Let's turn that Chromebook into a bigger work (or fun) station.
One of the most wonderful things about Chromebooks is how simple they are — you don't have to buy additional accessories to make them work, they just do most of what people want out of the box. But perhaps you have additional needs ... like using a larger external screen, necessitating having an external keyboard and mouse in the process.
Sound like something you need to do? Well it's not tough to figure out, actually — we're going to lay out a handful of tips for getting your Chromebook up and running with an external monitor, keyboard and mouse.
Just about every Chromebook comes with a full-sized HDMI port — take a look around the edges and you'll quickly know whether or not you have one. If you do, you can connect your Chromebook to any modern monitor or TV with a cheap HDMI cable and be on your way. Some Chromebooks may have smaller micro- or mini-HDMI ports ... but don't worry, those cables are easy to find, too.
If the monitor you want to connect to doesn't support HDMI (hey, plenty of projectors out there still use VGA), it's easy enough to get an adapter that takes the HDMI out of your Chromebook and changes it to VGA or DVI as you need. Future Chromebooks will use Mini DisplayPort, and we'll be looking at the same situation — adapters will handle the transition to whatever monitor you have.
Once you plug your monitor into your Chromebook, it will start displaying an extension of your desktop immediately. But of course you'll probably want to tweak the settings a bit so it does exactly what you want it to for the best experience.
Click the status area (that's where your Wi-Fi and battery icons are) and you'll see "Extending ..." or "Mirroring ..." with the generic name of the display you're plugged into. Click the name, and you'll be taken to a settings page where you can tweak how you want your displays to work. Click one of the displays to edit its settings — such as resolution and orientation — or click and drag the screen to tell the computer how the two screens are oriented.
Chances are you'll want the second display to be the "primary" display in this situation, but if you're just using it as an extended desktop, without a keyboard and mouse, you may want to keep the Chromebook as the primary display. Same goes for mirroring versus extended — you'll know right away whether you want the external monitor to duplicate what's on the Chromebook or be its own display.
If you need to quickly switch between mirroring and extending your desktop, you can hold ctrl and press the full-screen button (f4 on a traditional keyboard) to toggle between the two.
Consider Casting instead
If you don't have high performance demands, and want to keep things clean and free of cables, you can also choose to Google Cast your screen to either a Chromecast or Android TV that's plugged into your monitor of choice. Install the Google Cast extension, and so long as you're on a Wi-Fi network with a compatible Google Cast target turned on, click the status area (that's where your Wi-Fi and battery icons are) and you'll see a "Cast devices available" option — click there, and you'll have an option to just Cast one window you have open, or Cast your entire display.
This works great for showing off video, pictures or webpages on a big screen, or even as a secondary monitor to show yourself some static information, but won't work well if you have to do a lot of typing or manipulation of what's on the screen.
Just like monitors, Chrome OS is perfectly ready to handle connecting a mouse to save you from using the trackpad 100% of the time. Whether you like wired or wireless, you can plug in or connect your mouse and be up and running in a matter of seconds.
The one thing to keep in mind here is if you happen to prefer those fancy mice that have optional software for controlling special buttons, wheels or interactions with the mouse (Logitech comes to mind). Those software suites are designed for use with Windows and Mac computers, and won't install on Chrome OS. That doesn't mean that the mouse won't work, it just means that you won't have fine control over extra non-standard buttons and wheels. For most folks, this won't be an issue at all.
When it comes to USB mice, there's really nothing to do but plug in the connector — whether that's a cable or a wireless receiver — and go. You'll still be able to control the pointer speed in the standard Chrome OS settings.
To connect a Bluetooth mouse, make sure that your mouse is turned on and pairing mode is enabled (the process will differ between mouse models). On your Chromebook, click the status area (that's where your Wi-Fi and battery icons are) and click on Bluetooth — look for the model name of your mouse, and the devices will pair in short order.
Just like the trackpad or a USB mouse, you'll able to adjust the pointer speed in the standard Chrome OS settings.
Getting an external keyboard for your Chromebook is the one part of this equation that can take a little extra thought. Just like adding a mouse, you can plug in or connect any USB or Bluetooth keyboard to your Chromebook, but you have to remember that Chrome OS uses a non-standard keyboard layout, with special keys in replacement of the function row and some switches elsewhere (like having search instead of caps lock). While you can use any keyboard you have laying around, you should consider a Chrome OS-specific keyboard if you're going to buy a new peripheral anyway.
Just like a USB mouse, Chrome OS can handle USB keyboard the instant you plug them in.
Connecting a Bluetooth keyboard is just like connecting a mouse. You'll have to put the keyboard into a pairing mode, open up Bluetooth settings on your Chromebook and then select the keyboard from the list of available devices. You'll be prompted to type a sequence of numbers on the keyboard, and press enter to pair.
There are also a selection of wireless keyboards out there with Chrome OS layouts, like this one from ASUS that will be particularly nice if you plan to keep your Chromebook plugged into a large display and will be several feet away with the keyboard.