Chromebook 101: How to customize your Chromebook’s desktop

Chrome OS isn’t the most feature-rich operating system, but there are a few things you can do to make your Chromebook desktop look and work the way you want.


Customize your Chromebook wallpaper

First, let’s cover the basic appearance of your desktop:

  • Right-click anywhere on your Chromebook’s desktop and select Set Wallpaper in the menu that appears.
  • Click on any of Google’s categories to see a selection of pre-made images, or click on the My Pictures option to choose an image from your own local storage.
  • If you want your wallpaper to change to a new image every day, click the Change daily button available at the top of any Google category page. (This option, unfortunately, is currently not available with your own images.)

You can choose from several categories of wallpaper images.

Customize your browser background

You can also customize the page that displays each time you open a new tab in your browser:

  • Open a new tab in Chrome and click on the Customize Chromium (or the pencil icon) in the lower right corner of the browser.

You can customize the background or theme for each new browser page.

  • Select Background to choose an image from Google’s collection or Download from device to select an image from your own local storage, then follow the prompts to find and confirm the desired image.
  • Select Color and theme to change the appearance of your browser’s border and its background. You can choose from a number of predefined themes, or click on the circle with the dropper icon, and you can choose custom colors.

Select a color and theme, or customize your own.

Select a color and theme, or customize your own.

Customize your Chromebook shelf

Finally, take control of the Chrome OS shelf – the dock-like row of shortcuts at the bottom of your screen. Start by selecting exactly the icons that appear in this area:

  • Open your app drawer (by clicking the circle icon in the lower left corner of the screen, then clicking the upward-facing arrow on the partial drawer that appears). Right-click any item in the list and select pin to shelf.

Pin an icon to your shelf to make the app more accessible.

Pin an icon to your shelf to make the app more accessible.

  • If you want to add a website, open the site, click the three-dot menu icon in the upper right corner of Chrome, then select More toolsfollowed by To create a shortcut.

Customize the Chromebook Desktop

You can also pin a website shortcut to your shelf.

If you want the site to open in an app-like window, without the usual browser elements at the top, click the Open as window possibility in the To create a shortcut? pop-up window that appears. Then click on blue Create button.

Customize the Chromebook Desktop

“Open as window” allows you to open the site in an application-like window.

  • Drag and drop any of the icons on the shelf to change their position.
  • Have you decided that you don’t want the icon on your shelf after all? Right click on the icon and select Detach.

Customize the Chromebook Desktop

Don’t want the app on your shelf anymore? Untie it.

And a final pair of possibilities: if you want your shelf to appear on the left or right side of your screen rather than the bottom, right-click anywhere inside it, select Shelf positionthen select Left Where Right. And if you want your shelf to remain hidden by default and only appear when you mouse over it, right-click on the shelf and select the icon Auto-hide shelf option.

Customize the Chromebook Desktop

You can move the shelf to either side of your screen.

Updated May 27, 2022, 9:30 a.m. ET: This article was originally published on October 12, 2019 and has been updated to reflect minor changes to the operating system.