Everything You Can Do With Google Assistant on a Chromebook

By David Nield on at

Google Assistant is spreading into more and more devices – you might be familiar with it from your smartphone, or your smart speaker, or your smart display, but it’s also arriving on more and more chromebooks, too.

As of last month, Google Assistant is coming to more chromebooks that aren’t made by Google, thanks to the roll-out of Chrome OS 77. The smart assistant might be enabled by default on your laptop, but if it’s not, head to the Settings screen and choose Search and Assistant, then click Google Assistant (you can train the Assistant to recognise your voice, if you haven’t already done this on another device).

The same options screen lets you choose whether a “Hey Google” voice command is enough to wake up the Google Assistant on your chromebook. If you’d rather use the keyboard instead, you need to hit Search+A or the dedicated Google Assistant key on the Pixelbook and the Pixel Slate.

Beyond the usual Google Assistant tricks, Assistant on a chromebook can take care of a few jobs and requests that are particularly suitable for a laptop. Unlike something like a Google Home Mini, it can also return results on a screen. There’s room for improvement – you can’t really use Assistant commands to interact with Android apps on your chromebook – but here’s what you can do already.

Get more information about what’s on screen

This isn’t actually a command, but something you need to select manually: Get Google Assistant up with a “Hey Google” or the keyboard shortcut, and when the Google Assistant panel pops up at the bottom of the screen, choose What’s on my screen? with the trackpad or a tap on the display.

The Google Assistant then uses what’s on screen as a search query. It’ll identify famous people in images, for example, and pick up key terms inside text, bringing up useful website links and the option to run a further Google search on what your display is showing.

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Create and find Google Docs

This one should come in handy if you spend a lot of time inside Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides: You can say or type “Hey Google, create a new document” to have the Google Assistant do just that. (Use “spreadsheet” or “presentation” instead of “document” to change the type of file that’s created.)

You can also search through all the documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in your Google Drive by saying “open,” then the name of a file, then the type of file it is – so “open family letter document,” for example. If you’re not precise enough with the name of the file, you’ll see a list of options.

Find pictures and videos

Your chromebook has a display, obviously, so any kind of query that relies on visual feedback is a good one to try: Ask to see pictures or videos on a particular topic, for example, and they’ll pop up as thumbnails. You can even drag images right from the results into a Google Doc or a blank tab.

In the case of videos, if Google Assistant thinks it has a specific match for your query, it’ll open up the video in YouTube rather than displaying a gallery of search results. You can also search through your Google Photos too: Just start your request off with “my photos of...”.

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Play music on your chromebook

Use your chromebook as a jukebox – you can tell Google Assistant to play any type of music (like “party” or “chill out”), or any specific artist, album, or song, and it will oblige. By default, you’ll get a YouTube video or a YouTube video mix, so visuals are included too.

If you’re a Spotify user, add “on Spotify” to the end of your query, and the Spotify web player opens up instead of YouTube. That’s pretty much your lot as far as music services go though – YouTube Music isn’t integrated on chromebooks yet.

Change settings on your chromebook

Google Assistant ties in tightly with Chrome OS as a whole: You can use the Assistant to turn wifi on and off, turn Bluetooth on and off, and to adjust the display brightness and system volume.

You’ll find there are quite a few Google Assistant shortcuts you can use instead of navigating through the usual Settings tab – try “clear browsing history” or “change time zone,” for example. If you type in or say “how much battery is left,” it will return the battery level percentage.

...and everything else

Of course, the number of ways you can interact with Google Assistant is virtually limitless, so we can’t mention everything here. Any kind of web query, or calculation, or conversion will work with Google Assistant. You can get it to tell you the weather forecast, the latest news, or sports scores.

You can use Google Assistant on chromebooks to set alarms and timers, which stay local to your device. Another option is to create reminders, which are different in that they sync across all of the devices you’re logged into with your Google account, and they appear on your Google Calendar too.

Smart home devices that you’ve added in the Google Home app for Android or iOS can be controlled via Google Assistant on a chromebook – you can set the temperature of a smart thermostat or turn smart lights on or off just as you would with a Google Home speaker, for instance. You can’t yet bring up security camera footage on your chromebook, though.

If you like, you can use Google Assistant to browse to specific websites on your chromebook, though obviously, some URLs are easier to say than others. If you tell Google Assistant to open up an app like Instagram or the Play Store, it’ll work – but you’ll get sent to the online web version in your browser, not the standalone app.

Featured image: Gizmodo