These simple Chromebook shortcuts could save students a lot of time

Any student in remote learning would benefit from having these at their disposal.

If your child is engaged in remote learning, there’s a solid chance they’re doing it on a Chromebook. In 2018, Google’s barebones laptops made up more than 60 percent of the education devices market, and at the beginning of 2020—before the pandemic hit—Google announced that more than 40 million of them were in use in educational settings. That’s a 33-percent jump from the previous year and it seems hard to believe that number hasn’t grown as students switched to school at home.

Even if you or your child have been using a Chromebook for years, there are still some helpful tricks that you may not know about. Learning these simple keyboard shortcuts may not revolutionize the way you use the machine, but they can streamline some of the actions that happen many times per day. And at this point, even small improvements can make a big difference.

Generic Chromebook shortcuts

Many shortcuts are specific to their individual programs, but there are some global commands that apply across the operating system. Here are some of the key ones to remember for day-to-day use.

If you want to see all of the keyboard shortcuts available, press Ctrl + Alt + / and it will bring up a window showing a list. Here are some highlights worth committing to memory.

Take a screenshot (if your Chromebook doesn’t have a dedicated screenshot key): Ctrl + Show Windows.

Take a screenshot of a specific part of a screen: Hold Alt + Screenshot, then click and drag the box over the portion of the screen you want to capture. If you don’t have a screenshot button, hold Shift + Ctrl + Show Windows, then click and drag.

Open a new Incognito window: Shift + Ctrl + N opens a tab that won’t keep track of your browsing history or accept cookies, but it’s not totally private. If the school is monitoring your web traffic or filtering websites, going into an incognito window won’t circumvent that.

Closing and reopening tabs

Accidentally nuking a tab you needed feels bad, but there’s a quick way to get back to the page you were just on.

Close a current tab: Ctrl + W

Reopen the last tab you closed: Shift + Ctrl + T

Open the History page to see all the sites you visited in the past: Ctrl + H

Link shortcuts

Clicking on a link is a relatively simple task, but adding shortcuts can help you finetune the process. Randomly opening a ton of tabs will make things hard to navigate and might cause important pages to get lost or closed by accident.

Open link in a new tab (and then go to that tab): Shift + Ctrl + Click

Open link in a new window: Shift + Click

Open a link in a tab in the background: Ctrl + Click

Page viewing options

Press the wrong series of keys and you can change the way you view pages and documents—getting back to normal can be tricky. Here are some of the most common commands to try if things look wonky.

Zoom in or out on a page: Ctrl + + (Hold control and press the plus sign. Zooming out is the same process, but with the minus sign.)

Move to the top or bottom of a page: Ctrl + Alt + Up arrow to go to the top, or Ctrl + Alt + Down arrow to go to the bottom.

Show or hide the bookmarks bar: Shift + Ctrl + B

Show the toolbar: Alt + Shift + T

Google Meet

If your students are spending tons of time in video calls, Google Meet has its own shortcuts to make life simpler.

Turn the camera on or off: Ctrl + E

Mute or Unmute your microphone: Ctrl + D

Google Docs

Most of the typing-related shortcuts work across the Google Suite, including Gmail and other apps. They’re perhaps the most basic, but also some of the most used.

Copy: Highlight text and then Ctrl + C

Paste: Ctrl + V

Paste without formatting (handy if you’re pasting from the web and don’t want to keep the same style or font): Ctrl + Shift + V

Insert comment: Ctrl + Alt + M

The rest of the commands

If you want a more complete look at the commands available to you, Google keeps a directory of them online. Even learning just a few can add up to some significant time savings and maybe even a meltdown or two.

Stan Horaczek
Stan Horaczek

is the senior gear editor at Popular Science and Popular Photography. His past bylines include Rolling Stone, Engadget, Men's Journal, GQ, and just about any other publication that has ever written about gadgets. For a short time, he even wrote the gadget page for Every Day With Rachel Ray magazine. He collects vintage cameras, eats pizza, and hopes you won't go looking at his Tweets even though the link is down there.