There is no other device that is more mysterious or more misunderstood than the Chromebook. After all, what is a Chromebook exactly? Why are Chromebooks so weird? Why don’t they have a caps lock key? Today, we’re breaking down the Chromebook basics that every user needs to know.


What is a Chromebook?

First things first, let’s put the mystery to an end. A Chromebook is a type of laptop that is run on the Chrome OS. Chromebooks are unique in that they are internet-heavy machines. They’re a favorite for ed tech programs across the nation because of their affordability and ease of use.


Chromebook Basics

Here are seven Chromebook basics to help you navigate your device like a pro.


1. Right Click

The most elementary of Chromebook basics, the right click. If you aren’t using a mouse, how on earth do you right click? Similar to other laptops, you can right click on a Chromebook by tapping two fingers at the same time on the touchpad.

Note: This will only work if tap-to-click is enabled, which is most likely enabled. If disabled, toggle the setting on under Mouse and Touchpad Device settings (Settings > Advanced > Manage Accessibility Features > Mouse and Touchpad > Open Mouse and Touchpad Settings).

You can also right click by pressing Alt while you click with one finger.


2. View all Keyboard Shortcuts

Chromebooks pride themselves on a streamlined approach, so it’s no surprise that they’re full of handy keyboard shortcuts. And, even less surprising, there’s a keyboard command to see all keyboard shortcuts. Press Ctrl + Alt + ? to view a keyboard overlay with keyboard shortcuts.

You can also check our handy guide to Chromebook keyboard shortcuts.


3. Customize Your Shelf

Customize your desktop by editing your shelf and its position. The shelf, aka taskbar or dock, is located at the bottom of your screen by default. It displays which apps are running and holds app shortcuts for easy launch.

Customize your shelf to reflect the apps you use most frequently. Here is how you add and remove apps to your shelf:

  • Add an app: Use the launcher key to find the app you wish to pin to your shelf. Right click on the app icon and select Pin to Shelf.
  • Add a webpage: Open the site you wish to add to your shelf. Click the snowman menu (three vertical dots), then select Create Shortcut. For a desktop experience, select open as window.
  • Remove an app: Right click on the app icon in your shelf that you wish to remove and select Unpin.

Don’t like your shelf at the bottom of your screen? No sweat. Change its position by right clicking on the shelf and selecting Shelf Position. You can also hide the shelf by selecting Autohide.


4. Use Guest Mode to Share Your Chromebook

Since Chromebooks are so internet-centric, they rely heavily on the primary user’s Google account. You are always logged into your Google account for ease of access to Gmail and Google Drive. This can make sharing your Chromebook a bit unsettling.

Have no fear, Chromebooks do have a Guest mode that allow for someone to use your Chromebook without disturbing your settings or files. Simply select Guest Mode from the lock screen.


5. Turn Caps Lock On/Off

You may notice that your caps lock key has been replaced with another key which is clearly not caps lock. While we don’t imagine you’ll be using shouty caps that frequently, it’s handy to know how to use caps lock when you need it.

There are actually two ways to do this. Caps lock has been replaced with the launcher or search key which shows all your apps and launches Google assistant. You can change the functionality of this key under Keyboard settings by selecting caps lock under the Search field (account > settings > keyboard settings).

Or, if you like the functionality of the launcher/search key, just toggle caps lock on and off by using the keyboard shortcut Alt + search key.


6. Split Your Screen

This is a Chromebook basic to make you feel and look like the productive beast that you truly are. It’s especially handy for students that need to watch their teacher and take notes or complete assignments concurrently. There are a couple ways to do this. Pressing Alt + [ ] (both bracket keys) splits your screen into two tabs. Or press Alt + [ (left bracket) or Alt + ] (right bracket) to send a tab to the left or right side of your screen respectively.


7. Parental Controls

This is a great tip for anyone monitoring a student’s progress on their Chromebook. You can create a supervised user and then edit permissions, which allows you to block certain websites. If your device is managed by your school, there is a chance that your student is already using a supervised account.

Here’s how:

  • Create supervised user: From the sign-in screen, click Add User then Create Supervised User. Enter child’s Google account info.
  • Edit/manage permissions: Sign into your account and edit user permissions under Supervised Users Dashboard. Select Manage to edit which websites the user is allowed to view. To block a website, insert an asterisk in place of www in the web address, e.g. *

This also works if you are sharing your Chromebook is your family computer. You can easily set up supervised accounts for your children, or anyone else in the household.


AGParts Education supports 7,000+ school districts across the nation as their complete 1:1 Chromebook deployment partner. Find out how we can help your district. Contact us today!

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