Let's Talk About Google Apps

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Google Apps: An Overview

This page will provide a brief overview of functionality using some of the Google Suite applications. Resources will be provided so that you may venture beyond the focus of this course.


Let's begin by discussing what all of the Google applications have in common.

Many Google applications, whether it be g-mail, drive, docs, calendar, or slides have keyboard commands. These keyboard commands are built in by Google. They do not just apply to screen readers. Anyone can use them. I can use them. Your teacher can use them. You can use them. They even exist on other computers aside from your ChromeBook.

These Google commands make performing tasks using the ChromeBook much more efficient. Instead of tabbing around or moving object to object looking for a specific button or link, with the press of 1 or 2 keys, you could complete the action.

However, you cannot use these keyboard commands while sticky mode is enabled. This is why I've made sticky mode such an integral point of discussion across this course, so that you understand the differences in operation when it is on or off.

Long story short, when you are using sticky mode, your key strokes are talking to ChromeVox first. But to use Google commands, your key strokes need to be directly talking to the Google app first.

How do I make sure keyboard commands are on?

Great question! Although they are probably on by default on a ChromeBook, it's good to have knowledge of how to turn them on.

  • When in a Google application, such as g-mail or drive, type a ?
  • A dialogue box will pop up. Use your tab key. Listen for either the word "disable" or "enable".
  • If you hear "disable", you are in the clear. Your keyboard commands are on. If you were to press enter on "disable", you would be turning them off. You can just press enter on close.
  • If you hear "enable", this means your keyboard commands are off. If you press enter, you will be turning them on. Press enter and then tab to the close button and press enter.

A Few More Tips

  • To search for an available Google keyboard command: press control + / [You can determine if there is a command for what you want to do]
  • To search the menus: press alt + / [comes in handy when you don't know which menu has the option for a task you are trying to complete, such as growing font, adding text effects, etc.]
  • To see a list of all available commands in the current Google app: Type a ?. Tab until you hear "open in new window". Press enter. You will be taken to a page listing all available commands in that application.


While we won't discuss every single keyboard command necessary to navigate through g-mail and its associated tasks, I figure I could give you a little push in the right direction.

Remember, make sure sticky mode is off.

  • To compose a new message: press the c key.
  • To go to the top of your inbox message list: press g, then i. You will not be pressing simultaneously. You will be pressing one after the other. Then use your arrows to navigate up and down the list of messages.
  • To open a message: press the o key.
  • To reply to a message: press the r key.
  • To select a message: press the x key. This is especially helpful when performing bulk actions, like deleting multiple messages.
  • To delete: press # or shift + 3. [Requires selection of messages]
  • For more keyboard commands for Gmail, Google Mail Commands

Google Drive

Oh yes. The place we store our documents. There are definitely some strategies to make working with drive much more efficient.

  • To search for a document: press / and then start typing the name of the file.
  • To go to the list of files in the current folder: press g then l. Do not press the keys simultaneously. Press them one after the other.
  • To go to the navigation drawer to select a drive: press g then n.
  • To create a new file, folder, etc. in the current folder: press the c key.

For more keyboard commands in Google Drive, Google Drive Commands

Google Calendar

Accessibility Tip: when in Google Calendar, and sticky mode is disabled, press the a key. This will place calendar in "agenda view". Agenda view is the most user friendly way to navigate through items on your calendar. You can use your up/down arrows to navigate through the items on a specific day, and the left/right arrows to navigate between days.

For more keyboard commands in Google Calendar, Google Calendar Commands

Google Docs

Accessibility Tip: When in the body of a document, go to the tools menu by pressing alt + t. Use your arrows to navigate to accessibility. Ensure that the checkboxes for both screen reader and braille support are checked. It doesn't matter if you are using a braille display or not, for some reason it just improves usability to have both boxes checked.

For more keyboard shortcuts for navigating a Google Doc, Google Docs Commands

Google Slides

For all of those wonderful presentations I am sure you are creating.

  • New slide: control + m
  • Show common keyboard commands: control + /
  • Navigate to canvas: control + alt + shift + c
  • Navigate to speaker notes: control + alt + shift + s
  • For more keyboard commands in Google Slides, Google Slides Commands
  • Here is a YouTube video discussing adding and modifying text using ChromeVox and slides on a ChromeBook

Google Classroom

There are no specific Google commands for Google Classroom. You will need to rely on the methods of navigation we have been working on throughout this course.

Review Question 1

True or false: you can use built in Google keyboard commands with sticky mode enabled

Review Question 2

What do you need to type to determine if your keyboard shortcuts are turned on?

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