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How a Chromebook Improved How I Work in Windows 10

I’ve been curious about Chromebooks for a long time but didn’t take the plunge to try one until a couple weeks ago. I bought a 11″ Acer Chromebook for $150. Overall, I’m very well pleased with the device. Much of my time is spent working in browser apps, and all of this can be done on this inexpensive, lightweight device with 10-hours of battery life.

One of the first things I needed to learn how to do was to pin things to the Shelf (this is the Chrome OS equivalent to the Windows Taskbar). This turned out to be super easy, but certainly not intuitive.

  1. Navigate to the web site you want to add. In this example, I’m pinning Weather.com.
  2. Click on the menu button (I call it the hamburger icon), and select More Tools > Add to Shelf…
  3. A dialog will open where you can rename the shortcut. You can also check a box for Open as Window. Checking this box opens the web page, or “App”, in a new window without any menus, tabs, or other browser controls–it’s much more like a Windows program. Click thae Add button.
  4. Notice you now have the icon on the Shelf (taskbar). If you selected the Open as Window checkbox, it will open as a Window from the Launcher too. Notice this window only has the minimize, maxamize, and close controls and none of the other browser controls like tabs, menu button, address bar, etc…

I wondered if I could do the same thing in Windows. It turns out you can!

  1. In the Chrome browser, visit a page to which you want to add a task bar icon.
  2. Click on the menu icon and select More Tools > Add to taskbar…
  3. You get the same prompt with the same option to open as Window.
  4. This doesn’t add it directly to the Windows Task Bar, but it does add it to the Chrome App Launcher. Not only that, it adds it for the Google User you were logged into the browser as.
  5. When you click on the icon, it opens the web site as an “App”. That is, it opens it in a new window without any browser controls.

Solving the Problem of Too Many Browser Windows and Tabs for Critical Web Applications

I usually have at least 2 Chrome browser sessions open when I’m at my computer–one logged into my personal Google account and one logged into my business Google account (yes, Spears Technologies, Inc. uses Google Apps for Work). I often have other instances of the Chrome browser running that are logged into other accounts. Within these browser sessions, I had tabs opened for Gmail, Google Calendar, Trello (which I use for task and project management), and Slack (which we use for internal communication at work). I would also have several other browser windows and tabs open too. It had become quite a hassle switching between all these all day.

With this new discovery, when I log into my computer, I:

  1. Open the Chrome App Launcher and select my personal account.
  2. Click the icons to open Gmail, Google Calendar, and Trello. This opens all of them as ‘apps’.
  3. Switch the Chrome App Launcher to my work account.
  4. Click the icons to open Gmail, Google Calendar, Trello, and Slack. This opens all of them as ‘apps’.

My computer has three monitors and I have my Taskbar properties set to show the taskbar on all displays and show to taskbar buttons only on the display where the window is open.

I drag all these windows to my left monitor. This means that those icons only show up on the taskbar of my left monitor. So, all of my productivity tools are in their own window with their own task bar icons so they are quickly accessible while also being out of my way. Sweet!

This method has made my daily work much more pleasant and efficient. If you have several web apps that you keep open in different browser tabs, you might want to try this too. If you do, be sure to let me know how it works for you!

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