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.

Function Windows/OS X app What to use on a Chromebook Notes
Word processing Microsoft Word Google 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).
Spreadsheets Microsoft Excel Google Sheets

Office Online

Google Sheets is Google Docs’ spreadsheet program/Excel equivalent, and functions similarly to Docs (automatic saving to Drive).
Note taking Google 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 audio Google 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 files iTunes

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 photos Apple 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 photos Flickr

Google Photos

Instagram

Flickr

Google Photos

Instagram

Email Outlook

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.
Calendar Apple Calendar

Outlook

Google Calendar
Video chat Skype

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.
IRC LimeChat (OS X) Byrd
Listen to podcasts iTunes  Stitcher

Google Play Music

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

Amazon Video

Hulu

Google Play Movies

YouTube

Netflix

Amazon Video

Hulu

Google Play Movies

YouTube

Weather Various Various

Google search

There’s various weather apps and weather related websites available. I’ve mainly just searched for “weather” in Google.
Read ebooks Google 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 comics Comixology

Simple Comic (OS X)

Comixology See my post on comic readers for more details.
Personal finances Excel

Quicken

Mint

Your bank or credit union’s website

Google Sheets

Office Online

Mint

Your bank or credit union’s website

Create a slideshow Microsoft 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 media Facebook

Twitter

Tweetdeck

Google+

Facebook

Twitter

Tweetdeck

Google+

Password management KeePass

LastPass

1Password

LastPass While 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  Feedly Feedly
Remote desktop management Chrome Remote Desktop Chrome Remote Desktop Chrome 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 server Samba

Plex

SMB/CIFS (for Samba support)

Plex

Cloud storage Google 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.

Anthony
I'm Anthony, the owner of Diverse Tech Geek.