Chromebook keyboard shortcuts for students: 19+ tricks to supercharge your studies

Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review
Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

It's that time of year again, Parents Freedom Day! Just kidding, it's Back to School time, and our students will again use Chromebooks throughout the year to complete schoolwork. As a parent, I always try to help my child work smarter, not harder, and these handy keyboard shortcuts for Chromebooks are a difference maker. 

During the year, our Laptop team reviews the best Chromebooks you can buy. We have picked up many tips and tricks to ensure you and your student get the most out of the Chrome experience. These keyboard shortcuts are game-changing and great to know, as they will improve your student's workflow and ability to get things done. 

Best general Chromebook keyboard shortcuts

This first set of shortcuts arer pretty nmuch universal, and can be used in any website or app you are using on your Chromebook. They will keep you more productive and help you personalize your user experience and do things like hide certain windows

  • Tab shortcuts: Ctrl + T opens a new tab, Ctrl + Shift + T reopens the last closed tab, and Ctrl + W closes the currently selected tab.
  • Options menu: Alt + E opens the options menu, the three-dot menu in Google Chrome and Google Files. This shortcut does not work in Android apps.
  • Cursor selection and movement: Shift + arrow keys selects text in the direction you move the cursor, and Ctrl + arrow keys moves the cursor one word to the left or right or to the beginning of the line above or below. Using Shift + Ctrl + arrow keys allows you to select larger portions of text quickly.
  • Screenshot: Ctrl + Overview (the button that looks like a stack of windows) takes a screenshot of your current full Chromebook screen. Whether you need this for capturing the result you got on a web quiz, how a homework module is misbehaving, or something funny that someone said in a group chat, it's an essential shortcut to know.
  • Screen zoom: Ctrl + + zooms in and magnifies the current tab of Chrome, while Ctrl + - zooms out and shrinks the current tab of Chrome. If you want to return quickly to 100% default zoom, you can do so with Ctrl + 0.
  • Hide your game/tab: Alt + - will minimize the current window. If you have multiple windows open, then hitting Alt + - again will minimize the next open window. If you only have one window open on your Chromebook, hitting Alt + - again will restore that minimized window once your teacher, little brother, or parent has left and the coast is clear.
  • Split-screening windows: Alt + [ pins the current window to the left side of the screen and Alt + ] pins the current window on the right side of the screen, making it far, far easier to reference your notes while you write your history report or write helpful technology articles. Alt + = will make a window full-width again without making it fullscreen, which hides the address bar, tabs, and toolbars.

Best Google Docs and G Drive shortcuts

There are a ton of Google Drive and Google Docs shortcuts that users can use; we aren't even able to share all of them. There are that many. However, the keyboard shortcuts selected are the ones you need to know. Let's start with the Google Drive shortcuts first. 

  • Display all the keyboard shortcuts with: Ctrl + /
  • Document creation: Shift + T creates a new Doc, Shift + S creates a new Sheet, and Shift + F creates a new Folder. If you're going to be using Google Drive for all your notes, homework, and random daydreaming stories throughout the year, create folders early and often to keep things organized.
  • Rename items: Tapping N pops up the window to rename the currently selected item. Naming screenshots and other randomly named images and downloaded attachments will help keep things better organized and easy to find in your Google Drive.
  • Scroll up, down, left, and right with the j k h l keys if you don't want your fingers leaving the keyboard.

Google Docs keyboard shortcuts

  • Clear formatting: Ctrl + \ will clear any weird formatting off of a website or app. On that note, remember that Ctrl+ Shift + V is the shortcut 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, so you know how close you are to that absolutely insane 10,000-word count your English teacher assigned.
  • Voice typing: Ctrl + Shift + S will start voice typing, allowing you to dictate text to your document without having to type it all out.
  • Jump to top or bottom: Ctrl + Search + left arrow will take you 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.

Files Shortcuts

On a Chromebook, the FilesApp is like a secret agent very few know about or discuss, but it does some pretty great things. Since it syncs with your G Drive, and Chrome Web Store add-ons like OneDrive and Dropbox, whatever extra cloud storage you may use, it comes in handy as it allows you to make changes, and updates to those file systems right from your Chromebook. 

So using these keyboard shortcuts, will speed up the process. 

  • Folder creation: Ctrl + E creates a new folder.
  • Rename items: Ctrl + Enter to rename the selected item. I find this goes quicker in Files than on the Google Drive site because you don't have to deal with pop-up windows or the window reloading after renaming a file. Ctrl + Enter, type in the new name, tap Enter, then arrow key over to the next item and repeat.
  • Delete items: Alt + Backspace to delete an item from a folder. Items deleted from a Google Drive folder in the Files app still go to the Google Drive trash folder, so you can recover them within a number of days if you find you deleted something on accident.

Remember, these are just some of the most relevant keyboard shortcuts for Chromebook users. There are many more, and you can always display all the keyboard shortcuts for your Chromebook by simply hitting Ctrl+/. Then, a popup menu will appear with the entire list of Google Chromebook keyboard shortcuts you can use. 

Have a great weekend and a wonderful school year. 

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Mark Anthony Ramirez

Mark has spent 20 years headlining comedy shows around the country and made appearances on ABC, MTV, Comedy Central, Howard Stern, Food Network, and Sirius XM Radio. He has written about every topic imaginable, from dating, family, politics, social issues, and tech. He wrote his first tech articles for the now-defunct Dads On Tech 10 years ago, and his passion for combining humor and tech has grown under the tutelage of the Laptop Mag team. His penchant for tearing things down and rebuilding them did not make Mark popular at home, however, when he got his hands on the legendary Commodore 64, his passion for all things tech deepened. These days, when he is not filming, editing footage, tinkering with cameras and laptops, or on stage, he can be found at his desk snacking, writing about everything tech, new jokes, or scripts he dreams of filming.