For years laptops have been rapidly eating into the desktop marketplace, becoming the preferred version of the PC most people want to own. And why not? After all, it’s great to be able to take your entire computer with you instead of being chained to your desk with it. And when it comes to laptops there’s no denying that some of the hottest and most genre-defining have been Chromebooks–laptops which are known as a “thin client” notebooks.
But what is a Chromebook exactly? Many manufactures make Chromebooks (ASUS, HP, Lenovo) but the concept of a Chromebook itself was invented by Google, which makes it own Chromebook–the Pixel. Chromebooks are referred to as a “thin client” notebook because for the most part it relies on a constant internet connection–or technically a connection to the millions of servers that make up “the internet”–to get anything done.
And you have TONS of choice when it comes to Chromebooks.
Chromebooks run the Chrome OS, which is essentially Google’s Chrome web browser in OS form. On a Chromebook most of your files live online via Google’s services like Drive, Photos, Documents, and more and you just access them using the Chrome OS on the Chromebook device. Without an internet connection the Chromebook can’t access a lot of data, making it pretty limited in its uses.
But with an internet connection a Chromebook is probably all 95% of the population needs. And whether you use a Chromebook or are thinking about getting one, you’ll be able to take your Chromebook experience to the mx with these tips and tricks.
1) Talk to your Chromebook
This is probably my favorite Chromebook tip–because it really reflects where the future of human-computer interaction is going. You’ll already probably familiar with Google’s “Google Now” voice assistant on smartphones, but did you know Google Now is backed into your Chromebook? You just need to enable it. To do so go the Settings dialog and under the Search heading check the box marked Enable “OK Google” to start a voice search.
2) Learn your Chromebook keyboard shortcuts
If you look at a Chromebook keyboard you’ll notice it’s got a few differences from the keyboard of a normal laptop. Most notably, it has a Search key instead of a caps lock button. Because of its different keyboard, the Chromebook posts some different keyboard shortcuts than you’re used to. To find all the keyboard shortcuts specific to your Chromebook press Ctrl+Alt+? and a keyboard shortcut key map will appear on your screen. Alternately, hold down Alt, Ctrl, Shift or Search to see the shortcuts associated with each key.
3) Save files right to Google Drive
All Chromebooks have limited storage to save files locally on your device, but the real advantage of Chromebooks come when using them with cloud services to store files. By default a Chromebook will save files locally, but you can set up your Chromebook to always save files to Google Drive in the cloud by going to your settings and clicking “Show advanced settings”.
Under the Downloads header, click Change, and then select your Google Drive and click on the Open button. Finally, back on the Settings screen, uncheck the box marked “Ask where to save each file before downloading” and next time you save a file it will automatically be saved to Drive.
4) Use Google Drive offline
Most people think you need to have an internet connection to create, edit, and save Google Documents on a Chromebook. However, you can actually work with all your Google Drive documents when your Chromebook is offline–you just need to enable this feature. Do so by going to the My Drive view in Google Drive, and then click on the gear icon and click Settings. Next check the box labelled “Sync Google Docs, Sheets, Slides & Drawings files to this computer” next to the Offline header. Now any changes made to your documents while your Chromebook is offline are automatically synced back when you next have an internet connection.
5) Use your smartphone to unlock Chrome OS
One of my favorite tricks is using a smartphone to authenticate yourself and log into your Chromebook automatically instead of having to enter a password each time. To set this up go to the Settings page then click “Show advanced settings”. In the Smart Lock option, click Set up. Next you’ll pair your Chromebook to phone via Bluetooth. Once this is done the next time your phone is in range of your Chromebook, you’ll only need to click on your Chromebook user avatar to log in.
6) Mirror your Chromebook’s display with a Chromecast
As their name implies, Chromebooks only come in the laptop form factor. But what if you want a bigger display? Not to worry, if you also have a Chromecast plugged into a local TV you can mirror your Chromebook’s display right on your television. To do so simply click the status bar in the lower right-hand corner of your Chromebook’s screen. Select the Chromecast option and then choose your Chromecast from the list. Now your display will be mirrored to the TV connected to the Chromecast you chose.
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