If you have used a Chromebook for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve familiarized yourself with Chrome’s somewhat unique track pad gestures. I, myself, was a devoted Windows user for the better part of two decades and avoided Apple products like the plague. The only time I ever touched a MacBook was a machine that was dual-booted with Windows so I could play Steam games. Even then, I was using a gaming mouse. So, adjusting to a track pad with no left or right buttons(or little red rubber nub like my ThinkPad) made me a little anxious.
After a very brief acclamation period, I found the one-piece track pad of my Chromebook to be more natural and user-friendly than any of my previous Windows machines. With a solid, button free track pad, using gestures allows for a much more fluid work flow. With a little time and practice I’m sure you too will find yourself using gestures without thought. And, if you’re like me, you will wonder how you ever used a 3-button track pad at all.
The fundamentals of a Chromebook track pad are just like that of most single click devices. The one notable difference is that Chrome enables tap-to-click by default. This means you can “single-click” anywhere on the track pad without actually depressing it to the point of clicking. This does take a little getting used to and the force of the “tap” varies by device. But, after just a few days of use, it becomes second nature. And, since you’re not actually “clicking” the track pad, it saves wear and tear on your Chromebook. Navigating your desktop is a simple one-finger motion across the track pad to move your pointer. Drag and Drop works like any track pad or mouse. Just click your target and drag it wherever you like.
For MacBook users this gesture will be very familiar. Since Chromebooks have no right or left track pad buttons, right-clicks are preformed by depressing the track pad with two fingers. Depending on what you right-click will determine which of a number of menus that will pop-up. As with most devices, this will give you options to save an image, print pages or copy link text just to name a few. If you’re into web page design, right-clicking will also give you an element inspection option. In Chrome, this is a very, very useful tool. If you find this method to be troublesome for you, you can always use the alternative method of Atl+Click for the same results.
Scrolling, just like right-clicking, is done with two fingers anywhere on the track pad. By default, Chromebooks are set to traditional scroll. Meaning, slide two fingers up on the track pad and you will scroll to the top of the page. I have just recently switched to Australian scroll on my Acer Chromebook 15 and must say, I find it more natural for me. Australian scroll is just the opposite of traditional scroll and can be found in your settings screen under Settings>Device>TouchPad settings.
The middle-click action will allow you to open a link in a new browser tab by simply using three fingers and clicking on the target link. Using the middle-click on a browser tab will close the individual tab without closing your browser.
Now that we have the basics down we can get into the fun stuff. Chromebooks have a number of really neat options to navigate through tabs, history and available windows open on your desktop. The swipe features make for a very unique user experience and in my opinion, greatly streamlines your work flow. That’s a very good thing.
Swiping left and right with three fingers while browsing will quickly switch between open tabs in your browser. Especially handy when referencing documents in Drive. Alternatively, using a two-finger swipe in a browser will act as a back and forward button for the page you are in.
Now for my favorite gesture of all. Three-finger swipe up and down. I feel this is one of the most useful and ingenious functions on my Chromebook. When working with multiple apps, swiping up on your track pad with three fingers will quickly bring up all available, open windows on your desktop. This is perfect for cycling between browsers, image editors, IDE’s or whatever apps you use. From here you can click the window you want to maximize or a simple swipe down will bring you back to the screen you just left.
While I’m not sure if this is Chromebook specific, it was new to me. This is a neat feature if you use Google’s search engine. Google has been fine tuning their image search over the past few months and randomly adding new features to allow you to search the web with images as opposed to text. If you go to Google Image search, you can click on an image from local storage and while depressing, use two fingers to drag and drop the image into the search bar and Google will do an internet search based on your image. The gesture does seem to be redundant with a normal drag and drop but it’s my first time seeing it. While I don’t see the everyday user finding this application very useful, it’s still a cool feature.