Chrome and Chromebook users have access to a plethora of keyboard shortcuts, just as any user of any operating system does. But, while at least some of those are going to prove incredibly useful to students, not all of those are the same.
Of course, it's entirely possible to simply go through and review all of those. Particularly on Chromebooks since Google has built-in a system for quickly viewing both Chrome and Chrome OS shortcuts. But, with hundreds of shortcuts available in total, that's hardly practical. With that said, if there's anything I've learned after using a Chromebook to write articles for years, it's that not all shortcuts are created equal.
Now, writing articles on a day-to-day basis is arguably very similar to the modern take on schoolwork. It requires the use of multiple browser windows and tabs for research, document and file management, typing, and even photo editing. So it stands to reason that some of the shortcuts I use on a daily basis will also prove invaluable in a classroom setting.
So here I've laid out some of my favorite Chrome and Chromebook keyboard shortcuts that maximize productivity. Those, in turn, help get the work done more quickly so that we can move on to things that are a bit more fun.
Keyboard shortcuts for Chrome
The first run of shortcuts we'll explore apply more generally to Google Chrome. More succinctly, they apply to navigation, window and tab management, and saving or printing pages. Whether that's creating new tabs or windows, moving between those, or quickly accessing the menu, these shortcuts will get the job done.
Navigating Chrome via keyboard
Controlling tabs with the keyboard is a relatively straightforward affair.
- Open a new tab with 'Ctrl + T'
- Close the current tab with 'Ctrl + W'
- Open recently closed tabs with 'Ctrl + Shift + T'
And navigating between tabs without every clicking anything is a breeze too.
- Move through tabs from left to right (in Chrome OS) with 'Ctrl + Tab'
- Move through tabs from right to left (in Chrome OS) with 'Ctrl + Shift + Tab'
With quick keyboard access to the Chrome three-dot menu, it's possible to use the arrow keys and the 'Enter' key to access nearly all of Chrome's features and functionality. This keyboard shortcut also works in the Files app on a Chromebook, rather than just in Chrome.
- Open the three-dot menu by pressing 'Alt + E'
Select Multiple tabs to move or remove them more quickly
It's also possible to interact with multiple tabs at once, although the mouse or trackpad will still be required for these actions. That means tabs can be deleted all at once with the above-mentioned keyboard shortcut. Or that they can be moved to their own window simply by clicking and dragging away from the current window.
- Select multiple tabs, one tab at a time by pressing 'Ctrl' and then clicking the desired tabs
- Select multiple consecutive tabs by selecting the first desired tab, pressing 'Shift', and then selecting the final desired tab
Minimize, Magnify, Split Windows
Aside from moving tabs around and navigating between tabs, sometimes, multiple windows are needed. And as often as not, those need to be viewed simultaneously. Fortunately, using multiple windows in split-screen mode is easy. And moving the current window to the left or right half of the screen — or out of the way entirely — is too.
- Minimize the current window by pressing 'Alt' and the '-' key. Multiple key presses will minimize subsequent open windows
- Re-open the most recently closed window by pressing 'Alt' and then the '-' key again after all windows are closed
- Move the current window to the left-hand side of the screen by pressing 'Alt + ]'
- Move the current window to the right-hand side of the screen by pressing 'Alt + ['
- Repeating the move action will move the window to the center of the screen
- Return windows to full-screen or out of full-screen by pressing 'Alt' and then the '+' key
Beyond that, zooming a page in or out is a straightforward affair as well, ensuring that any discrepancy between pages can easily be mitigated.
- Zoom in and magnify the current window by pressing 'Ctrl' and the '+' key
- Or zoom in faster by pressing 'Ctrl + Shift' and the '+' key
- Zoom out by pressing 'Ctrl' and the '-' key
- Or zoom out more quickly by pressing 'Ctrl + Shift' and the '-' key
- Reset the zoom to default by pressing 'Ctrl' and then the number '0'
You can also switch windows easily with just the keyboard.
- To switch between open windows, press 'Alt + Tab'
Print the current page or save it as a PDF
Printing pages with keyboard shortcuts, or saving them as PDFs, is a straightforward affair in Chrome and on Chromebooks as well. Both are accessed on the same menu with the same shortcut.
- To print the current tab, file, or document or save it as a PDF, press 'Ctrl + P'
Keyboard shortcuts for Chromebook
Now, aside from the standard Chrome shortcuts, Chromebook devices have a few distinct keyboard shortcuts all their own. Those can be used for accessing similar functions as is found on other computers, as is the case with hidden keystrokes like the emulated 'delete' key. But it's also possible to navigate between open or pinned apps with the keyboard. And taking screenshots or entering overview mode is different here too.
Chrome OS's hidden delete key and other text editing shortcuts
Among the most challenging aspects of Chrome OS is that it doesn't feature quite the same keyboard as other computer systems. For instance, there's no "delete" key for trashing files in the File manager or deleting text in the opposite direction to the backspace key. Similarly, right-clicking isn't necessarily intuitive. Other keystrokes, conversely, are identical to Windows. Both types of these keyboard shortcuts are useful to know for both Chromebooks, whether in the Chrome browser or not.
- To emulate the "Delete" key, press 'Alt + backspace'
- To emulate a "right-click", press 'Alt' and click or quickly tap the trackpad
- Conversely, a two-finger click works as well
- To copy text or files, press 'Ctrl + C'
- For cutting text or files, press 'Ctrl + X'
- To paste, press 'Ctrl + V'
- To paste without special formatting, press 'Ctrl + Shift + V'
- Undo recent actions and edits by pressing 'Ctrl + Z'
- Redo recent actions by pressing ' Ctrl + Shift + Z'
Create new folders and interact with files for better organization
Conversely, interacting with files and folders on a Chromebook requires the use of the built-in 'Files' application. A right-click can be used to copy-paste, rename, or get details on a file or folder. But that's not necessarily required here to interact with those files either. Using the keyboard is, more often than not, just faster and easier.
- To open the Files app directly, press 'Shift + Alt + M'
- To create a new folder in Files, press 'Ctrl + E'
- Rename both folders and files by pressing 'Ctrl + Enter'
- Press the spacebar for more details about the file or folder
Navigate Chrome OS and use overview mode
Once work is underway, it's entirely possible Chromebook users will have multiple windows, apps, and other utilities open. But the work of switching between those doesn't necessarily fall to the mouse or trackpad. Keyboard shortcuts can be used here too.
Now, overview mode has its own dedicated keyboard button on Chromebooks. So it doesn't require too much explanation. To enter into overview mode and see everything that's open, users need to press the overview key. The icon on that key is shaped like a rectangle, with other rectangles or lines stacked behind it.
Navigating between apps and software in the primary UI is something else entirely. That can be accomplished with the keyboard alone, as long as the app or software in question is already pinned to the shelf or open.
- To access the first eight icons on the shelf, press and hold 'Alt' and then press the corresponding number from '1' through '8'
- To access the last icon on the shelf, press 'Alt + 9'
Conversely, those can be navigated through by pressing 'Shift + Alt + L' and then;
- Press 'Tab' or the right arrow to cycle through to the right
- Or press 'Shift + Tab' or 'Shift' and the left arrow to cycle through to the left
- Press 'Enter' or the spacebar to open the highlighted item
Taking screenshots is different on a Chromebook
Now, one of the key differences between the keyboard on a Chromebook and Chrome on other devices is that there's no dedicated button for screenshots but there are keyboard shortcuts. So taking those is straightforward, regardless of that keyboard omission.
- To take a full-screen screenshot, press 'Ctrl' and the overview icon.
- Press 'Ctrl + Shift' and then the overview icon, before clicking and dragging to take a partial screenshot of the desired area
Shortcuts for Google Drive & Docs
As with Chrome and a Chromebook in general, there is also a wealth of keyboard shortcuts for Google Drive and Docs. So creating new files, quickly renaming them, formatting text into lists and de-formatting text, adding in links, checking word count, and typing with voice are all easy to accomplish. And that's without digging through menus via the mouse or trackpad.
Create and rename files
In Google Drive on the web, users can access an entirely separate set of keyboard shortcuts, on Chrome or a Chromebook, to create new Docs or Sheets files. And new folders can be created that way too.
- Press 'Shift + T' to create a new Google Docs document
- 'Shift + S' works to create a new spreadsheet
- For creating a new folder, press 'Shift + F'
And it's easy to rename the currently selected item in Google Drive on the web too.
- Simply typing the letter 'N' — without the shift key — opens a window to rename whatever file or folder is presently highlighted
Create new documents with a URL instead of Drive
On the other hand, it's also possible to create a new document directly from the URL Omnibox in Chrome. Users simply need to visit the appropriate page and then move and save files as needed. They initially save to the My Drive folder rather than organized to any specific location.
For Google Docs, these URLs will work;
Or for Google Sheets, these URLs will work;
For Google Sheets, use these URLs instead;
Formatting, de-formatting text, or adding a link
As noted in the segment above about pasting text or content, sometimes, copying and pasting text doesn't offer the best results. And, in other cases, formatting that was deliberately included may need to be removed. In Google Docs, it's entirely possible to remove formating without cutting and copying the text again or going through the menus.
- Press 'Ctrl' and then '\' will remove any formatting from the selected text.
Conversely, bulleted or numbered lists are often needed in a document but, as with removing formatting, creating those can be tedious. Especially if it means wasting time with the mouse.
- Pressing 'Ctrl + Shift + 7' works exactly the same as tapping on the numbered list icon in Docs
- Conversely, pressing 'Ctrl + Shift + 8' will turn on the bulleted list option
Finally, some assignments require hyperlinks to be inserted on words or as references. And that, too, can be accomplished using keyboard shortcuts in G Suite for Chrome or a Chromebook.
- To insert open up the hyperlink UI and insert a new link or a link on selected, existing text, press 'Ctrl + K'
Check word count
Beyond the links, lists, and formatting requirements often associated with homework, students are often required to meet a specific word count requirement. Fortunately, Google's document editor does allow that to be checked. The tool also showcases page count and characters. And it works individually for selected text or for the entire document if no text is selected. But it's also been buried unintuitively in the menu ribbon at the top of the page.
There are keyboard shortcuts for that too on either Chrome or a Chromebook, letting users see whether they need a couple of filler words or a few more paragraphs to meet the requirements. The most important one is;
- To view the current word count, press 'Ctrl + Shift + C'
The final keyboard shortcut that every student working in G Suite on a Chromebook or in Chrome needs to know, is how to use voice-to-text. Of course, this tool can prove useful for dictating text for homework. But it can also serve as an invaluable tool for taking notes and for other purposes.
- Activate voice typing by pressing 'Ctrl + Shift + S'