6 ChromeOS Tips to Make a Chromebook Sparkle

ChromeOS arrived in the tech world a few years ago, first as a standalone operating system and then on Google’s Chromebook CR-48, but not many people even know it. We recently reviewed Samsung Chromebook at Notebooks.com and I liked it. That’s why we thought we’d share a few tips to use the machine and ChromeOS more efficiently.

we a little Worried about ChromeOS and Chromebooks running it. Can someone really enjoy using a computer running just a browser and web apps simple enough to make it worth $200-400? The system surprised us. Despite the flaws in this $250 hardware, we found ChromeOS to be quite useful for web-centric tasks.

Check out the video review of the Samsung Chromebook XE303C12.

We offer these six tips to help users get the most out of their $250 ultraportable laptop. Most of these also work on other ChromeOS machines.

Install ChromeOS

These videos show on first launch and help new users learn about ChromeOS.

Setting up a Chromebook couldn’t be easier. Much simpler than a Windows or Mac machine. In just a few steps, a user goes from boot to fully ready-to-install with all apps and settings ready to use. In the screenshot below, notice how the system starts syncing applications as soon as the user logs into the operating system.

chromeos sync apps on first run

It takes at most five to ten minutes, depending on the number of web apps a person uses. Here is the list of steps to take:

  1. Start the machine using the power button in the upper right corner of the keyboard.
  2. Choose a language, keyboard and connect to Wi-Fi.
  3. Accept the terms of service.
  4. Sign in to a Google account, preferably linked to Google+.
  5. Select a profile picture using one of the included shots, choose a Google+ profile picture represented by a blank image of a person’s silhouette next to the camera button, or take one with a webcam.
  6. Learn to use ChromeOS and Samsung Chromebook from the start screen.
  7. Change important settings such as Time Zone.
  8. Connect Bluetooth devices if necessary.
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This much!

Customize Key Settings

Check the surprise me option to use random desktop backgrounds on Chromeos

Check the surprise me option to use random desktop backgrounds on ChromeOS.

Click on the clock in the lower right to change important settings from step 7 above. Then click Settings. We recommend that you set the following:

Set the time by clicking the clock in the lower right corner, and then click on the date in the pop-up window. Choose the correct time zone and choose the 12 or 24 hour format as you like.

chrome os apps button

This is the ChromeOS button that shows web apps like the Windows Start Menu.

Finally, make sure you go to the Chrome Web Store, which can be accessed via the apps button in the toolbar. It looks like a grid of 9 small gray boxes (see image above). Below we’ll suggest some useful apps to get things done.

Install Useful Web Apps

chromeos web app store

The Chrome Web App Store lists hundreds of useful and fun apps or games to install and run on the ChromeOS browser. Here are a few that we think users should get as soon as they’re ready to install on their computers.

Move Files from Chromebook to Google Drive and Back

chromeos file browser

Find the ChromeOS Files app, which looks like a small blue folder of files. Turn it on to show all files in Google Drive and the Downloads folder. Select a file and drag using the touchpad. To drag and drop to the touchpad, press and hold the file name or icon, and then drag it to the other folder.

By doing this regularly, the user can back up the files in the local storage to the Google Drive folder. In the other direction, store files locally by going from the Google Drive folder to the Downloads folder. If a user plans to work outside of Wi-Fi for a while, this can keep files available.

Connect to Projector or TV for Presentations

We like to use the Chromebook for presentations because it’s so lightweight and portable. Connect an HDMI cable to a projector, monitor or TV and go ahead and present. The system extends the desktop to the external display by default. However, some people may need to adjust the screen size due to a condition called overscan, which means that the image on the computer screen does not fit on the external display. Things on the edges are cut off.

set overscan in chromeos

Overscan occurs when the external monitor cuts off the edges of the screen.

After the cables are connected, open the settings. The system usually opens the display settings automatically, but if not, click the clock in the lower right corner and select Settings. Go to the Device section and click on the Display Settings button.

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Screenshot 2013-09-06, 3.36.51 PM

From within the display settings, adjust the options as needed. Select mirroring, which means showing the same thing on the computer screen and on the external screen, from the Options buttons. Click again to go back to the extended settings. Use other options to change the resolution and orientation of the screen. The overscan button opens a box that allows the user to set the overscan issue mentioned above.
chromeos display settings dialog

Click Internal Display at the top of the box to change these options for Internal Display. Since we are connecting the Chromebook to a Samsung TV, select it externally represented by the word Samsung in the image above.

Now start the presentation from any software used to show it.

Erase Chromebook to Factory Restore

reset chromebook

ChromeOS allows users to quickly wipe their system back to factory state. This makes it very easy to clean the system so that the user can sell it or give it to someone else. It also helps clean up the garbage if the system is not working properly.

Those of you who think this will take forever, as with Mac or Windows, think again. Since all settings and bookmarks are stored in the cloud, the user can do this in about thirty minutes, and as a result, a perfectly working machine with all files working. If a person wants to delete their applications and settings without reinstalling, it will not take thirty minutes.

Every Chromebook handles this differently. Google offers the following steps: Help page titled “Delete device data”.

With a Samsung Chromebook like ours, it’s as simple as pressing ESC + Samsung Chromebook Refresh key + POWER. The refresh key is located next to the right arrow key in the top row.

The screen will show a yellow exclamation mark. Then press CTRL + D to start dev mode. Press ENTER and a red exclamation mark will appear on the screen. Press CTRL+D and then press ENTER again, the device will erase everything on the machine and restore it to factory settings. Google claims it takes about fifteen minutes. This is true.

When the Chromebook is finished, press the spacebar and then ENTER. The machine restarts.