One of the hottest products available to techies this Christmas is Chromebooks. Although, Google's take on an online desktop has been around for some time, 2014 was certainly one of the years in which we saw massive growth in the variety and popularity of Chromebooks on offer. This was largely due to a number of companies looking to get in on the action and releasing a number of their own Chromebook devices. Either way though, it looks like the Chromebook is here to stay. With Christmas just passing you may have found one underneath your tree. If that was the case and you are new to the Chromebook revolution then here is a quick ten things you should know about your newly purchased Chromebook.
1. Create A Backup
This feature is not necessarily one you will be wanting to use straight after you open your new Chromebook, but that said, it is worth knowing that firstly, it is possible and secondly, how to do it. For those new to ChromeOS, it does take some time to get used to how the operating system works. The best way to think of it is to focus on shortcuts. They are everywhere and get you to wherever you need to be. In terms of the backups, this is no different. Simply open your search bar by pressing the search key (formally what the CAPS lock used to be) and type in Chrome://imageburner. Once you enter the link address you will be taken to the image burning and backup page. This will guide you through the process of creating a backup for your system. You will need an external USB drive to perform the backup and it should be at least 4GB in size. It is worth remembering that this will wipe the USB drive before installing the backup, so make sure you use a cleaner USB drive.
How to perform screenshots is one of the most often asked questions from new Chromebook owners. If you are coming from a Windows based device then you will know the print screen function offers quick screen grabs. Likewise, on most android mobile device there is typically a combination of buttons you need to press to get the function working. In the same way, ChromeOS has its own combination and it's much easier than you think.
When looking at your keyboard you need to look for the sixth key on the top row. It looks like a box beside two vertical lines...kinda like a camera. Well, that is your function button for the screenshot. When you want to take a screenshot, simply hold the control button (bottom left) and press the button we just talked about. Instantly you will see the little popup message advising that you have just taken a screenshot. Easy huh! Want to view your screenshot, then just click the popup image.
3. Finger Gestures
Finger gestures are part of the crux of what ChromeOS is all about. If you really want to get the most out of the operating system then you will need to get used to finger gestures and there are quite a few and they all revolve around your trackpad
Right Click - Firstly, you will notice there is no right click. If you want to perform a right click function then don't worry it is still there. Simply click using two fingers at the bottom of the trackpad. It doesn't matter where, as long as it is near the bottom and you will see the right click menu pop up.
Scrolling - Scrolling is one of the easiest finger gestures to perform. Simply drag two fingers down the trackpad together and you will scroll down the screen. Again, it does not matter where you drag down on the trackpad. Likewise, to scroll up, drag two fingers up the trackpad.
Multiple tabs - This is a very interesting finger gesture. if you have multiple tabs open at the same time (in the same window) then you can simply place three fingers together on the trackpad and move either left or right. You will instantly see that this allows you to scroll through as many tabs as you have open. Word of warning. Move slowly, the tabs pass quickly.
4. Overview Task Manager
If you are someone who constantly has multiple tabs open in multiple windows, then it can get quite tricky and time-consuming to find the tab (or window) you are looking for. Of course, you can just alt and tab until you reach the one you want. But a much easier and quicker way is to use the overview task manager function. There are two ways to do this. Either simply press the camera button we already spoke about (sixth key on top row) or swipe down (really quickly) with three fingers on the trackpad. Either way will perform the same function and show you all the open programs in one clear view. Then just click on the window you want.
5. Open Web App In Separate Browser Window
Speaking of switching between open windows. One of the inbuilt features of ChromeOS is that it tends to open all apps in the same browser window. So if you hit the Chrome menu (bottom left corner) and then select Gmail, the app will open. While Gmail is open, if you then click the Chrome menu again and hit Chrome or YouTube or any other app, then it opens them in the same Window. There is an easy way to fix this though. If you want to open any app in a new window then simply open the Chrome menu and use the two finger right click gesture to open the right-click menu for that the specific app. You will then see the option to open in a new window.
6. Interactive Keyboard
As we have already mentioned, part of the ethos of Chrome OS is to use gestures and shortcuts. As such there are simply too many to name here in one article. That said if you are keen to master all the shortcuts on offer and become a Crome Pro, then there is an easy way to see all the shortcuts available. Simply hold down the control key (ctrl) and also hold the alt key (alt) and then click on the question mark key. Now let go of all of them. You will see a virtual keyboard pop up. If you then press the shift key it will show you all the relevant shortcut commands for that key. Likewise, if you hold down the ctrl or alt key, it will also show you all the commands for those keys as well.
7. Microsoft Office
One of the hardest transitional periods coming from Windows operating system to Chrome is getting used to the lack of Office. You probably don't realize how much you use Office until you actually start using Chrome. However, once you get used to Chrome and all the Google alternatives to the many Office services, you will realize you don't need that many Office specific products. That said, during this transitional period you might want to know that you can actually use Office products on your Chromebook. Earlier this year, Microsoft made their main Office suite of services available as extensions for Chrome. If you want to add them to your Chromebook to help you through the transitional period then head over to the Chrome Web Store and type "Office Online" into the search box. You will then see some very familiar icons pop-up. Click install and you will be back to Office in no time.
8. Dev Channel
The Developer channel (Dev Channel) will be one of the most interesting features for those who are a little more adventurous with their Chromebook. With Google being Google, they like to offer their newest and most experimental features to their users. This is good for both Google and you. They get to test how their features work in real life settings while you get to check out the latest features before they are officially available. However, there is one small caveat. You need to be on the Dev Channel to access them. If you want to give these work-in-progress features a go then follow the link to read our detailed article on how to switch to a Dev channel. It's not that difficult.
Speaking of experimental features, there are an absolute ton of these for you to get your hands on. If you want to see all the features which are currently available then Google rather handily provided them all in a list form. To see the list open your search browser by clicking the search key (formally CAPS key) and type in Chrome://flags. 'Flags' are what Google commonly refer to as their features and from this menu you will be able to enable or disable any of the features on offer.
Last up on our ten things to know about your Chromebook is that as a Chromebook owner you are entitled to a number of freebies. Some of these seem to change over time. At the moment, you can get two months worth of Google's All Access Music Service for free. In addition, you can also get 1TB of Google Drive storage for two years for free. This apparently is only available for certain Chromebooks though. Lastly, at present you can also get 12 GoGo in-flight internet passes which can be used over the next twelve months to help keep you connected while in the air. If you have just bought your Chromebook then you should really check what freebies you are currently entitled to. You can see what's on offer for you by clicking here.
So there you go. Hopefully, these ten tips should help your transition to your new Chromebook a smooth and easy one. The more time you spend with your Chromebook the easier and more familiar it will become.