Okay, so you want to change your Chromebook’s keyboard settings.
It may be a little strange getting used to a new keyboard. I mean, it has a few new keys, no F1-F12 keys, and doesn’t even have a Caps Lock key.
But don’t worry.
The Chromebook’s keyboard can do pretty much everything a traditional QWERTY keyboard can like you’re used to if you’re coming from Windows computers.
You’ll learn everything you need to know about the keyboard including changing the layout, language, typing in Unicode, typing special characters or accent marks, or even using the Function Keys (F1-F12).
This tutorial’s got you covered.
Last updated: 1/6/21. The function keys remain the same and haven’t changed. So the process is largely the same. Updated for typos and accuracy.
Why are Chromebook keyboards so weird?
Chrome OS was designed for simplicity, security, and speed.
Having a keyboard that eliminates keys that are rarely used makes it easier for you to use.
It was built to fit into a compact laptop’s frame and be easy to use for students and professionals alike.
But when the time comes when you need to get the Function keys back, or when you need to change the layout of it, or even when you need to add a special character such as an accent mark, that’s when it can get confusing.
Note that if your Chromebook’s keyboard is spitting out wrong characters, repaid letters, or not typing anything at all– it could need a good cleaning.
This article was written to cover nearly all aspects of your Chromebook’s keyboard so you can become a Chromebook master.
You can read this article from start to finish or jump to whatever section you’re looking for. I suggest you at least read the section entitled “how to get to the settings page” first because all of the other sections build upon this.
So, let’s get started already.
How to get to the settings page
Getting to your Chromebook’s settings page is the entry-point to make adjustments for your keyboard.
It’s very to easy to do and only takes a few steps.
Here are two ways to get to the settings page on your Chromebook:
- Click on your account picture in the bottom right and click on “Settings.”
- Launch Chrome Browser and type in “chrome://settings” in the address bar and press Enter.
That’s it. From here, you can find and change your Chromebook’s settings. This is the main settings page and you can adjust nearly everything about your device from here.
There’s also a search feature that you can use to lock down a specific setting you want to change. Try it out- it’s pretty convenient and saves a ton of time so you don’t have to dig through different sections and subsections to change an option.
One you learn all the hotkeys, shortcuts, or function keys, you can whizz around the keyboard like a ninja. It’s very easy to never even use the touchpad for most navigational functions once you get into it.
Here’s a PDF of all the Chromebook shortcuts (in printable form) =].
Once you become a Chromebook expert, you’ll only need the touchpad for typing. Nearly everything else can be done by the keyboard commands!
Switch between windows, lay windows side-by-side, renaming files, jumping to different sections of the page, etc. There are even extensions you can grab that macro these commands for you.
How to add a new language (or change your Chromebook’s language)
This is probably one of the most common questions international readers have.
Changing the keyboard language input of your Chromebook is super easy, so fear not.
You can adjust the language to many supported built-in languages such as Chinese (HK, PRC, and Taiwan), Russian, Malay, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Afrikaans, Polish, Serbian, Slovak, Zulu, Vietnamese, Turkish, Romanian, Italian, Korean, Slovenian, Icelandic, and Spanish.
Here’s how to change your Chromebook’s language:
Step 1: Get to your Chromebook’s settings page by clicking your account picture in the bottom-right and then clicking “Settings.”
Step 2: In the search box at the top of the screen, type “language” and you’ll see the results.
Step 3: Click on “Language” to see all the options.
Step 4: Pick whatever language you want your Chromebook to be displayed in.
Step 5: If the language you’re looking for isn’t in the list, you can add one. Just click on the “Add” button.
Step 6: A list will pop up. Find the language you want to add and tick the checkbox next to it and then click on the “Add” button.
After the language is changed, you can choose whether you want your Chromebook to show its interface (menus, app launcher, file directories, etc.) in your selected language.
If you do, just select the option to “Display Google Chrome OS in this language” and restart your Chromebook.
You can also automatically translate online web pages to your selected language by moving your language to the top of the list.
Change the language input
Changing the keyboard’s language input is super easy.
You may find this useful if you’re working with different languages and you need to switch between them often.
Here’s how to change your Chromebook’s language input settings:
Step 1: Click on your account picture in the bottom-right.
Step 2: Click on “Settings” to open the settings menu.
Step 3: In the search box, type in “input methods” and look at the search results.
Step 4: You’ll see a list of results. Find the button labeled “Manage input methods” under the “Input method” section.
Step 5: From here, you can change how you want to input letters of the alphabet for different languages. Tick the boxes of the languages you’d like to use on your Chromebook.
Tip: If you happen to switch between different language inputs often, you can tick the box to show the input method in the shelf. This way, it’s easy to change on-the-fly without coming back to the settings page. Just click on the input button and select your language.
Another tip: You can also just press “CTRL + SHIFT+ SPACE” to switch languages instantly.
How to get F1-F12 (Function Keys) on a Chromebook
You may be scared that your entire row of F-Keys have suddenly vanished.
If you’ve been using an Apple or Windows computer, you’re used to this row of keys at the top.
They’re commonly used for tasks like refreshing the page (F5) or full-screening it (F12). Same goes for using the F3 and F4 keys on a Chromebook. These are all convenient functions that can be taken advantage of.
But don’t worry, it’s easy to get them back on a Chromebook. Even though you don’t physically have a key dedicated to the F1-F12 functions, the top of keys on your keyboard can be used as a substitute for these keys. All you need to do is enable the feature.
Here’s how to enable the F1-F12 keys:
Step 1: Click on your account picture in the bottom-right corner.
Step 2: Click on “Settings” to launch a Chrome window with all of your Chromebook’s settings.
Step 3: Type “keyboard” in the large search box at the top of the screen (or scroll down and find “Device” and look for “Keyboard Settings” in this section.
Step 4: Look for the option that says “Treat Top-Row Keys as Function Keys” and tick it.
Step 5: Click “OK” to save and confirm your settings.
The entire top row of your keyboard will now act like F1-F12 keys. Of course, this will disable your Chromebook’s shortcut keys in order to use them as Function keys. You can’t have both enabled at the same time. It’s either F-keys or shortcut keys.
If you want to switch back, just go back into the same page and uncheck the box. Then you’ll get your shortcut keys back instead of Function Keys.
Chromebook “alt codes”
If you don’t know what an alt code is, it’s basically the ability to type in a special character using your Chromebook’s keyboard.
On a Windows computer, you can simply press and hold the “ALT” key and type a number to get a special character to print.
For example, if you press “ALT + 164” you’ll get ñ as a special character on a traditional keyboard.
You can do the same thing on a Chromebook.
It’s a slightly different setup and a slightly more complex process, but for those who work with multiple languages (or languages other than English which require the use of accent marks or special characters), you’ll definitely find this useful.
Here’s how to type special characters, diacritics, and accent marks on a Chromebook:
Step 1: Click on your account picture in the bottom-right corner.
Step 2: Click on “Settings” to adjust your keyboard input.
Step 3: Search for “language” in the search box or look for the section labeled “Language” on the menu.
Step 4: Change the language setting to “US Extended.”
Step 5: Confirm your settings.
You should see your keyboard layout change to “EXTD” in the shelf (taskbar). Now you’ll have the ability to use alt codes on your Chromebook.
Accent marks and diacriticals
If you press the “RIGHT ALT” key and a letter, you’ll be able to type that letter with an accent mark.
Here are a few examples:
- If you press “RIGHT ALT + N” you’ll get ñ.
- If you press “RIGHT + ALT + O” you’ll get ó.
If the letter has multiple accent marks, you can input the letter multiple times to cycle through them all.
Typing special characters, umlauts, trémas, circonflexes, cédilles, and other symbols
This works the same way for special characters on your Chromebook.
By holding down the “RIGHT ALT” key and pressing a letter or number on your keyboard, you can make all sorts of special characters such as the following:
You can see the keyboard mapping cheat sheet here.
US International vs. US Extended keyboard
All of these characters are easily inputted just by holding down the “RIGHT ALT” key with your keyboard input changed to “US Extended.”
It’s that easy.
Accent marks, special characters, umlauts, tréma, circonflex, cédille and any other weird and strange symbols, marks, or letters you need to type are included in your Chromebook’s library.
There’s also the method of using US International (INTL) instead of US Extended (EXTN). They work very differently though, especially when you’re trying to type punctuations.
For example, if you’re in the US International layout:
You type “ ‘ + e” (that’s an apostrophe and the “e” key) to print é.
The punctuation mark (apostrophe key) comes first before the letter. But then comes the issue of trying to type the punctuation mark since it’s used to signify you’re about to type a code in order to type a special character.
To get around this, you need to print the apostrophe key (‘) followed by the spacebar.
So it looks like this:
Type “ ‘ + SPACEBAR” (that’s an apostrophe and the spacebar) to print ‘ (an apostrophe).
As you can see, this will easily become frustrating when you’re trying to type accents, diacritics, and special characters while trying to type the regular apostrophe.
This is why I suggest to simply using the US Extended layout instead. But for some, it may be easier using the US International keyboard.
Tip: If you happen to get stuck with all the different keyboard layouts, you can always press “CTRL + ALT + /” and your Chromebook will show you the current keyboard layout.
Here’s a video demonstration showing off how to type accent marks and special characters on a US International keyboard:
Typing in Unicode notation
Your Chromebook has the ability to use Unicode.
If you don’t know what this is, it’s simply a standard computer language system that prints any character by entering its value (a code that denotes the specific character).
Here’s how to type in Unicode notation on your Chromebook:
Step 1: Press “CTRL + SHIFT + U” quickly.
Step 2: Release the “U” key.
Step 3: The screen input will change to an underline. Type in the Unicode of the character you want to input using numbers and letters only (all lowercase).
Step 4: After you’re done typing in the value, press the spacebar.
This will allow you to choose special characters, many of which people use to make ASCII art in forum posts or threads online.
You can see a list of all Unicode characters here.
Chrome keyboard language extensions
If you need to use special characters from time to time but don’t want to refer to a list every time to see the code, there’s (obviously) a Chrome extension for that.
UTF-8 Unicode Characters
Try out the UTF-8 Unicode Characters Chrome extension.
You install to your Chrome Browser and whenever you want to input a special character, you just launch the extension.
You can sort through all of the UTF-8 characters easily in multiple tabs. Then you just click on the one you want to use to copy it. Then paste it into your document, post, social media, or whatever else. It’s as easy as finding the character you want and copying/pasting it.
Google Input Tools
Another extension you may want to check out is the Google Input Tools extension.
It lets you switch to over ninety languages with the click of a button. It provides full virtual keyboards for all common (and not so common) languages. It also provides direct transliteration and full IMEs for over thirty different scripts and also handwriting support for over forty languages as well.
This extension is very useful if you use multiple computers with Chrome because it’ll stick with you no matter which one you’re using.
It’s also good if you need to type in multiple languages because you can easily switch between them instantly. It’s perfect for transcribers, ambassadors, travelers, students, teachers, or even translators.
Did you master your keyboard yet?
Well, there you have it.
If you’re looking to just switch languages, change your keyboard’s layout, or go all out in type with accent marks, diacritics, special characters, Unicode, or even UTF-8 on your Chromebook, you got it.
You’re now a Chromebook keyboard master. Congrats.
Want to master even more? See this guide for tips, tricks, and mastering everything about your Chromebook.
If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Or if you found this guide helpful, let me know as well. Consider telling a fellow Chromie =].
Thanks for reading.