Author: Mark Anderson, ICT Evangelist and NetSupport’s Head of Education 

There’s no denying it, Chromebooks are everywhere and not just in education. Their competitive price points, robust infrastructure and ease of management make them a popular choice for both business and education.  

What do you do though, if you’re new to Chromebook and migrating across from using a Windows laptop? In this post, we’ll highlight a few things to look out for, some productivity tips and a few Chrome extensions that will hopefully make your transition a little easier – and fun too! 

Getting started 

One of the first things that took me a little while to get used to is the simple idea that everything you work on is always saved – so long as you have a live internet connection. You may have been used to using a Chrome browser on a Windows laptop or MacBook – the operating system on a Chromebook (Chrome OS) uses the Chrome Browser as its interface. It’s not the same as a Chrome browser on another device (more is happening behind the scenes), but essentially, as the browser is the interface, switching over to a Chromebook is relatively easy. Once you understand this premise, it makes it much easier to understand how it works.  

If you’re using Google Docs, it will look, feel and work just like it does in Chrome browser on another device – and the same goes for other Google tools used on your Chromebook too.  

So, what’s different about a Chromebook? 

The beauty of the Chromebook is its simplicity. It doesn’t try to be a powerhouse and do too much. Yes, there are some powerful Chromebooks available on the market (e.g., the model I use has an i5 processor and 256GB of internal storage space), but for the most part and most users, this isn’t needed.   

There are lots of different types of Chromebooks on the market. Some have touch screens, some are ‘flippable’ so you can easily write on the touch screen with your stylus – or can even be completely flipped on themselves to turn the Chromebook into a tablet. You can also have Chromebooks that support Android, so you can use your Chromebook as an Android tablet.  

Getting started 

The important thing when starting with something new is to start simple and then build upon that. So, when unboxing your Chromebook, the first thing you should do is try to familiarize yourself with some of the basics. Firstly, the keyboard is a bit different to what you will probably be used to.  

As you may notice, a Search key appears where you would normally expect a Caps Lock key to be. Use this or the Launcher key to search, show your apps and interact with Google Assistant. To turn Caps Lock on or off, press Alt + Search. 

There are some amazing little productivity hacks on a Chromebook that stand out when compared to Microsoft and Apple devices too – and some which are very similar. For example, when looking to paste something, rather than using the traditional Ctrl + V keyboard shortcut, why not try pressing the Search button + V to enable you to pick from your last five copied items!  

One top tip to try is this easy way to navigate between each of your open tabs within the Chrome OS interface. Just like you can on a laptop or a MacBook to switch between your different desktops, you can swipe left or right on your trackpad with three fingers to effortlessly slide from one open tab to another.  

Another way to help you manage your open apps is to create them as individual ‘browser instances’. This is where you create a new tab or group of tabs that stand alone by themselves. Once created, you can then easily switch between them using the Alt + Tab keyboard combination.  

If you need both of them on your screen at the same time, you can also emulate split-screen mode by simply pressing Alt + ] to dock one browser instance to the left and Alt + [ to dock the other browser instance to the right. 

To sum up 

If you’re worried about transitioning from one type of laptop to another: don’t! While there are a few things that will be new, most of the things that you know and love from your old device will still exist here.  

The benefits of moving to a Chromebook will soon be self-evident and we’re sure that you’ll to love the quick access to lots of tools and fab productivity elements (such as voice typing) to help you be even more efficient.  

To learn more about Chromebooks and how they can help in education, we strongly suggest you follow these Twitter accounts for regular comments, advice and tips on how to make the most of your device:

  • @PeterGHorner – a UK-based Network Manager who has his foot firmly in the classroom with his regular helpful shares on Chromebook use.
  • @ICTEvangelist – our very own Head of Education who regularly shares ideas, hints, tips and advice on how to make the most of your technology in the classroom.
  • @AliceKeeler – one of the world’s most prominent Google users whose blog and Twitter feed is a constant flow of Chromebook and Google ideas, hints and tips.
  • @JMattMiller – author of ‘Ditch that Textbook’ among others, who regularly shares hints, tips and teaching and learning ideas using Google apps and tools, particularly on a Chromebook.