11 Essential Chromebook Keyboard Tips You Need to Know

Chromebook Keyboard How To Use

A Chromebook’s keyboard is slightly different from the regular Windows or macOS keyboards. If you are confused about where things are on your Chromebook keyboard, this post shows you how to get started with it and discusses what the various symbols and keyboard settings mean.

The Various Symbols on Your Chromebook Keyboard

In this section we take a look at the various symbols you’ll find on your Chromebook keyboard, starting with the top row of keys that replace the usual function keys you may expect to find there.

1. Top Row of Keys

The top row on your Chromebook’s keyboard includes the following symbols from left to right.

Chromebook Keyboard Top Row Meaning
  • Esc: exits the current screen.
  • Back Arrow (<-): returns to the previous page, screen, or app.
  • Forward Arrow (->): skips to the next page in a browser or screen in apps like Settings.
  • Refresh: reloads the current page in your browser or rotates the screen when used with Shift + Ctrl.
  • Fullscreen: enables or disables full-screen mode for the current window.
  • Show Windows: (depicted by a box alongside two bars.) shows all the open windows on your Chromebook or takes a screenshot on Chromebook when used with Ctrl.
  • Decrease Brightness: this button lets you lower your Chromebook’s screen brightness.
  • Increase Brightness: increases your Chromebook’s brightness.
  • Mute: silences the sounds on your Chromebook.
  • Decrease Volume: lowers the volume.
  • Increase Volume: increases the Chromebook’s volume.
  • Power: lets you sign out or powers your keyboard off an on, depending on your Chromebook.

2. Other Special Keys

Chromebook Keyboard Search Icon Meaning

Tip: if you’ve connected an external Windows keyboard to your Chromebook, you can use the Windows key between the Ctrl and Alt keys to open the search box.

Google Assistant: On Pixelbooks, you will find the Google Assistant key between the Ctrl and Alt keys. Use t-his to open Google Assistant on your Chromebook.

1. Enable Caps Lock

A dedicated Caps Lock key is missing on the Chromebook keyboard. However, you can easily activate the function by using a keyboard shortcut.

Press the Search + Alt keys on your keyboard to enable Caps Lock. Use the combination of the same keys to disable it.

Chromebook Keyboard Caps Lock Shortcut

If, however, you don’t like using keyboard shortcuts or want a dedicated key for Caps Lock, you can remap the Search key to function as a Caps Lock key as shown below.

  1. Open “Settings” on your Chromebook.
  2. Go to “Device → Keyboard.”
Chromebook Keyboard Caps Lock Keyboard Settings
  1. Click on the drop-down box next to “Search” and select “Caps Lock” from the list.
Chromebook Keyboard Caps Lock Remap

Now, the Search key on your keyboard will function as the Caps Lock key. Use it to enable or disable the “Caps Lock” function.

2. Remap Keys

Just as we remapped the Search key to Caps Lock, we can remap other keys like Ctrl, Alt, Escape, and Backspace to perform other functionalities, such as opening Google Assistant, switching Ctrl to Alt, and so on. You can also disable a key altogether.

  1. Go to “Settings → Device → Keyboard.”
Chromebook Keyboard Remap Keys
  1. Click on the drop-down box next to the required key and select the desired function.

3. Enable Function Keys

Just as on other keyboards, you can have function keys on your Chromebook as well. This is possible by turning your Chromebook’s shortcut keys in the top row into Function keys. The keys between Esc and Power/Lock will work as F1 through F10. You can use these keys as function keys in two ways.

Note: for F11 and F12, press the Search + - keys and Search + + keys respectively.

  1. The first method works temporarily. Press the Search key and any of the keys in the top row to use them as function keys.
  2. Alternatively, you can change it so that you won’t have to ever use the Search key. For that, go to “Settings → Device → Keyboard” once again. Enable the toggle for “Treat top-row keys as function keys.”
Chromebook Keyboard Function Keys

To use the Chromebook shortcuts in the top row when function keys are enabled, press the Search key along with the shortcut button. Basically, the Search key acts as a toggle between shortcut and function behavior on the Chromebook keyboard.

4. Type Special Characters

As on other keyboards, press Shift to access a special character key. For instance, if you want to type “@”, press Shift + 2.

However, not all special characters are included on your Chromebook keyboard. To type special characters, such em dash, subscript, superscript, etc., follow these steps.

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + U in an input field. You will see a little underlined “u” on your screen next to the word once you pressed the above three keys.
Chromebook Keyboard Special Characters
  1. Type in the Unicode entry for the special character followed by the Enter key. That will convert the underlined “u “to the desired special character.

Unicode values for popular special characters:

  • Em dash: 2014
  • En dash: 2013
  • Subscript: 208X (where X is the subscript value)
  • Superscript: 207X (where X is the superscript value)

You can check the full list of Unicodes on Wikipedia.

5. Type Emojis

  1. Use the Search + Shift + Space shortcut to open the emoji panel on your Chromebook. This works on Chrome OS 92+.
Chromebook Keyboard Emojis
  1. You can also receive emoji suggestions while typing in supported apps. Go to “Settings → Languages” and search for Suggestions.
  2. Enable “Emoji suggestions.”
Chromebook Keyboard Emoji Suggestions

Note: for on-screen keyboards, the emoji suggestions will appear in the keyboard’s suggestion bar.

6. Adjust Keyboard Brightness

If your Chromebook has a backlit keyboard, you can change its brightness using keyboard shortcuts. Press Alt + Increase Brightness/Decrease Brightness to boost or reduce the brightness of your backlit keyboard.

Chromebook Keyboard Backlit Brightness

7. Enable Auto-Repeat for Your Keys

Suppose you need to type a letter or a number repeatedly. Usually, you’d have to press that key multiple times to achieve this effect. If that sounds tedious, enable the auto-repeat feature for your Chromebook keyboard. It will allow you to hold a key without lifting your finger to type it repeatedly. For instance, if you hold the m key, you will get “mmmmmmmmm” until you lift the finger.

You can enable this through “Settings → Device → Keyboard → Enable auto-repeat.” You will also find the ability to adjust the delay and repeat rates.

Chromebook Keyboard Auto Repeat Meaning

8. Enable Autocorrect

Follow these steps to correct your spellings while you type:

  1. Go to “Settings → Advanced → Language and inputs → Inputs and keyboards.”
Chromebook Keyboard Auto Correct Language
  1. Click on the arrow next to your input language under “Input methods.”
Chromebook Keyboard Auto Correct Input
  1. Under “Physical keyboard,” click on the drop-down box next to “Auto-correction” and select the aggressiveness of the corrections.
Chromebook Keyboard Auto Correct Enable

9. Navigate through Pages

If you have a faulty mouse or touchpad, you can use the arrow keys of Chromebook’s keyboard to navigate through the text on your screen. This is possible with the help of the Caret browsing feature. When enabled, you will see a blinking text cursor on your screen. Use the arrow keys on the keyboard to scroll in any direction.

Caret browsing also comes in handy if you want to copy text without using your mouse.

  1. Go to “Settings → Advanced → Accessibility.”
  1. Enable the toggle for “Navigate pages with a text cursor.”
Chromebook Keyboard Caret Browsing

Press Shift + Up/Down to select the desired text. Use the Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste the text.

10. Enable On-Screen Keyboard

Chromebooks support an on-screen keyboard as well. You can use it to type or handwrite text or add emojis.

  1. Go to “Settings → Advanced → Accessibility → Manage accessibility features.”
Chromebook Keyboard Accessibility
  1. Scroll down to the “Keyboard and input section.” Turn on the toggle next to “Enable on-screen keyboard.”
Chromebook Keyboard On Screen Keyboard

Tip: the on-screen keyboard will automatically open when you use Chromebook in tablet mode.

11. Chromebook Keyboard Shortcuts

Here are some popular and useful keyboard shortcuts that come in handy:

  • Open Task Manager: Search + Esc
  • Full screenshot: Ctrl + Show windows
  • Partial screenshot: Ctrl + Shift + Show windows
  • View Clipboard Items: Search + V
  • Open Google Assistant: Search + A
  • Lock screen: Search + L
  • Rotate screen 90 degrees: Shift + Ctrl + Refresh/Rotate
  • View all windows on your desk: Alt + Tab
  • Zoom in: Ctrl + +
  • Zoom out: Ctrl + -
  • Split screen to left: Alt + [
  • Splits screen to right: Alt + ]

See All Keyboard Shortcuts

To view all keyboard shortcuts, use Ctrl + Alt + ? or Ctrl + Alt + /, depending on your device. Doing so will open a pop-up window that includes all of the available shortcuts. Use the search at the top to find the desired shortcut.

Chromebook Keyboard View Shortcuts

If the above shortcut doesn’t let you view all the shortcuts, go to “Settings → Device → Keyboard → View keyboard shortcuts.”

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I enable speak-to-type on a Chromebook?

Go to “Settings → Advanced → Accessibility.” Enable the toggle for “Enable dictation.”

2. How can I fix a Chromebook keyboard if it’s not working properly?

If your Chromebook keyboard isn’t working properly, start by restarting your device. If that doesn’t fix it, hard reset your Chromebook by pressing the Refresh + Power buttons together for three to five seconds. Also check the various keyboard settings and input languages as well.

Mehvish Mushtaq
Mehvish Mushtaq

Mehvish is a tech lover from Kashmir. With a degree in computer engineering, she's always been happy to help anyone who finds technology challenging. She's been writing about technology for over six years, and her favorite topics include how-to guides, explainers, tips and tricks for Android, iOS/iPadOS, Windows, social media, and web apps.

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