How To Use Split-Screen To Multitask With Your Chromebook

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Multitasking on a Chromebook is a relatively easy process thanks to a wide variety of features but that doesn't mean all of those are intuitive. Among those that some users might find less obvious, is how to move into a split-screen view on a Chromebook. But, combined with other productivity-focused features such as overview mode — which now includes and supports virtual desks — it's definitely worth taking the time to learn how to do.

Here, we'll explore exactly how that's done on a Chromebook or other Chrome OS gadgets.

Split-screen enhances multitasking

Now, there are two ways users can learn how to enter split-screen on a Chromebook or Chrome OS device. Each is relatively straightforward and, to an extent, at least one should be familiar. But we're here to see how that task is performed. So let's dig in.

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Open up the first window, tab, or app to be used in split-screen

For this example, we've opened Google Chrome as our first Window

The obvious first step in using split-screen on Chromebooks is to open the first of the two windows that's going to be used in split-screen. Now, the view can be used in any app on Chromebooks. So it won't matter if users want to split-view a browser tab, Android app, PWA, Linux app, or some other app or window. This is a system-level feature.

Conversely, users can just jump to opening up both windows they want to use in split-screen here and then follow the remaining steps to see how to enter split-screen. For this example article, we'll be using a Chrome tab and the Google Play Store.

Move the window, tab, or app into split-screen

Central to the ability to open up split-screen mode is the window movement tools found on a Chromebook — and how that's used is the same as other operating systems too. That's the 'underscore', 'maximize', and 'close' icon row found in the top-right-hand corner of any app or window.

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As might be expected from other operating systems, the line-shaped underscore icon minimizes windows, taking them out of view while they remain pinned to the shelf. The x-shaped icon closes the app or window entirely. It's the multi-square-shaped icon between those that we're interested in here. If the window isn't already maximized, the icon will simply resemble a square.

To move a window into split-screen users will need to either click- or tap-and-hold on that icon. That will cause two chevron-shaped arrow icons to appear pointing left and right to either side of the icon. Users can tap or click on either if they're quick enough. And that will move the window selected to the left-or-right-hand side of the screen, occupying about half of the display.

Conversely, users can simply click or tap and hold the square- or squares-shaped icon and drag to the left or right.

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Or, users can click and hold the empty space to the left of the icons. That space is typically reserved for window movement when windows aren't maximized. Users can also move to split by dragging from there all the way to the left or right-hand edge of the display panel.

It's worth noting, however, that using a touch screen to tap and hold that empty space will do something else entirely. As a quirk of Chromebooks, it isn't set up for performing the same action as a mouse, instead, acting as a right-click. So that will do something different depending on the context of the app or window too. For instance, in Chrome, tapping-and-holding will pop up options for a new tab, to reopen a closed tab, to bookmark all tabs, or to open the task manager.

Rinse and repeat

Now, users need to open up a second window, if they haven't already. And the same steps listed above will be followed here. But the key difference now is that users will want to move the screen to the opposite side. That's relative to the side they've selected for the first window.

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If the first window was moved to the right-hand edge, the second should be placed on the left. If the first window was moved to the left-hand edge, the second should be placed on the right.

Now, it's also possible at this point to resize either app or window from the bottom or top. Although that seems to be buggy if done before the next step — so that should be performed first. Then a third, smaller window can be placed in the remaining space. And users can add as many windows they like in that way for maximized productivity.

Adjust the split

Finally, there's one last step to really getting the most out of split-screen apps, windows, and tabs. Namely, that's resizing the windows so that an appropriate amount of space is available for each one. That's because, when working with multiple documents, spreadsheets, a dead-even 50/50 split will probably be fine. But that won't necessarily be the case with other apps, such as the Google Play Store, a calculator, or a messaging app.

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In those cases, users can more effectively make use of those apps by ensuring they occupy less space — relative to the other app they're using. Thankfully, the split-screen feature on a Chromebook accounts for that, and there's a fairly easy 'how to' method.

The chief caveat here, of course, is that this method doesn't work properly in tablet mode. A mouse is absolutely required, for now, unless users want to resize both windows manually.

Setting that aside, the easiest way to adjust the split between two windows is going to be to hover the mouse over the space between the windows. That will cause a double-arrow-shaped resize icon to replace the mouse icon. Now, users can manually adjust each window with a click and drag from there.

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Or users can simply perform a tap. That will cause a secondary bit of UI, shaped like a dark vertical bar with two arrows to appear just below the mouse. That's the UI we're looking for.

The icon can be dragged to the left or to the right, as its arrows indicate. Dragging toward the left will resize the window on the right-hand side to grow while the left window shrinks. Dragging the other direction has the opposite effect.