Keyboard Shortcuts on Chrome OS in 2021: Everything you need to know

Keyboard Shortcuts on Chrome OS in 2021: Everything you need to know

Switching from a Mac or PC to one of the top Chromebooks can be a bit scary. After all, you’re moving to a cloud-based computing platform and probably implementing a new workflow. Keyboard shortcuts are also a little different on Chrome OS. If you use an external keyboard designed for Windows or macOS, you’ll also need to learn how specific keys behave in Chrome OS. The good news is, we have you covered with this comprehensive guide to Chrome OS keyboard shortcuts. Whether you use your device for school or work, this guide will help you improve your efficiency using your Chromebook for daily tasks. We’ll start with a quick look at the most popular shortcuts, then move on to some specific categories of interest.

Popular Chrome keyboard shortcuts

In this section we take a look at the most popular keyboard shortcuts on Chrome OS. Everyone needs to take the occasional screenshot, or turn on Caps Lock for some good old-fashioned digital yelling. It’s important to note that depending on your keyboard, you can press the Search key  or the Launcher key  for some shortcuts. Both keys work the same.

Check out the list below for the shortcuts you will likely use the most when navigating Chrome OS.

  • Take a screenshot: Press Ctrl + Show Windows 
  • Take a partial screenshot: Press Shift + Ctrl + Show windows , then click and drag.
  • Take a screenshot on tablets: Press Power button + Volume down button.
  • To access more screenshot features: Press Shift + Ctrl + Show windows , then select a screenshot feature from the toolbar.
  • To access more screenshot features on tablets: Press and hold the Power button and then select “Screen capture,” or, select time and then select Screen capture.
  • Turn Caps Lock on or off: Press Search + Alt. Or press Launcher  + Alt.
  • Lock your screen: Press Search + L. Or press Launcher  + L.
  • Sign out of your Google Account: Press Shift + Ctrl + q (twice).
  • See all keyboard shortcuts: Press Ctrl + Alt + / (forward slash).

all Chrome OS shortcuts

Using external keyboards and remapping keys

Many users migrating to a new Chromebook come from a computer running Windows or macOS. Perhaps you still enjoy using your trusty mechanical keyboard with a Windows or Mac layout? If you’re using a Windows or Mac keyboard, press the Windows key or Command key instead of the Search key or Launcher key .

Settings cog on Chrome OS

To change how a specific keyboard key works:

    1. At the bottom right, select the time. Or press Alt + Shift + s.
    2. Select Settings .
    3. Under Device, choose Keyboard.
    4. Change the function of one or more keys.

Device settings in Chrome OS

how to locate touchpad and keyboard in Chrome OS settings

Chrome keyboard shortcuts for text editing

For those of you using a Chromebook for work or school, you probably edit a fair amount of text. Luckily, a few of the text editing shortcuts you know from Windows or macOS carry over nicely to Chrome OS. Whether you use Google Docs, Microsoft Office, or another option, these general keyboard shortcuts will come in handy. We’ve also included a specific set of shortcuts relevant to use in Google Drive/Google Docs.

General shortcuts for all apps

      • Turn Caps Lock on or off: Search + Alt (or) Launcher  + Alt
      • Select everything on the page: Ctrl + a
      • Select the next word or letter: Shift + Ctrl + Right arrow
      • Select previous word or letter: Shift + Ctrl + Left arrow
      • Open clipboard menu: Launcher  + or Search + v
      • Copy content to the clipboard: Ctrl+c
      • Cut content: Ctrl+x
      • Paste content from clipboard: Ctrl+v
      • Undo previous command: Ctrl+z 
      • Dim keyboard (for backlit keyboards only): Alt +
      • Make keyboard brighter (for backlit keyboards only): Alt +

Shortcuts specific to Google Drive/Docs

Google Drive in a Chrome browser

      • Document creation in Google Drive: Shift + T creates a new Doc, Shift + S creates a new Sheet, and Shift + F creates a new Folder.
      • Rename items in Google Drive: Tapping N pops up the window to rename the currently selected item. This is an incredibly useful tool to keep things organized on your Chromebook.
      • Clear formatting: Ctrl + \ will clear any weird formatting off of a section that copy-pasted in a strange way or with unintended formatting. On that note, you can use Ctrl+ Shift + V for pasting text without formatting.
      • Formatting lists: Ctrl + Shift + 7 will toggle on a numbered list or format highlighted text into a numbered list. Ctrl + Shift + 8 will do the same with a bulleted list.
      • Word count: Ctrl + Shift + C will bring up the word count screen, showing how many pages, words, and characters are in a highlighted section and the full document.
      • Voice typing: Ctrl + Shift + S will start voice typing, allowing you to add more text to your document without having to type it all out.
      • Go to top or bottom: Ctrl + Search + left arrow will go to the beginning of your document while Ctrl + Search + right arrow will go to the end.
      • Insert links: Ctrl + K will open the insert link window in Google Docs, allowing you to create a new hyperlink for new text or add a hyperlink to the text you had currently highlighted.

Chrome keyboard tab and window shortcuts

Navigating tabs and organizing windows is essential to any operating system. This is especially important on Chrome OS since most of your work will be completed in a browser. Many of these shortcuts are familiar as they’re similar to both Internet Explorer and Safari in many ways.

      • Open a new window: Ctrl+n
      • Open a new tab: Ctrl+t
      • Close the current tab: Ctrl+w
      • Close the current window: Shift+Ctrl+w
      • Reopen the last tab or window you closed: Shift+Ctrl+t
      • Go to the next tab in the window: Ctrl+tab
      • Go to the previous tab in the window: Shift+Ctrl+tab
      • Open the link in a new tab and switch to the new tab: Press Shift + Ctrl and click a link
      • Maximize window: Alt+=
      • Minimize window: Alt+-

Chrome keyboard browser page shortcuts

When working inside a browser page, you’ll also need to navigate the page itself. Moving up or down on a page is familiar, and searching a page is also the same command found on Windows. Google functionality is at the heart of your Chromebook, so of course you can perform a quick Google search. Advanced users may also want to check a page source code.

Check out the list below for the full list of shortcuts to use on a browser page.

      • Page up: Alt + Up arrow
      • Page down: Alt + Down arrow
      • Reload your current page: Ctrl + r
      • Right-click a link: Press Alt and click a link
      • Print your current page: Ctrl + p
      • Search the current page: Ctrl + f
      • Perform a Google search: Ctrl + k or Ctrl + e
      • View page source: Ctrl+u
      • Open the History page: Ctrl+h
      • Open the Downloads page: Ctrl+j

Specific tips for Mac and Windows users

The tips below remedy some of the issues encountered by users migrating to Chrome OS from a Mac or Windows machine. You might want to get the missing Caps Lock key back, or switch the Ctrl and Alt key functionality for reachability. These suggestions should ease the burden of moving to Chrome OS.

Caps Lock key replacement

You may have noticed that Chromebooks do not have a Caps Lock key. You can capitalize letters using the Shift key as usual, but you can also press Launcher+Alt to enable Caps Lock. You might also consider remapping the Launcher key to become a Caps Lock key. The process for remapping is outlined at the beginning of this article.

remapping of Caps Lock

To do this, click the time in the bottom right-hand corner, and click the Settings icon. Scroll down to Keyboard, and remap the Search key, choosing Caps Lock from the list. Keep in mind that if you replace the Launcher key with Caps Lock, you will lose out on some of the shortcuts above that use the Launcher/Search key.

Change scrolling direction

You may prefer scrolling set so when you swipe down, you scroll down the page. This is very natural as it’s how smartphones and tablets behave with touch. It’s easy to change the scroll direction on your Chromebook. To do this, click the time in the bottom right hand corner, and click the Settings icon. Scroll down and select Touchpad. Under the scrolling option, select Enable reverse scrolling.

how to enable reverse scrolling on Chrome OS

Enabling right-click

Right-click works a little differently on a Chromebook than on a PC (where you typically hit Shift + F10). You can either press the touchpad with two fingers to open the right-click menu (as you might on a Mac), or you can click Alt and use just one finger on the touchpad. Once you do, you can scroll, moving left and right to move horizontally, or up and down to move vertically.

Function key replacement 

One thing PC users will notice right away is the lack of function keys. Indeed, Chromebooks also don’t have a Print Screen key. Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to take a screenshot in Chrome OS, as we’ve seen. On your Chromebook you’ll notice several new shortcut keys at the top of your keyboard — these adjust volume, brightness, and control window operation for apps. The good news is Windows shortcuts for copy, cut, and paste still work the same on your Chromebook.

Command key replacement

The Command key is an integral part of keyboard shortcuts on macOS. In Chrome OS, the Ctrl key is equivalent to the Command key. Perhaps the most annoying thing is that the Ctrl key is a bit further to the left, making it a little more difficult to reach. If you want to remedy this situation, use Chrome’s remapping function to swap the Ctrl and Alt key functionality.

keyboard remapping of Ctrl to Alt

To do this, click the time in the bottom right-hand corner, and click the Settings icon. Scroll down to Keyboard, and remap the keys, setting Alt to Ctrl and Ctrl to Alt.

These are our top keyboard shortcuts for Chrome OS, along with some tips to help you get acclimated with your new machine. Chromebooks are some of the best USB C laptops out there, and with these tips you can easily use Chrome OS as a daily machine. Remember if you want to see the entire list of available shortcuts, you can always press Ctrl + Alt + / (forward slash) on your Chromebook to view the entire list.

About author

Jeff Springer
Jeff Springer

Applied mathematician with a love for Android. I am interested in inverse problems for imaging and integration with camera software for mobile phones.