So, you got a Chromebook and you want to upscale your productivity using some tips and tricks that only the pros use.
Well maybe not “pro,” but you want to learn those hidden nifty keyboard shortcuts and tweaks that only Chrome OS users know about.
Well, you should be glad to know that a Chromebook strips out a lot of the unnecessary bloat that a Windows computer may have.
In this guide, we’ll go over some tips and tricks you can use to get the most from your Chromebook.
Sound good? Let’s rock.
Last updated: 3/8/23.
Be more productive on your Chromebook
At PlatypusPlatypus, we think Chromebooks are probably one of the most productive laptops you can get on the market today.
The only other comparable laptop is this the HP Stream which runs Windows 10, however, the resources that Windows 10 hogs, bogs down the machine overall.
In fact, we’ve heard from some users reporting that the hard drive on the machine isn’t even large enough to update Windows 10 itself. Who’da thunk it?
Anyway, let’s not go on a rant about Chrome vs Windows, I’ve already covered that.
So here are some quick and dirty tips to customize your Chromebook so you can tailor it to your workflow.
Tip #1: Customizing the apps on your Shelf (taskbar)
The first and most obvious thing as customizing your Shelf.
If you installed a ton of apps, limit it to just the ones you use often. It saves you time from having to find what you want.
For newbies, the shelf is the taskbar at the bottom of your screen. You can position it on the left and right side of the screen which we think is useful if you have an 11.6 inch Chromebook as the vertical screen size is already pretty small.
However, it gives you the ability to tweak it and fine-tune it to your needs. Put your most-used apps towards the very top of the Shelf if you’re lying it vertically, or towards the very left of the shelf if you have it docked onto the bottom. Also, eliminate any apps that you don’t really need.
Google Chrome installs Gmail, Docs, and YouTube by default. However, maybe you use another mail service or maybe you prefer Vimeo.
You can remove these apps by tapping them with two fingers and then removing them from the Shelf. If you put too many apps, it just makes it messy and makes you have to look for the proper app.
The whole point of the Shelf is too quick launch your most accessed applications but if you’re expending time fiddling around and looking for where they’re at, that just wastes your productivity.
Keep it simple and only put icons for your applications that you access frequently. For example, you may not always be accessing YouTube. Although you may access it once a week, it’s not worth it to have it waste space on your Shelf. Treat it like precious and prime real estate for your applications to fight over, and make sure you utilize it properly and put it to work so it can work for you.
The same goes for the app launcher.
By default, the Chrome OS app launcher displays your apps in random order, or at least it looks pretty random. You can shuffle the icons around and group them together into folders just like on your Android or iPhone.
If you have several apps that you use occasionally, the launcher is ideal. This is like a secondary Shelf for your less-used apps.
Tip #2: Split your screen by snapping windows
You can grab and snap your windows to the left and right of your screen.
For example, if you’re working with two different windows, perhaps Chrome browser in one window and Google Docs and the other, you can easily snap it so you have two windows running simultaneously.
All you need to do is click and drag your window to the edge of the screen and it should automatically snap.
You can also press:
“ALT + ]” or “ALT + [“
And it’ll snap instantly. There’s no middle divider that makes it easy to split the screen, but it’s the only default built-in way to get two windows side-by-side on Chrome OS.
(Wanna become a master of shortcuts? Get the list of all keyboard commands!)
Putting the windows side-by-side lets you multitask with ease. Keep your Zoom meeting open on one half of your screen while jotting down notes on the other. Perfect for WFH employees.
To easily snap a window to either side of your screen. This is similar to the snapping in Windows 7 and 10.
It may not look pretty on a 11″ screen, but it works. Try adjusting the resolution to make text bigger if you can’t see.
I can do fine with an 11.6″ CB3-131 when I blow up the font size by hitting “CTRL” + “+” (yes, that’s CTRL and PLUS). You can also use MINUS to make things smaller or ZERO to reset the font size. Use it as needed.
Tip #3: Search Gmail from your Chrome Browser
You can search your Gmail quickly using the Omnibar.
However, it requires some manual setup. If you don’t know what the Omnibar is, it’s basically the search bar in your Chrome web browser.
Why do they call it that?
Because you can use it to search for anything. If you’ve tried it before then you know how convenient it is. You can search the web, your Gmail, YouTube, your machine, your settings, help docs, etc.
For example, go right now to your web browser and key in “youtube” but don’t press Enter yet.
Then press Tab, your browser will automatically shift to search within YouTube.
So instead of going to “youtube.com” and then searching for “funny cat videos,” you can simply type YouTube into your search bar, press Tab, type “funny cat videos,” then press Enter.
It’ll automatically search for “funny cat videos” on YouTube.com, and then send you straight to the results page. This is one less step and you can see how handy it is.
If you access your Gmail a lot, you can enable this feature to search within your Gmail so you don’t have to actually access your Gmail and search from there.
To do this, click on “Settings” and then “Manage search engines.”
Go to the “other search engines” box and add Gmail.
Type Gmail as the keyword and the following as the URL:
Now, when you want to search your Gmail, just type “Gmail” into your Omnibox, then type in whatever you’re looking for. Think of how much time this saves you if you access your Gmail quite often. It can bring up search results instantly and cut out a few steps. Awesome.
Tip #4: Use the app launcher to do math or convert units
If you want to convert units or do math quickly, you can use the Chrome app launcher as a calculator.
Just type in whatever you’re trying to convert or calculate within your launcher and it will automatically give you the results. This is just like using Google as a search engine to calculate your math needs.
But rather than going to Google’s homepage or using the Omnibar, you can do it straight from your launcher.
Tip #5: Actually use the voice commands
If you have a ton of apps that you need to access frequently, and you don’t want to sort or group your stuff in the app launcher, there’s an easier way. Use your voice.
Now, a lot of people don’t like using voice commands whether on their computer, car, or smartphone.
However, we think it’s a convenient way to access whatever you’re looking for when you’re at home. Many people don’t like using voice commands in public, but assuming you’re working on your Chromebook in a private setting, using your voice should be no problem. You can launch apps by saying “OK Google” followed by the name of the app.
This will bring up the app without you having to go look for it.
You can also search Google by doing the same thing. And even more interesting, you don’t even need to say the whole word.
For example, if you want to launch Google Calendar, you can just say “OK Google, cal…” and it will bring up Google Calendar along with anything else starting with “cal.” That’s pretty cool.
Tip #6: Go directly to a website without typing in the extras
If you type in the name of a website, for example, “amazon” into the Omnibar but you don’t want to search for Amazon on Google, but rather go to Amazon’s website, you can just push “Ctrl + Enter” instead of Enter. Cool right?
For example, if you type in “Amazon” by itself and you pressed Enter, it would bring you to Google’s results page searching for “Amazon.”
However, if you wanted to go to Amazon’s website, you would type in “www.amazon.com” or simply “amazon.com.”
But if you press those two magic keys, you’ll go to their website.
This only saves you two keystrokes because you can simply type “.com,” but hey, it’s cool and it’s one of those things that make you feel like a pro.
Tip #7: Use the “delete” key on a Chromebook
Chromebooks don’t come with the delete key by default and some people like to erase from the front, so to say.
If you want to do this simply press “ALT + Backspace.”
Tip #8: Get the “caps lock” key back
If you want your caps lock key back, press “Alt + Search.” NOW YOU CAN SEARCH AND TYPE LIKE A PRO. There are a lot more tips for this topic.
Tip #9: Launch apps without touching the mousepad
If you’re in the middle of a project and you don’t want to take your hands off the keyboard to open an app from your Shelf, you can simply press:
“Alt + [the number of the app position]”
For example, if you have Google Docs in the second position on your Shelf, press “Alt + 2” and Google Docs will automatically open.
This is useful for launching stuff when you’re in the middle of doing something and you don’t want to slow down your pace just to open an app.
Perfect for quick-launching an app from the Shelf. You can obviously only have a certain number of apps, so make your most-used apps towards the first few numbers for quick access.
Tip #10: Lock your Chromebook instantly
If you want to lock your Chromebook, you can simply press “ALT + L” from any screen.
This keyboard shortcut is a lot more convenient than manually locking your home screen. Make sure you select to “ask for password upon waking” in your account preferences, or else your Chromebook will just let whoever opens it up to gain access to all your goodies.
This is one is especially useful if you want to secure your device. You can even use a PIN to unlock it if you don’t want to use a password every time to log on.
Or you just use Guest mode at the login splash page if you wanna quickly look something up without logging in. Perfect when you’re in public or something and don’t want to compromise security. That’s why they have Kensington locks!
Tip #11: Take a full or partial screenshot on your Chromebook- with touchscreen or keyboard shortcuts
If you want to take a screenshot, just press “CTRL + Switch Window”.
If you want to take only a partial screenshot and choose the area you want to capture press “CTRL + Shift + Switch Window”.
If you are on a Chromebook with a touchscreen, you can go to “Settings > More tools” and take a screenshot using the touchscreen.
For those used to using the snip tool on PC, Chrome OS also has a snipping tool for quick screencaps.
BONUS TIP 12:
And for something fun. Try pressing “CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + Reload.”
See what happens.
It’s not exactly productive or efficient or anything related to the point of this article, but it’s fun once in awhile.
Show this to your friends and try having them do it on their Windows laptop.
(Did you like that? Take a look at this list of Chrome Easter eggs.)
You’re now a Chromebook ninja
Well, there are some quick and dirty tips to get your productivity up on a Chromebook.
We just made this quick list because these are some tips and shortcuts that we had no idea about.
It’s nice that the developers decided to include this on a Chromebook because many of the shortcuts would be convenient on Windows.
They probably wondered “why doesn’t Windows do X or Y?” Thankfully, they decided to make it all inclusive within Chrome OS. Thank you, Google.