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Chromebook power tips: How to work smarter online and offline

Chris Hoffman | Jan. 23, 2014
Don't let the "Scroogled"-spouting Pawn Stars guys fool you: Chromebooks aren't useless hunks of plastic.

External displays
Chromebooks can connect to external displays through standard video cables. Paired with a mouse, a Chromebook with an external monitor could even pull desktop-like duty.

Different Chromebooks have different video ports, so check the documentation to confirm what type of adapter you'll need. After hooking your Chromebook to an external display, you can open the Settings page, scroll down to Devices, and click Display settings to configure orientation, alignment, and other options.

Google's own high-end Chromebook Pixel (or a Windows or Mac laptop) can mirror your display wirelessly on a Chromecast-connected TV, once you've installed the Google Cast extension. The mirroring feature is in beta, but you can expect it to become more stable and reliable on a wider range of Chromebooks in the future.

Connecting to VPNs
Your Chromebook might be able to connect to your VPN, too. Chromebooks have integrated support for L2TP over IPsec with either PSK or certificate-based authentication and OpenVPN networks. Other types of VPNs won't work, regrettably, and Chrome OS's incompatibility with traditional PC programs means you won't be able to use a third-party program to make up for that shortfall.

To connect to a VPN, open your Chromebook's Settings page, click Add connection under the Internet connection' heading, and select Add private network. Enter your VPN details.

Some VPNs require you to import a user certificate and a server certificate authority to connect. To import these files after downloading them to your Chromebook, type chrome://settings/certificates into the address bar and press Enter. Use the Import button under Your Certificates' to import a user certificate with a .pfx or .p12 file extension and use the Import button under Authorities' to import a server certificate authority with a .pem, .der, .crt, or .p7b file extension. You might need to contact your organization's IT department for help if connecting to a VPN with your Chromebook proves to be too complicated.

To infinity, and beyond
As Chrome apps improve and cloud-connected services ascend, more and more people can work productively with Chromebooks. They're simple, easily manageable, and &mdaash; perhaps most important — dirt cheap. We probably shouldn't be surprised that they're doing so well, but you'll still want to stick close to a Wi-Fi connection as often as possible. For more, check out senior editor Melissa Riofrio's week in Chromebook exile for a real-world tale of going all-in with Google.


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