Whether you’re looking for an affordable companion or just aren’t looking to pay sky-high prices for a new Apple laptop, a Chromebook is a great option. With a quick, touch-friendly user interface and a breezy setting for getting things done, a Chromebook is a great addition to an Apple fan’s gear bag, whether it’s the main unit or not.
The only problem: Chromebooks are much closer to a Windows PC than a Mac. From the experience to the user interface, Chrome OS is clearly Windows inspired, but doesn’t have to stay that way. Google offers numerous customization options that you can use to free your Chromebook from all Windows influences.
Hug the shelf
One of the most important things that separate macOS from the Windows operating system is the dock. However, Chromebooks have something similar, called a shelf, which stores commonly used apps and websites for easy launching. The shelf can hold an unlimited number of apps ̵
To add apps to the shelf, just right-click an icon and select Pin to Shelf. You can do the same thing to unpin an app, or you can drag it out and drop it somewhere on the desktop.
It’s a little different with web apps. When you’re in Chrome and you find a site that you want to return to regularly (like iCloud below), go to the top right menu and choose Create Shortcut. Then rename it whatever you want and check the “Open as window” box if you want it to look like an app rather than a tab in Chrome.
Change your keys
You might not have a Windows key, but Chromebook keyboards are clearly PC-like, with Alt and Ctrl keys instead of Command and Option. Although you can’t find the Bowen Node on your keyboard, you can remap your keys so your fingers believe it’s there. Just go to the device setting and click the Keyboard tab to swap the Alt and Ctrl keys and restore a semblance of normalcy.
Add iCloud to your dock
If you’re looking for an extension or Play Store app to use to access your iCloud account, you won’t find any. However, this does not mean that your iCloud account is locked out on your Chromebook. When you sign in to iCloud.com using a browser, you get access to Email, Contacts, Calendar, Photos, Notes, Reminders, and iCloud Drive, as well as Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and the Find My apps. It’s not quite as seamless as it is on a Mac – you have to sign in repeatedly and check your 2FA credentials regularly – but it’s certainly better than not having it. If you want it to be available in one click, just follow the instructions above to add a website to your dock.
Turn off your scrolling
There are a lot of differences between PCs and Macs, but the biggest one is scrolling with the trackpad. Since MacOS X Lion, Apple has switched to iOS scrolling. Swipe up and the contents of the page will move in the same direction. This is different on PCs. If your Chromebook uses “natural” scrolling, you can toggle it the Mac way by enabling reverse scrolling in Trackpad Settings.
Get a macOS wallpaper
The right wallpaper can create or damage a desktop. The Chromebook has a lot of cool options. However, if you really want to feel like a Mac, you need one of OS X’s iconic wallpapers. Fortunately, you can find them all at 512 pixels in gorgeous 5K resolution – up to and including Big Sur. Just download the one you want, save it to your Files app, find it, right click and choose Set as wallpaper.
Try a new topic
If the Chrome browser reminds you too much of a PC, there are tons of ways to change it. Simply go to the Chrome Web Store and select Themes from the sidebar to browse the many options available for the Chrome browser. We like the Mac OS theme and the simple Mac OS X theme for a sleek, modern look, but you can go back to Aqua if you want to get nostalgic.
Mac veterans all know how great Startlys QuicKeys for Mac OS X was, and QuicKey for Chrome is a little piece of that nostalgia. You get an application switcher, real-time search, and a customizable keyboard without ever taking your fingers off the keyboard.
Use Apple Music and Apple TV +
Just because you’re not using a Mac doesn’t mean you have to give up your beloved Apple services. Well, not all of them anyway. While Apple doesn’t yet have a way to use News + and Arcade outside of a PC, you can keep your Apple Music and Apple TV + subscriptions and still enjoy them on your Chromebook. All you need to do is access it on the web. You can go to music.apple.com (or beta.music.apple.com to try the iOS 14 style version) or tv.apple.com and sign in to listen and watch. And best of all, the app doesn’t even count towards your device limit since you’re not using it.