With the update to Chrome OS 91, the Chromebook platform has finally received the long-awaited Nearby Share features found on Android. But what exactly is Nearby Share and how does it work on a Chromebook? The feature isn’t necessarily intuitive at first glance and many users may not have even heard of it.
Well, that’s exactly what this guide is here to discuss, in particular, with regard to the Chrome OS platform. So let’s go ahead and dive right into how you can enable Nearby Share and use it. And into the benefits of the feature for those on the Chromebook platform.
Why would you want Nearby Share turned on for your Chromebook?
Now, Chromebooks already have plenty of options for sharing between your phone and your Chromebook, even without Nearby Share. We’ll discuss that in a bit more detail a bit later on. So why would you actually want to turn this feature on and use it?
The simplest answer is that Nearby Share lets you quickly and easily share just about anything with your Chromebook. That’s going to prove particularly useful for those who work from their Chromebook and phone simultaneously. But it can also be exceptionally useful, for those who want to share files with their Chromebook for editing. Or for just about any other purpose.
Moreover, Nearby Share steps away from the other methods available in that it doesn’t require users to be on Wi-Fi. Or on Mobile Data, even. In fact, Nearby Share is completely wireless without any kind of internet or traditional connection at all. And it doesn’t just work between your own Chromebook and phone either. Content can be shared via Nearby Share with yourself or with any of the friends, family, and colleagues in your Google contacts.
Or, at the very least, it can be used that way as long as those users or your other devices are in close enough proximity. And that makes this feature a bit deeper than the standard means of sharing.
Here’s how to use Nearby Share
Of course, you can’t use or learn how to use Nearby Share unless you turn it on for your Chromebook first. Luckily, that’s a fairly intuitive and easy process. That’s if you know the steps to take.
- To turn on Nearby Share on your Chromebook, you’ll first need to open up the Settings application. The easiest way to access that is to open up the Quick Tiles by first tapping or clicking on the clock icon. Google places that on the bottom-right-hand side of the UI, just behind a click on the clock area of the Chrome OS shelf. So that’s where it will be unless you’ve set your shelf location to the left- or right-hand side
- Tap or click on the gear-shaped Settings icon to open settings
- Once Settings has opened, it may or may not open in a smaller — arguably more difficult to navigate — window. Tap or click on the maximize icon at the top-right-hand side of the UI
- From there, you’ll need to find the Nearby Share menu on your Chromebook. Google placed it, rather intuitively, in the “Connected Devices” segment. And that segment is found on the left-hand side of the page once the window has been maximized
- Now, you should see two sections under Connected Devices. One for your smartphone and another newer section labeled “Nearby Share.” Tap or click on that section’s available “Set up” option to open the deeper menu for the new feature
- Tap or click on the toggle to turn on Nearby Share
- Follow the resulting walkthrough to name your Chromebook for Nearby Share and set up which contacts will be able to share content with your Chromebook
Now it’s turned on, so what do you do now?
Once Nearby Share is active on your Chromebook, you’ll want to take a closer look at how Chrome OS lets you manage the feature. That’s easy enough since once active, all of the options are available immediately. But let’s dig in and discuss exactly what each setting does and where it can be found.
- The first thing to note about the new Settings menu segment is that the toggle for activating or deactivating Nearby Share remains in place. Just under that, you’ll see a segment notifying you as to which email address is associated with the Chromebook, Nearby Share feature, and which email address will be used for accessing contacts or allowing sharing from contacts
- Just underneath those segments, Google offers the option to rename the Chromebook in the context of Nearby Share. That’s the name given to your Chromebook during setup, by default, but it can be changed at the tap or click of a button
- Just underneath that, you’ll note a segment for changing your visibility. Summarily, these are options for determining who can see and share content with your Chromebook. There’s also a toggle to make the Chromebook visible via Nearby Share to all nearby devices for a five-minute period. Conversely, the same feature can now be found in the Quick Settings tiles under the clock icon on the Chrome OS shelf. Toggleable at a click or tap
- Under the associated “Device visibility” button, you’ll see the same menu options provided at setup. So you can set your Chromebook to be visible to “All contacts,” “Some contacts,” or go effectively invisible with the “Hidden” option. Those are located along the top row of the pop-out page
- To set availability to just “Some contacts,” tap or click the toggle next to the contacts you’d like to be able to send your Chromebook content via Nearby Share
- Finally, Google provides options to manage your contacts via the associated website, opened via a tap on that option. It also provides one final “Edit” button, which lets users determine exactly how the files will be shared. Inside of that menu, the company placed an option for allowing “Mobile date,” “Wi-Fi,” or — because Nearby Share doesn’t require those — “Without internet”
Nearby Share something from your smartphone to your Chromebook
Now that Nearby Share has been set up, files can be shared both to and from your Chromebook from your Android Smartphone. That’s without the need for an internet connection. Although, as noted above, data options can be selected if needed. For this segment, we’ll be discussing how to send files to your Chromebook from your phone.
- Open up the app you’d like to share a file, page, or other shareable content from. For this guide, we’ve selected YouTube, as shown in the images below
- Tap or click the share option in the application to call forward the sharing menu
- Scroll down, if needed, to select the “Nearby Share” option. That will be accompanied by a circular icon with two lines twisting horizontally around one another. It’s worth noting that in some applications, on some devices, Nearby Share will have its own card-like UI at the top of the sharing menu
- Wait for the list of available Nearby Share options to populate and then select the name given to your Chromebook
- After the screen shows “Connecting” for a short period of time, you’ll need to accept the file or content on your Chromebook. That can be accomplished by clicking on the clock in the Chrome OS shelf to access notifications. The sharing UI will be found in the notification area
- Your Chromebook will also showcase an option to deny the receipt of the content.
- Finally, once received, you can open the content that’s been received from the same location in your Chromebook’s UI
What if you want to use Nearby Share to send something from your Chromebook to a phone?
Conversely, sharing from your Chromebook requires near-identical steps. You can use any app that has a sharing UI with Nearby Share, just as with your smartphone. So, for example, you could open up the YouTube app on your Chromebook and tap or click to open the sharing menu. Then you could, in exactly the same set of sequences as your smartphone, select Nearby Share and then the device or contact to send content too.
It is worth noting, however, that Nearby Share will need to be active on the receiving device. The receiving device also needs to be set to visible in the settings. Additionally, some apps don’t necessarily have a sharing option but may have other ways to share files and content. For instance, Chrome allows users to utilize the Chrome UI to share files and pages.
What if you can’t access this feature just yet?
Now, if for some reason Nearby Share still doesn’t appear on your Chromebook after the update to Chrome OS 91, there is a fix for that. But you will need to jump through a few hoops.
- Open Chrome on your Chromebook and navigate to the “chrome://flags” URL
- In the search bar at the top of the page, type in “Nearby Sharing” and press enter
- The top option shown should show “Nearby Sharing”
- Tap or click the drop-down menu next to “Nearby Sharing” and switch the option to “Enabled” from “Default”
- Restart your Chromebook
You should use Nearby Share on your Chromebook and everywhere else
As already mentioned in this walk-through, Nearby Share is like giving your Chromebook superpowers. Namely, by allowing your Chromebook to connect to other devices without an internet connection. But this feature obviously isn’t only for Chrome OS gadgets.
Far beyond Chromebook, Nearby Share works to give users a way to send almost anything without those connections available. And that doesn’t just work for self-sharing scenarios. And that’s because Nearby Share connects to Google Contacts associated with an account. So it can be used to share things with other users who are in your immediate vicinity as well. As long as they’re in your contacts and have the feature active, this will be the quickest and easiest way to share just about anything.