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Grow Your Business Technology

How to Switch From a PC to a Chromebook

PC to Chromebook

Chromebooks are known for being inexpensive and lasting a long time on a charge. But switching to a Chromebook from a Windows PC doesn't happen without some effort. The cloud-based notebooks are lean and fast, they rely almost entirely on the browser, and you can't use them for non-Android games. However, new models such as the Google Pixelbook 2 are nimble enough to help you stay super productive.

Google Docs and Gmail are just the start. Here's how to get up to speed quickly with a quirky new Chromebook.

Here's the best tip for anyone using a Chromebook: Before switching from a PC, move to the cloud. Sign up for a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive and copy your files. Start using Gmail instead of Outlook. Skip the local storage altogether. Stop using desktop apps.

The keyboard is quite different, and it will throw you off at first. There are no function keys like F1 through F12 – who needs them? There's no Print Screen button either. Instead, on a model like the upcoming Google Pixelbook 2, there are keys for adjusting brightness and volume. Fortunately, Copy-Paste works the same as on a Windows PC (Ctrl C to copy, Ctrl V to paste).

Because there are no function keys, there is no Print Screen button to take a screenshot. On a Chromebook, you typically press Ctrl, then the Switch Windows button (which looks like a box with two lines next to it).

You won't need to right-click as much. Windows uses the right-mouse button in apps, but Chromebooks don't really use apps. If you do want to access the Save As command or Print function, use Alt then click for right-clicking.

You want to print from a Chromebook? It's possible, but very different. Chromebooks use Google Print, a cloud-based system for printing. First, you need a printer that supports Google Print, which sends all docs to the cloud first. Then, you print from the Chromebook to the cloud to the printer.

You actually can use local apps with a Chromebook. Google lets you install and use Android apps, but hold your horses. I've used Chromebooks for years, and I avoid Android apps. They tend to be clunky, crash often, and don't always load. They also don't work on older Chromebooks. If you still want to try them, Google offers some great support. Just be ready for some trouble.

On a lighter note, Microsoft is adding Office apps to the Google Play store for Chromebooks. The apps are Android versions of Office which include the same features you’d find on an Android tablet running Office. But devices larger than 10.1 inches need an Office 365 subscription to create, edit or print.

Android apps are clunky. You can't print locally in most cases. The keyboard has no function keys. What good is a Chromebook, then? Well, it's amazing for browsing, and that's really valuable for most of us. For email, doc writing and research, it's fast and reliable. You probably won't ever crash the computer, and it's amazingly fast.