Finally found the Holy Grail of writing in Google Docs on the Chromebook…

My writing buddy...

My writing buddy…

I’ve been using Google Docs on my Chromebook for writing since, oh, day one. Day one of my Chromebook days, that is. My tech ADHD always has me jumping around from device to device, from app to app, but I do try to do nothing but write on the Chromebook so that somewhere deep inside me, my brain knows that by me sitting in front of that particular device, I should be writing.

I’ve always been a devotee of Scrivener, but nothing like that exists web-based or Chrome App-based, so I’m relegated to simple text documents. Google Docs is a natural for the CB, since it’s fully integrated and synced, and the offline mode works just fine for those rare times when I’m either (a) on a plane without wifi (scary thought) or (b) in heavy solar flare activity where neither local wifi or my iPhone hotspot work. And GDocs works just fine, with one exception: that sucker bogs down when the document gets too long.

It had gotten to the point where I was writing individual Docs for each chapter just so I didn’t have to go through the pain of loading the document and scrolling down to the bottom of 30,000 words to pick up where I left off. Unlike a standalone text editor (Word, etc.) GDocs ‘starts over’ at the beginning of the doc each time it’s opened. And the Chromebook, an ARM-based lightweight laptop (basically a tablet with a keyboard), doesn’t have the guts behind it to power through the scrolling. I had resorted to dropping a bookmark at the beginning of each chapter with an ad-hoc table of contents on page one so I could jump to where I left off. Silly stuff.

The magic of the Interwebs pointed me to the Holy Grail. Microsoft Word and its equivalents have end-of-document key combinations, like Shift-F5, or Command-Page Down and so on. The Chromebook has neither F keys or a Page Down key, so nothing was working. Until I stumbled across a Google Groups post from a John McFarlin that shone the light as follows:


ctrl + search key + left arrow

ctrl + search key + right arrow

ctrl + alt + up arrow

MOVE TO END OF LINE (move right)
ctrl + alt + down arrow

ctrl + shift + left (or right) arrow

ctrl + shift + search key + left (or right) arrow

alt + backspace (replaces DELETE key)

alt + search key, to turn caps lock both on and off


And so my life just became much easier…



  1. Monty Fowler - September 7, 2013 1:33 pm

    Steve, I’m a Scrivener devotee and for the past year was forced to use a Windows machine for work. That meant either carrying my MacBook and the ThinkPad, or trying to write on the ThinkPad. Luckily, Scrivener is available for both platforms but there are some compromises when sharing projects between the OS X and Windows platforms. Happily, I convinced my company to let me use a Mac. So a couple weeks ago I got a shiny new MacBook Air 13″ and my writing life is smooth sailing again. At less than 3 lbs, 12 hour battery life, and the best keyboard, the MB Air is, IMHO, the best mobile writing platform.

    I had a ChromeBook for a couple weeks to test but it required too many compromises to be a daily use machine. Frankly, it wasn’t any more useful to me than my iPad with the Logitech Keyboard cover.

    Glad you’re finding it a great solution. Cheers!

    Monty Fowler

    • Steve Umstead - September 8, 2013 10:38 am

      I actually had one of the 1st gen Airs, loved it, but it was impractical for an everyday machine (underpowered), so I switched to a MacBook Pro. But when the Chromebook hit the market, I sold the MacBook Pro and now have a Mac Mini as my primary machine for business (I work from home) and was multi-tasking on the CB (which works great for email/web/etc.) But now I’ve decided to use it strictly as a writing machine; some wiring in my head was not getting the point of the CB in the first place and I found myself working on it instead of writing…

  2. betchaboy - September 8, 2013 10:29 am

    Steve, There is a full list of ALL the CB keyboard shortcuts here.

    However, just remember that by typing ctrl-alt-? you will see a screen overlay showing you all the shortcuts. Just press the various modifier keys (ctrl, alt, shift, search) to see how the change the shortcuts.

    Good luck with the Chromebook. I love mine… I don’t use it for everything but it’s a fine little machine.

  3. betchaboy - September 8, 2013 10:30 am

    Oops, forgot to paste the link!

    • Steve Umstead - September 8, 2013 10:39 am

      Awesome, thanks – the magic of the Internet and Google search. Guess I never bothered to look before, but once that doc gets past 20k words or so, it’s totally unwieldy so I had to do something…

  4. Sven - November 21, 2013 11:21 pm

    Hi, Steve. I am struggling with device choices now that my 2011 MacBook Pro (with Scrivener) is in the Apple shop for a new HD (and, although will be resurrected by AppleCare, its copping out on me in the midst of my 50k project has rattled my writer’s cage a bit). I back up incessantly, but, it still makes me wonder if, as a full-time writer, I should get an Air (pricey), use my iPad and bluetooth keyboard (I have these already, but no Scrivener or Word; just Pages), or go “old school” and buy an new Windows 8.1 PC (1/2 the price of an Air, can add Scrivener, but Windows 8.1 is scarier than a skunk in an outhouse during a harvest moon!).

    I just got the new Chromebook Samsung (the one that came out last month) and I like Google Docs…but, if I do as you do and put each chapter in a different file, (a) how will I compile them when an agent/publisher wants to read it all on MS Word, and (b) will it compile politely (even if I use the old cut-paste) from Google Docs to MS Word, or will it be a hiccuping mess of spaces, odd fonts, and loss of margins and indents? What do you do, and what do you think, Steve? Thank you, Steve. Your Sept 2013 post came up in my search of google docs for writers. Nicely posted.

    • Steve Umstead - November 25, 2013 1:14 pm

      Easy enough to copy/paste into one GDoc when you’re done (if writing chapters separately), and from what I can tell (though I have yet to submit anything to an agent/publisher – not the route I chose) GDocs outputs decently to Word format. To me, as long as I can stick it into Scrivener at the end of the day, I can do anything I need with it. My Chromebook will never be a primary machine for me, just a writing one. Create there, edit some there, but polish and export from elsewhere.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  5. Sven - November 25, 2013 2:19 pm

    I see. Thank you, Steve.

  6. Al Jones - January 14, 2014 11:20 am

    Hi, with the ability to take your documents offline to work wouldn’t that bypass the lag issues one engcounters? In a 70k draft separate chapters sounds like a nightmare and my first drafts resemble nothing like clean cut formatted manuscripts so the ability to work from the ‘block’ would be paramount for me.
    Thanks for the perspective it seems a viable option once thoroughly researched.

  7. jessie - August 7, 2014 8:57 pm

    thank youuuuuuuuu. scrolling through to the end of my googledoc was driving me nuts!

  8. Dawn - November 1, 2014 6:40 pm

    Hallelujah! Thanks!

  9. Hannah - February 8, 2015 7:54 pm

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!


Hit Me