Anthony’s Chromebook setup guide

I’ve been a Chromebook user for about a year now. So far, the platform’s been a benefit for my casual computer usage. Additionally, Chrome OS devices have started to become popular in places such as schools.

Of course, there’s no absolute need for a guide, given the easy to use nature of Chrome OS. Anyone should be able to get up and running with a Chromebook in short order. However, some tips on how to do things are always appreciated, so here’s how I set things up on my Chromebook. For the curious, it’s a 2014 model Acer C720. Of course, the following guide applies to any Chrome OS device, such as Chromeboxes.

The actual setup

The actual setup is quite short. Merely plug in your Chromebook, turn it on, find your WiFi network (and enter its password, if needed), and then log in with your Gmail password. If you have two-step authentication turned on, you’ll be prompted to enter the code for that. Afterward, you’ll be taken to the default Chromebook desktop.

More details are available on Google’s own setup page.

How do I get a Caps Lock key?

Caps Lock can be restored by switching the function of the “Search” key to a Caps Lock function. To do this:

  • Go to “Settings” (under the bottom right menu).
  • Under “Settings,” look under “Device” and click “Keyboard Settings.”
  • Under the “Search” drop-down menu, select “Caps Lock,” then select “OK” and close the window.

If you want search functionality, just click on the Google Search app or open Google in the browser window.

How do I get a Delete key?

While there’s no delete key on most Chromebook keyboards, the easiest way to use delete is to use the keyboard shortcut “Alt + Backspace.”

Which apps to use on a Chromebook?

While most Chrome OS “apps” are actually just links to a web-based service, there’s still a large variety to choose from. Google has a list of Chrome OS apps that serve as the equivalent of various familiar Windows/OS X apps. However, I thought I’d highlight major computer uses, based mostly on what I’d use.

FunctionWindows/OS X appWhat to use on a ChromebookNotes
Word processingMicrosoft WordGoogle Docs

Office Online

Google Docs, Google’s Word equivalent, is preinstalled and automatically saves files to your Google Drive account. While it doesn’t use Drive, Office Online is fully usable on a Chromebook if Microsoft’s word processor’s absolutely needed (Docs can import/export Word formatted files).
SpreadsheetsMicrosoft ExcelGoogle Sheets

Office Online

Google Sheets is Google Docs’ spreadsheet program/Excel equivalent, and functions similarly to Docs (automatic saving to Drive).
Note takingGoogle Keep

Evernote

OneNote

Google Keep

Evernote

OneNote

Evernote has both a Chrome OS app (its web service) and support for running its Android equivalent, though the Chrome OS version works just fine.
Play music/streaming audioGoogle Music

iTunes/Apple Music

Spotify

Pandora

Amazon Music

TuneIn

Google Music

Spotify

Pandora

Amazon Music

TuneIn

Pretty much every music service except iTunes/Apple Music will work on a Chromebook. Apple relies on iTunes for functionality, and iTunes is only available for Windows or OS X. Meanwhile, every other music service offers web players, so they’re compatible with any computing device. For more on my choice of music services, see my blog post on the subject.
Play video filesiTunes

VLC

Files app (built-in support)While there’s no VLC equivalent for Chrome OS, the File app does have built-in video support for most common file formats (MP4, MKV, etc.).
Edit photosApple Photos

GIMP

Photoshop

Pixlr Editor

Files app (limited built-in support)

While Photoshop’s now offering some support for Chrome OS, Pixlr Editor’s my main choice for a photo editor, offering a functionality level similar to GIMP’s.
Upload photosFlickr

Google Photos

Instagram

Flickr

Google Photos

Instagram

EmailOutlook

Apple Mail

Gmail or any other webmail service (Outlook.com, etc.)While Gmail is installed by default, any webmail accessible service will work with Chrome OS.
CalendarApple Calendar

Outlook

Google Calendar
Video chatSkype

Google Hangouts

Facetime

Google Hangouts

Skype (limited support)

Hangouts works excellently with Chromebooks. Unfortunately, for various reasons Skype’s video chat isn’t officially supported on Chrome OS, though a few other features (messaging, etc.) are available.
IRCLimeChat (OS X)Byrd
Listen to podcastsiTunes Stitcher

Google Play Music

I’ve been using Stitcher as a podcast service, though other web-based ones are available.
Watch streaming videoNetflix

Amazon Video

Hulu

Google Play Movies

YouTube

Netflix

Amazon Video

Hulu

Google Play Movies

YouTube

WeatherVariousVarious

Google search

There’s various weather apps and weather related websites available. I’ve mainly just searched for “weather” in Google.
Read ebooksGoogle Play Books

Kindle

Calibre

Google Play Books

Kindle

I don’t have a standalone ebook reader to recommend, but Google’s own reader and Amazon’s Kindle have Chrome OS apps.
Read comicsComixology

Simple Comic (OS X)

ComixologySee my post on comic readers for more details.
Personal financesExcel

Quicken

Mint

Your bank or credit union’s website

Google Sheets

Office Online

Mint

Your bank or credit union’s website

Create a slideshowMicrosoft Powerpoint

Google Slides

Google Slides

Office Online

Google Slides is Google’s Powerpoint analog, though lighter on features. Like Docs and Sheets, it also automatically saves files to Drive.
Social mediaFacebook

Twitter

Tweetdeck

Google+

Facebook

Twitter

Tweetdeck

Google+

Password managementKeePass

LastPass

1Password

LastPassWhile there’s a few Chrome OS apps that’ll open (slowly/crudely) KeePass files, I switched to using LastPass, which has made things a lot easier across devices.
RSS feed readers FeedlyFeedly
Remote desktop managementChrome Remote DesktopChrome Remote DesktopChrome Remote Desktop works pretty smoothly between computers, though audio won’t be transmitted from a Mac to a Chromebook.
Access media/files from a home serverSamba

Plex

SMB/CIFS (for Samba support)

Plex

Cloud storageGoogle Drive

iCloud

OneDrive

Dropbox

Box

Google Drive (default)

OneDrive

Dropbox

Box

Conclusion

Overall, most basic computer functions are easily usable on a Chromebook/Chrome OS device. A few features could use more work, but Chromebooks are otherwise quite usable for typical users.

Power users will probably want to stick with Windows or OS X. Technically skilled power users might also consider a traditional Linux distribution, such as Linux Mint or Xubuntu.

Any questions, comments, or app suggestions? Please list them in the comments below.

One comment

  1. For Office Apps, I would add ZOHO and for plain writing w/o fancy formatting, i.e. text editing, Writer from BigHugeLabs (works offline) among others. For eBooks in ePub format, Readiator, MagicScroll. ArcWelder allows you to load Android Apps on the older Chromebooks that do not natively support Android Apps e.g. Pocketbook for Android will allow you to read comic books on your Chromebook.

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