There’s no question that Google has designed the Chromebook keyboard and trackpad with convenience and usability in mind. To get the most out of your Chromebook, it’s important to become familiar with all that these devices have to offer. On top of an array of dedicated keys and some useful gestures within the trackpad, Google throws in a few keyboard shortcuts that make the overall experience a breeze.
The Google-optimized keyboard layout encompasses a few trade-offs that will take some getting used to. For starters, you’ve probably noticed the lack of a dedicated caps lock key. Don’t panic; you can still type in an extra-assertive tone by holding ALT while you press the key that replaced your beloved yell button: the search key. This one is a favorite of mine and many other Chromebook users as it offers a quick alternative to tireless scrolling through menu screens and app drawers. When selected, a Google assistant window will appear along with a search bar that allows users to search across their entire device, the web, and their apps all at once while also providing a list view of recently used apps. It’s possible to do away with the search key altogether within the settings if you prefer a more traditional caps lock, though
Across the top of your Chromebook’s keyboard, you’ll find a row of shortcut keys in place of the standard function keys. Here, users have access to things like volume and brightness control, back and forward arrows to navigate web pages, and even a full-screen function that hides your dock and address bar. For native Windows users, this might come as a cause for concern. Google is forgiving though and has made it possible for this row to behave as normal function keys when used in conjunction with the SHIFTkey. For a permanent switch, go to your device settings, select Keyboard, and turn on Treat top-row keys as function keys.
For the user that wants to maximize productivity but is uninterested in using an external monitor, there’s a handy keyboard shortcut that will “snap” your display in half and fit it to one side of the screen or the other. To do this, use ALT + [ or ] to snap to the left or the right. Doing so will leave the other side of the display wide open to occupy another app or window.
Need to switch tabs? No problem. Simply swipe right or left with three fingers on the trackpad and the transition is smooth as butter. Now, take those same fingers – all three of them, and swipe down (or up if using the natural scrolling setting) to reveal a quick overview of your running windows. Google has a pretty solid resume in the gestures department, and Chromebooks are no exception. They’ve kept scrolling pretty conventional, just a two-finger swipe up or down, which is handy for users who may be jumping ship from a different platform. A three-finger tap will open links in a new tab, and history scrolling within a browser tab can be done as quickly as you can swipe two fingers in either direction.
Whether you’re a lifelong Windows user, an Apple junkie, or brand new to the computer world, it’s easy to appreciate what Google brings to the table in terms of productivity. As time passes and you become more comfortable with your Chromebook, using the trackpad and keyboard and exploiting them to their full potential won’t require a second thought.