Whether you’re looking for a cheap companion or just do not want to pay sky-high prices for a new Apple laptop right now, a Chromebook is a great option. With a fast, touch-friendly user interface and an airy, to-do’s thing, a Chromebook is a great addition to any Apple fan’s gearbox, whether it’s their primary device or not.
The only problem: Chromebooks are much closer to a Windows computer than a Mac. From the experience to the interface, Chrome OS is clearly inspired by Windows but it does not have to stay that way. Google offers many customization options to free your Chromebook from all its Windows influences.
Embrace the shelf
One of the most important things that separates macOS from Windows OS is the Dock. But Chromebooks have something similar called the shelf, which is the place to store frequently used apps and websites for easy launch. The shelf can contain an unlimited number of apps ̵1; if you add more than you can see, you can swipe to see the rest – and just like macOS, you can keep it visible or move it to the sides of the screen. Just right-click on an empty spot on the dock and you will see options for automatic hiding and position.
To add apps to the shelf, just right-click on an icon and select Pin to Shelf. You can do the same to delete an app (Unpin) or drag it out and drop it somewhere on your desktop.
It’s a little different for web apps. Once you’re in Chrome and find a site you’d like to return to regularly (like iCloud below), go to the menu at the top right and select Create Shortcut. Rename it to 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.
They may not have a Windows key, but Chromebook keyboards are decidedly PC-like, with Alt and Ctrl keys instead of Command and Option. But even if you will not be able to get the Bowen knot on the keyboard, you can re-map your keys so that your fingers think it is there. Just go to the device setting and click on the Keyboard tab to change the Alt and Ctrl keys and get back some shine of normalcy.
Add iCloud to your Dock
If you’re looking for an extension or Play Store app that lets you access your iCloud account, you will not find one. But that does not mean that your iCloud account is locked from your Chromebook. By logging in to iCloud.com via a web browser, you get access to email, contacts, calendar, photos, notes, reminders and iCloud Drive as well as pages, numbers, Keynote and Find My Apps. It’s not as seamless as on a Mac – you have to log in repeatedly and regularly verify your 2FA credentials – but it’s really better than not having it. And if you want it accessible with a click, just follow the instructions above to add a website to your Dock.
Replace your scroll
There are many differences between computers and Macs, but the biggest one is the scroll pad. Ever since MacOS X Lion, Apple has changed scrolling to match iOS – swipe up and the content on the page moves in the same direction. It’s different on computers, and if your Chromebook uses “natural” scrolling, you can change it the Mac way by enabling reverse scrolling in the trackpad settings.
Get a macOS wallpaper
The right wallpaper can create or break a desk. Chromebooks have many cool options, but if you really want the feel of a Mac, you need one of OS X’s iconic backgrounds. Thankfully, you can find them all with 512 pixels in great 5K resolution – even Big Sur. Just download the one you want, save it in your Files app, find it, right-click and select Use as background.
Try a new theme
If the Chrome browser reminds you too much of a computer, there are endless possibilities to change it. Just go to the Chrome Web Store and select Themes in the sidebar to browse the many options available for the Chrome browser. We like the Mac OS theme and Mac OS X Simple Theme for a smart modern look, but you can go all the way back to Aqua if you want to be nostalgic.
Mac veterans all know how good Startly’s QuicKeys were for Mac OS X, and QuicKey for Chrome is a little bit of that nostalgia. You get an application switch, real-time search and a customizable keyboard, without ever removing your fingers from the keyboard.
Use Apple Music and Apple TV +
Just because you’re not using a Mac does not mean you need to give up your beloved Apple services. Well, not everyone anyway. Although Apple does not have a way to use News + and Arcade on a computer yet, you can keep your Apple Music and Apple TV + subscriptions and still enjoy them on your Chromebook. You just need to access them on the web. You can go to music.apple.com (or beta.music.apple.com to test the iOS 14 version) or tv.apple.com and log in to start listening and watching. And the best part is that because you do not use the app, it will not even count towards your device limit.