Back in October 2013 I looked at Chromebooks, and how easy it was to live with them. Since that original article, Chromebooks have been becoming more and more popular as companies increase their hardware power and people get used to the idea of working from within a web browser all of the time.
Chromebooks are a form of PC that run on a Linux variant called Google OS. This is Google’s own Operating System, which is basically no more than a Chrome web browser. They usually come with around 16GB to 32GB of onboard storage, a low end mobile-based processor (which is all it needs to be as it’s just a web browser), either 2GB or 4GB of RAM and various USB ports and SD card slots. Remember, as Chromebooks are based on using web technology, you will get a minimum of 15GB Google Drive web space from Google to upload your documents and file, although some special promotions mean you will get 100GB.
Chromebooks do not run Windows, however Windows isn’t the must-have system that it once was, and for the average user, anything that can be done on a Windows PC can be done on a Chromebook, but usually faster and more efficiently.
For a lot of people, trying to get their heads around a PC that is almost entirely a web browser based Operating System compared to the full Windows environment is daunting. Because they are so used to using Windows, they assume nothing else is as good. However good for Microsoft that may be, the plain truth of the matter is that Google’s Chromebooks are ideal for most of the people, most of the time. Unless you’re a serious power-user who uses dedicated software for business or a hard-core gamer who needs the latest graphics cards, Chromebooks could just be for you.
To put this into context, think about how often you are in a browser, whether you are on you’re on your PC, tablet or mobile device. The answer is going to be a hell of a lot of the time. When the internet goes down and you can’t access the internet, most people turn off their PC’s, because they rely on it to do whatever they are doing.
Chromebooks for the most part need to be always connected to the internet for their apps, although as time goes by more and more things can be done in offline mode. These day’s however, it doesn’t matter, as if your home or work internet stops working, a lot of people will then just se the data on their mobile devices. We consume the internet at an unbelievable rate, so why would you be afraid of using a laptop which needs to be on the internet to work?
Life with a Chromebook is 2014 is easier than ever, and the change from a Windows machine to a Chromebook should be simple. Chromebooks take less than a second to wake up from sleep mode, and under 10 seconds to wake up and be completely usable from being totally shut down. Screen quality on Chromebooks is getting better, as is the sound quality, while the styling of them means that you’ll own one of the best looking machines available.
Below is a comprehensive list of applications that replace the equivalent WIndows versions. For anyone who has used Chrome or Google’s launcher (which now installs when using Googles products on Windows machines), the Chromebook environment should simple to use and intuitive.
Document Handling - Google Documents
Word, Excel, Powerpoint are all at your fingertips, these can be opened in Google Docs. If you don’t have access to Microsoft's Office then you can just go ahead and use Documents, Spreadsheet, Presentation and more (more can be found in this article). The software has come on leaps and bounds over the last few months, and compatibility is hardly an issue. For the everyday user this suite will be more than enough to get the job done, and indeed, this blog is written and put together using Google Documents, as well as all my other writings of reviews and other websites etc.
What’s more, the documents sync to all your devices so you can start where you last finished off from any machine. This is probably the best part of Google Docs, in the event of a power-cut, or accidentally switching off the document you are writing, everything is saved in real-time, so you just switch back on and you are in exactly the same place as you left off!
Playing Music - Google Music
Google Play Music offers storage of 20,000 music tracks on their service. You simply sign up to the service and upload your albums (more can be found in this article). For me, Google Music has replaced iTunes, simply load up the player and your entire collection is at your fingertips. Adding music couldn’t be easier, and as your music is stored on the cloud, you can delete your hard-copies on your PC and stream everything, anywhere on your Chromebook, or any other device that is attached to the internet!
Keeping Dates - Google Calendar
For many people, a calendar or schedule application is a necessity in life. Thankfully, Google Calendar is simple and powerful and can be used for all your scheduling needs. Never miss a birthday, or appointment again as notifications can come straight to your Chromebook, or synced mobile device.
Note Writing - Google Keep
Need to write a note? Google Keep is the perfect notebook, as you store notes on your Chromebook, they will automatically be synced with your mobile devices, meaning while doing your work on your Chromebook you can write a shopping list on Google Keep as you remember what you need, and then it will sync to your mobile device for you to view while you are out shopping. As with all other Google applications, Google Keep works seamlessly, so you can just get on with what you're doing while Google shares it to your other devices.
Drawing Programs - Sumo Paint
For most people, Microsoft’s paint is not quite enough, while Photoshop is too much. For many, Paint.net is a middle-ground, and this is where Sumo Paint comes in. It’s the equivalent to Paint.net, and is actually fairly powerful. It offers everything a drawing program should have, plus there are more advanced featured such as layers, enabling you be ever more creative. Sumo Paint is a great program, and one which once used, you’ll go back to on a regular basis as it really is that good.
Photo Editing - Pixlr Editor
Again, many people find something like Photoshop a bit too daunting to edit photographs, and as a Chromebook doesn’t run Photoshop there’s a good reason to use the wonderful Pixlr Editor. Once again everything is run in the browser, you load up your image and in front of you is a powerful User Interface giving you a wealth of options to make your photographs look better than ever.
Pixlr Editor comes with all the usual tweaks for colour, saturation and contrast plus it comes with a whole host of useful filters that really do work just as well as any off-line photo software. For that professional touch you can add vignette, HDR, blur effects and so much more. Layers are catered for too, so you can do colour splash effects easily. It can’t be underestimated just how powerful Pixlr Editor is, so much so that once used, you’ll never need to use another photo editor program again.
Video Editing - Pixorial Video
Although video editing on the Chromebook won’t be as swish or exciting as on a PC, things are moving along fast, and thanks to Pixorial Video Editor simple video editing can be done. Again, most people just want to do simple things with their videos, and Pixorial allows this with a selection of options to make your video look better than ever.
Video Calls - Hangouts
Google’s very own Hangouts is an exceptional piece of software, with a wealth of functions and the ability to chat to a group of friends using video chat. Chromebooks don’t run Skype, as Microsoft owns that technology, however don’t worry, because Hangouts is far superior in every way, its reliable, video calls are good quality, and very simple to use.
Browsing The Internet - Chrome
Finally, all this would not be possible without the ability to browse the internet in the first place. This is where Google’s Chrome excels as a web browser. Compared to the others, it’s fast, secure, has a wealth of add-ons, customisable and syncs with all your other Google devices. There are people who have their favorite browsers, however, you can’t go far wrong with Chrome, it’s the best of all the browsers out there at the moment, and has never let this writer down at any time.
Each day the Chrome store is seeing more and more alternatives, while existing programs are getting better with each new update. If I’ve missed something, or you know of alternatives, then why not let me know in the comments box.