Top 10 Tips And Tricks For Google Chromebooks

Dan Price 19-08-2014

Google Chromebooks are becoming increasingly popular. The market intelligence firm ABI Research have predicted an annual growth rate of 28 percent through to 2019, meaning an expected 11 million units per year will be shipped by the turn of the decade.


If you are one of the latest converts to Chromebooks and are looking for some of the best tips and tricks to get you started, then read on for some great hints…

Create Folders In Your App Launcher

The app launcher has come a long way from its initial inception. Today it represents Google’s version of the much-debated Windows Start Button Have It Your Way: Hide The Windows 8.1 Start Button After killing the Start button in Windows 8, Microsoft restored a mutilated version with the Windows 8.1 update. It's now a shortcut button for the Start screen or desktop and some don't like that. Read More , located in the bottom-left corner of the screen rather than on the far right of the taskbar where it was originally placed.

A relatively new feature of the launcher is the ability to group icons and apps into folders, an addition that in many ways aligns it even more closely with the aforementioned old start button. It is a welcome feature, as prior to its introduction the app launcher could easily run into being seven or eight pages long for a power user.

Grouping apps together is easy – just click and drag one app over the top of another and the folder will be created. Once you’ve put all the apps you want into a group you can rename the folder by opening it and overwriting ‘Unnamed Folder’ with the description of your choosing.

Make A Recovery Drive

The Chromebook’s stateless operating system means it is very rare for something to go wrong, and even when it does a reboot will often cure the problem.


chrome imageburner

Nonetheless, like any computer, there are times when you might have no choice but to restore the system to a clean, factory state. The Chromebook makes it easy to know when this is the case – you’ll see the message “Chrome OS is missing or damaged” when you boot the machine.

To reinstall the Chrome OS you’ll need to make a recovery drive using either a USB flash drive or an SD card with at least 4GB of storage. To start the process, type ‘chrome://imageburner’ in the browser’s omnibox and follow the instructions.

Be aware, if you recover your machine you will lose all your locally saved data (though cloud-based data will automatically re-sync itself). Make backups!


Open Apps In Their Own Window

Although the Chrome OS is built around online functionality, it is a myth to presume that Chromebook’s don’t work offline Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths One of the biggest criticisms aimed at Google's Chromebooks is that they are online-only machines – ergo, no Internet, no point. How true is this statement? Read More . The myth is at least partly perpetuated by the fact that unless set up otherwise, all Chrome apps open in a tab within the Chrome browser.

If you want a more traditional windows feel to your Chromebook experience, then you should know that it’s easy to make apps open outside of the constraints of the Chrome browser. This is also useful if you have a Chromebook with a large screen, or you are using a second monitor.

To make apps permanently open outside the Chrome browser you need to right click on the icon in the launcher and choose ‘Open as window‘. To make apps open in a window for a single session just hold down the Shift button on your keyboard whilst you click on the app.

Add Website Shortcuts To The Launcher

If you are not comfortable with enabling experimental features this is not a trick for you. If you are, however, this tweak is a great timesaver for loading your most visited sites.



The launcher is ordinarily locked down and it’s not possible to add or remove links to it without installing them from the Chrome Web Store. To work around this, simply type ‘chrome://flags/#enable-streamlined-hosted-apps’ in the omnibox and click ‘Enable’. Restart your machine and head to any site for which you would like to add a shortcut. Once you’re there, click on the browser’s menu in the top right and navigate to More tools -> Add shortcut to this website. You will be prompted to give the shortcut a name, click ‘Add’, and you’ll now have the shortcut available in the launcher.


It won’t take you long to realise several of these shortcuts can then be grouped together using the grouping method described above, essentially making your launcher an alternative bookmarking tool.


Use Skype To Make Calls

One of potential Chromebook users’ biggest concerns and criticisms of the Chrome OS has been the lack of a native Skype app. Sadly, the new Skype browser plugin still doesn’t work on Chromebooks because it requires data to be directly installed on your machine – something that the Chrome OS will not allow.

Luckily, this can be worked around by installing another Linux distro on your machine. The process is not the simplest, but we have tried to streamline it as much as possible in our detailed guide about how to install Linux on a Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Here's how to install Linux on your Chromebook so you can start using other apps like Skype, VLC Media Player, and more! Read More , published earlier this year.

Change Your Release Channel

The Chrome OS offers users four distinct release channels – each with its own advantages and disadvantages (though only three are accessible through the normal method of switching). Simply put, the Beta and Developer release channels are a test bed for features which will (normally) eventually appear on the stable channel.

To change the channel that your Chromebook is running, enter ‘chrome://help’ into the browser’s omnibox, click More info -> Change channel, and select the release version you want to run.


If you want more information check out our in-depth article which details the pros and cons and helps you decide which release channel is right for you Chromebooks – Which Release Channel is Right for You? If you want early access to the exciting new features that Google have planned for future updates, why not change your release channel? Read More .

Enable Voice Search

In November 2013, Google released an extension for Chrome which allows users to add voice search to their Google search home screens. Android users will be familiar with the concept; the Chrome voice search is launched by saying ‘Ok Google’ and can offer personalised results from both the web and your own Google products in exactly the same way as Google Now functions.

The extension is still in beta but it works well. Download Google Voice Search Hotword [No Longer Available] directly from the Web Store.

Access Your Windows Or Mac From Anywhere

Despite all of their benefits, there are some occasions when you need the extended functionality of a more traditional operating system. The Chrome OS cannot run specialist software or locally installed games – so what can you do if you still want to take advantage of a Chromebook’s excellent portability Your Chromebook As The Ultimate Travel Device If you're deciding which device to get for your next trip, you may consider checking out Chromebooks. But why choose a Chromebook for travel? Because, when it comes to travel, they are spot on. Read More ?


The solution is the Chrome Remote Desktop. It is available for download from the Chrome Web Store and is remarkably easy to set up. Once you’ve authorised access to your Windows or Mac you can access it from anywhere as long as it’s turned on. The app also allows the machine to be password protected, which is very useful if friends or colleagues are likely to use your Chromebook.

Reverse The Touchpad’s Scrolling Direction

If you are migrating from a Mac, the Chromebook’s default scrolling direction can be confusing and frustrating at first.

Users who struggle to accommodate this new default can easily reverse the direction of scrolling – head to settings then Device -> Touchpad and mouse settings and check the box next to Australian scrolling. Left-handed users can also reverse the primary mouse button through this menu.


Need Help?

Aside from the numerous excellent independent blogs and sites about the Chrome OS, users have the official guide to turn to when they need some guidance.

The in-built ‘Get Help’ app was totally redesigned in Spring and now offers a comprehensive guide on just about everything to do with your machine. The app can no longer be deleted, suggesting this is a feature that Google hope will eventually become the go-to guide for all things Chromebook.

Bonus – Barrel Roll

You know, because being able to make your laptop’s screen do a barrel roll is a vital feature in modern computing. Just press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Refresh. It’s great. Honest.

Your Tips?

What tips and tricks can you offer to new Chromebook users? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credits: John Karakatsanis Via Flickr

Related topics: Chromebook, Google Chrome.

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  1. Alan
    May 22, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I've had my Dell chromebook 11 (4GB version) for over a month now, I love it! Sold my Windows 8 laptop on eBay, a week later. What a nightmare of an operating system (OS)
    I will never go back to a Windows OS ever again, the chromebook is in a completely different league!

  2. Stuart Graves
    August 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I have moved from Mac to Chrome OS completely. Now have a Chromebase and Pixel Chromebook at work. Loving the simplicity.

  3. Caroline W
    August 22, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Hi, I have a Chromebook and I love it! I've been waiting ages for MUO to cover some srticles on it. I have so many apps in my launcher so it's good to hear I can group them in pretty much the same way as on an Android.

    Yeah, Online/Offline - I'm still working on that as some apps need to be Online first TO run offline, so that's a bit pointless to me ;)

    I'm in hospital right now and bought a dongle to get wifi, which wasn't that straightforward to set up but did eventually.

    And as these machines are growing in popularity, I hope MUO will be covering more info on it. It is a great little machine that has a fantastic speed rate and I am very pleased with it!

    Thanks for the article and hacks! :)

    • Daniel Price
      August 25, 2014 at 12:09 am

      Hi Caroline,

      What dongle did you buy?


    • Caroline W
      August 28, 2014 at 4:31 am

      Hi Daniel. FYI I'm in the UK. Over here I decided to go for a Vodafone dongle. It came with 1 GB data and cost £15. But it ate it up in a day! I'm in hospital over a week now and already spent £40 on 6 GB... I only use it now sparingly.

      It's good for emegencies and safer for public wi-fi so i'm keeping it, but geez, it's a data eater and expensive. Apparently the 3 network dongle is cheaper and runs longer as 3 is geared towards the internet more than vodafone.

  4. Ed
    August 21, 2014 at 12:31 am

    No tips, but wanted to say I am writing this on my new Asus C200 Chromebook from a crouton install of Ubuntu Gnome. Got it on sale for $179 from Newegg last week.

    For those who think Chromebooks are for online use only, you are wrong. The Chrome App Store has a handful of "Desktop Apps" that are complete offline apps with their own window and do not open from the browser. Many of these apps store files or data to your local drive and or Google Drive, whichever you choose. Other offline apps are web apps, but work from a browser tab in offline mode and just sync the next time you have an internet connection. It's just a matter of time before people forget about the web-only myth that was true very early on, but is less true with every passing day.

    • Deezy
      August 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      And yet you so quickly had to add an additional version of Linux to make up for the ChromeOS shortcomings. Telling, if you ask me...

    • Ed
      August 21, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      Partially true. I'm partial to Firefox, so it's more habit for me to want to be in Firefox. Also, the tinkerer in me wanted to install Linux just to see if I could and how useful it was under a Chromebook. As I become accustomed to Chrome and take the time to find the offline apps I need, having Linux will give me a point to where I can transition more into a Chrome OS state of mind. I am liking it though, and so far, so good. Having Linux on it just makes me take my time with the transition to Chrome OS and was something fun to do. The Chrome OS side is something to explore and will become more useful as I find the offline apps that make sense for me.