Chromebook Basics: A Guide for New Users

David writes:

I just recently purchased an Acer Chromebook and I am wondering if you have a book similar to your Windows 8.1 book for Chrome. There is no good info to help one get started. I need details.

If you’ve been shopping for a new computer recently, you may have been tempted by a Chromebook. Samsung, HP, Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo and Dell all have at least one Chromebook in their lineup, so there are plenty to choose from. However, if you have never used one before, you will notice some differences from computers you may have owned or used in the past. So, here’s what you need to know.

What is a Chromebook?

A Chromebook is similar to a standard laptop in many ways, except that it uses an operating system called Chrome OS, instead of Microsoft Windows. It is a lightweight, low-cost device, with an average battery life of six hours or more. A Chromebook has built-in anti-virus protection, and will always update itself automatically. They are also very fast, and will turn on in 10 seconds or less.

samsung chromebook 2

How do I log in?

Chromebooks run an operating system that was created by Google, so if you have a Google account, you log in with that. If you don’t have a Google account, you can create one for free here. You can also log in by clicking “Browse as a guest” but none of your settings or data will be saved. Multiple people can share a Chromebook simply by logging out and letting another user log in. Parents can even create “supervised users” to track online usage and block certain websites for their children.

How do I get online?

The Chrome web browser is the default browser on a Chromebook, and it is the only browser you will be able to use. However, it is optimized for Chrome OS, and works very well on a Chromebook. You can access almost anything online with the Chromebook’s browser.

How do I install software?

You can’t install Microsoft Office, or other Windows software on a Chromebook, but you can visit the Chrome Web Store to install a whole variety of free apps and extensions. If you need productivity tools like a word processor, or spreadsheet app, head over to and check out the free online Office suite that Google created for just this purpose.

chrome web store

Where are my apps?

Your apps live in the App Launcher. You can access them by clicking the grid icon in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen. You can also pin an app to the taskbar for even quicker access by right clicking on an app and selecting “Pin to shelf”.

chromebook app launcher

Can I change settings?

Yes, simply click the clock in the bottom right-hand corner when logged in and you will see a variety of options that let you choose which network to connect to, which Bluetooth device you want to use, or how much battery life you have left. You can also click “Settings” for more options.

chromebook settings

Why does the keyboard look different?

Chromebook keyboards look similar to a standard keyboard, but with a few important differences. For instance, there are no function keys. Instead you will find dedicated keys for brightness, volume, and browsing the web. You will also find a search button instead of a caps-lock key.

chromebook keyboard

What about the touchpad?

The touchpad operates much like a regular laptop touchpad. You tap once to left-click, and tap with two fingers to perform a right-click. You can also scroll up and down by moving two fingers up and down the touchpad in a vertical motion. Alternatively, you can use a wireless Bluetooth mouse.

How do I change the desktop wallpaper?

To change your desktop wallpaper simply right-click, or tap with two fingers, on the existing desktop picture, then select “Set wallpaper”. You can then choose from a number of stunning wallpapers, or add one of your own by clicking “Custom”.

change chromebook wallpaper

A Chromebook might seem like a big change from what you already have, but most people can adapt to them quickly with very little effort. After all, the majority of what we do on a computer these days is done online, and this is exactly what a Chromebook was built for. If you have any questions about Chromebooks, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

~ Jonathan Wylie

0 thoughts on “Chromebook Basics: A Guide for New Users

  1. Hi Jonathan Wylie,

    Thanks for your detailed introduction. It would be nice if you can also detail on Pros & Cons of Chrome Book, especially with Windows.

  2. If I understand what you said, I can not download any windows (or third party) software. Therefore if there isn’t an app for one of my programs I use with amateur radio, I don’t want to purchase a Chromebook. Correct?

    Bob, NØDAN

    1. Bob, if the app you want or an equivalent app is not available, a Chromebook probably isn’t the best choice for you.

    2. Yes. If there is no equivalent to the program you really like in the Chrome Web Store, then a Chromebook might not be the best device for you.

      Is there a specific program you are looking to replace? I might be able to offer a suggestion…

  3. Why is my wallpaper changing itself? Like I set my wallpaper, log out, log back in, and then its changed! It’s really aggravating. Please help.

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