Chromebooks did not become the laptop replacement that Google may have hoped, but they have gained plenty of traction among the right audience. The lightweight alternatives to conventional computing must be doing something well given that some of the biggest brands in electronics continue to produce new models. It would be fair to assume that if you have taken the plunge with a Chromebook, you are already pretty tech-savvy. However, you might not be aware of just how capable these machines can be, and we have put together our 10 top tips for readers that want to take their Chromebook use to the next level.
1. Use the Search Box as an App
We have put together several different features based around the Google ecosystem recently, and our readers have found out more about just how capable the search box can be. The integrated box on Chromebooks that serves as a starting point for most tasks is just as powerful and can significantly cut down on app use. Just as on the website, if you enter a calculation or measurement conversion, the app launcher will return the answer rather than seek out further information.
2. Bring Your iTunes Library Over
The cloud-based nature of the Chromebook operating system means that conventional software tends not to run on these devices. That includes iTunes, but if you have spent years cultivating and curating the perfect music library, you do not need to be without it when using your Chromebook. Google Play Music is the service of choice here, and whether you use the free version or the paid alternative, you can directly import tracks and playlists. Get on the computer that holds your iTunes library, sign in to Google Play Music on the same device and download the Music Manager tool. From there, the instructions are pretty self-explanatory, and you’ll end up with a perfect copy of your favourite songs.
3. Experiment with New Chrome OS Releases
If you have had your Chromebook for any decent length of time, you are probably already familiar with the differences between the platform and its Windows or macOS counterparts. If you find yourself getting curious about what might come next, all you need to do is change a setting. Chromebooks launch into the stable, current version of the operating system. However, if you enter the ‘About Chrome OS’ menu in settings, you will receive the opportunity to switch to the beta and dev versions. The beta version should work normally but with some new features, while the dev version showcases the latest developments and could go wrong at any moment – but that’s part of the fun!
4. Start Over
Given that Chromebooks do not store massive amounts of data, there will not be too many reasons to restore factory settings. Nevertheless, if you want to wipe out everything and start anew, launch your account on the device, go to advanced settings and hit ‘Powerwash’. When you next boot your Chromebook, it will be exactly the same as when you first took it out of the box.
5. Recover a Crashed Chromebook
Among the main selling points of Chromebooks is that they are different from conventional laptops, but we have not quite got past the need for recovery media just yet. Again, there is never much to lose on a Chromebook with the cloud taking care of most storage requirements. If you want to be able to get your device back to where it was without fuss, it is worth grabbing the Chromebook Recovery Utility from the Chrome Web Store. When you start the tool, it will guide you through the process of setting up a thumb drive or SD card for recovery.
6. Explore New Keyboard Shortcuts
You may have been using a keyboard for decades by now, and not a whole lot has changed. Google has opted to modify their setup on a software level, and virtually every key on the board boasts a secondary feature. There are too many to list here, but you can bring up the shortcut menu by hitting ‘Ctrl + Alt + ?’ together and improve your productivity even further.
7. Add Caps Lock
You may have noticed that another of the quirks of the Chromebook hardware is that the decision was taken to remove caps lock as its own key. We can understand the thinking – a simple hold of shift suffices for us to the point that we have even disabled the key in our keyboard software. If you do end up finding yourself missing the key, you can enter the Keyboard Settings on your device and assign its functionality to any key that takes your fancy.
8. Chromebooks Offer Parental Controls
An area in which Google is clearly ahead of the game compared to Apple and Microsoft is in the use of parental controls on larger devices. This goes for Chromebooks, and owners can change these settings in the main settings menu under ‘People’ and then ‘Manage Other Users’. You’ll need to sign out first and then create a new Supervised User. You can then control their personal settings when you head back into your account and edit Permissions.
9. Explore Voice Control
If you read the right blogs, you’ll see that many industry experts consider voice search as the future. It is a safe assumption that every piece of Google hardware going forward will respond to ‘OK, Google’ commands, Chromebooks included. No key presses are required, for obvious reasons, and you can explore exactly what your device can do with verbal requests.
10. Browse Extensions and Apps
The software you have access to depends on your specific Chromebook. Some users will be on the lookout for extensions, others will have access to the Play Store, and others can use a combination of both. There is a great selection to choose from already, and many major software providers are already on board or close to launch.