Chromebooks are built to be easy to understand and easy to navigate. Much of the navigation lies in the powerful, flexible trackpad that rests just below the Chromebook keyboard. This input method uses a lot of power over the Chrome OS, but just because Chromebooks are meant to be streamlined, simplified computers, does not mean that they come completely without a learning curve. With that in mind, we wanted to put together a simple, quick guide to all the things you can do with Chromebooks’ built-in trackpad.
Before we start scrolling, a quick note about the settings. In the device settings menu, you can go to settings> device> touch pad (or mouse and touch pad if you have a mouse connected) and you can decide to tap to click, tap and drag and reverse scroll. For this post and video, you just need to know that a touch on the trackpad or a physical click on the trackpad means the same thing, and both work if the option is turned on. Reverse scrolling is also a bit of a choice, depending on what feels natural to you, but I leave it on as I like the content on the screen to move in the same direction of the fingers when I scroll as we are used to on phones and tablets. Let’s dive in.
As you would expect, one-finger movements are fairly simple. With one finger on the trackpad, you can move the mouse pointer around the screen and select items such as apps, web links and system settings. In addition, you can click to retrieve open windows and drag them around the screen with either a physical click and drag or double-click and drag if you have the activation options.
When we add another digit, the movements become a little more complex. With two fingers on the trackpad, the most useful gesture is definitely the rolling motion. Depending on the reverse scroll setting we mentioned earlier, the behavior of this gesture will vary. Regardless, if you place two fingers on the trackpad and move in any direction, the content on the screen will move as long as the content is scrollable. Take this post you are reading for example. With two fingers on the trackpad, you can slide up and down to move the contents easily.
In addition, you can perform one with two fingers movement with pinch zoom which will zoom in on web content and other app content where permitted. Once the content is zoomed in, the two-finger scroll wheel is convenient for moving around the screen in any direction to see your now zoomed content: up, down, left or right. ->
Finally, with two-finger click or tap, you can bring up a context menu similar to a Windows right click or Android / iOS long press. The content of the context menu will vary from app to app, but if you are looking for extra options, it is always worth pressing / clicking with two fingers to see if any extra hides beneath the surface.
A bonus move that still only works on Chrome and web apps (not Android apps) is to swipe left / right with two fingers to go forward / backward in web content. This is a practical trick we put out of the video, since it does not work the whole system.
When you go into three-finger movements, things get even more complex. These moves are more about multitasking productivity and feel more like additions than demands. First up we have tab scrubbing. The idea here is simple: When you’re in Chrome and have open tabs up, you can slide three fingers left or right and move through these tabs without any problems. It is insanely useful and a feature you will definitely miss if you get used to it and move back to a Windows or Mac laptop.
Next time is overview mode. While there is a dedicated keyboard key for this on Chromebooks, the three-finger swipe up is much faster in my opinion. With this gesture you can invoke the overview mode and see all open windows at the same time on the desktop. If you have a lot going on or just can not find the one window you need, this is very convenient and a gesture I use countless times on a daily basis.
Finally, with the same three fingers, you can perform a click that closes the tab you are working on. If you need to quickly turn off a handful of open tabs in Chrome, a three-finger click closes any tab you’re working on, without having to move the cursor directly over the small X. It sounds small, but this gesture is very useful.
Finally, we have our latest four-finger movement. With the overview mode mentioned above, you can create virtual desktops that allow you to set up three additional workspaces. Think of it as having three extra screens virtually on your Chromebook. When you have these active and ready to go from one to another, there are keyboard shortcuts and an option to click on desktops from overview mode, but the most satisfying method is to swipe with four fingers to the left or right on the trackpad .
With this quick gesture you can move seamlessly from one workspace to the next with a wrist. We even work to make the animations faster and the transitions between the desktop smoother. As this comes to Chrome OS in the next updates, the four-finger movement to change desktops will be as beneficial as ever.
So there it is! Get those moves down and you’ll be a master of the Chromebook trackpad in no time. While many of these are fun to do, the bulk of them are also useful. You will be much more productive and nimble as you move through the operating system if you know these shortcuts as the back of your hand. There are not many, then I highly recommend committing them to memory, using them often and doing more done in less time as you do.