll move you between the tabs.

And finally, a text input tip: Unless you're a five-ton elephant with a giant elephant paw, don't use that huge keyboard that comes up when you first start typing on your Chromebook's touch screen.

See that second icon on the keyboard's top row — the one that looks like a rectangle with a small, dark rectangle inside it? Yeah — tap that. That'll shrink down the on-screen keyboard to a much more manageable size, like the one you're used to using on your phone. You can even move it around your screen, by tapping that little handle at its bottom and then sliding your finger around, to put it anywhere you want.

If you'd rather type by talking, that little microphone icon there will do the trick for ya.

And if you want to try writing — with a stylus, your finger, or any other appendage — tap that first icon along the keyboard's top row — the one right there, that looks.... vaguely like a drunken snake. That'll give you an open canvas where you can write anything you want by hand and have it converted into text as you go. Pretty nifty.

For more ways to make the most of your Chromebook, check out my Android Intelligence column at Computerworld. You can also get all my top tips and mobile-tech insight delivered right to your inbox every Friday... by signing up for my newsletter at
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