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Chromebook user or not, with Google Chrome you can turn any desktop, laptop, or tablet into a powerful machine for work and play.

I showed you how you can make Firefox a supercharged workspace Turn Your Browser Into A Supercharged Workspace With These Simple Steps Turn Your Browser Into A Supercharged Workspace With These Simple Steps Wouldn't it be great if you could manage all your digital work from a single dashboard without having to jump from one app to another? Optimize your Web browser to make a centralized workspace. Read More . If Chrome is your browser of choice, you can apply the same strategy here. Ditch some of your regular desktop apps in favor of Chrome-based ones that give you the same functionality and go easy on your system’s resources. For starters, here are some of the apps you can replace with browser-based versions.

Document Viewer

Chrome can double up as a document viewer for text files and PDFs. Set up Chrome to view local files in these formats. To do so, pick any document in PDF format, open its Properties section, and select Chrome as the default application. On Windows, you can also make this change from the Open With dialog as shown below. Now repeat the same procedure with a text file.

open-pdf-with-chrome

Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer has all the basic functions you have come to expect from your desktop PDF reader. If you want features like annotation and real-time collaboration, try Notable PDF. Readium is also an efficient app to store and view ePubs. It helps you take your reading offline Take Your Reading Offline With These 5 Chrome Apps Take Your Reading Offline With These 5 Chrome Apps Thanks to Chrome's offline apps, you don't need to rely on the Internet to catch up on your e-reading. Read More .

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Reading an eBook in PDF or ePub format? Keep it ready as a pinned tab in Chrome, and jump to it when you have a little time on your hands.

Notes/Lists App

Whether you want a basic text editor like Notepad or a feature-rich one like Sublime Text, Chrome has an app for you. Text is on the simpler end of the spectrum, while the advanced Caret is more suited for developers. Dan’s article on the best text editors for Chromebook Four Of The Best Text Editors For Your Chromebook Four Of The Best Text Editors For Your Chromebook Do you miss having a simple text editor on your Chromebook's OS? Although Google scrapped its native app, there are still alternatives available. Read More has more information on the features of these apps.

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Even your favorite note-taking apps have Chrome versions. Try the Evernote Chrome app (runs offline) or the unofficial Simplenote Chrome app. Saikat’s roundup of note-taking extensions for Chrome Trap Your Best Thoughts with 10 Note-Taking Chrome Extensions Trap Your Best Thoughts with 10 Note-Taking Chrome Extensions Notes are the simplest self-management tools. With information overload on your mind, use these ten extensions to jot down quick notes, manage them better, or just share them with others. Read More lists some excellent apps for tasks like:

  • Creating mindmaps
  • Annotating Web pages
  • Grouping notes based on hashtags
  • Organizing your thoughts
  • Making to-do lists

Image Editor

PicMonkey is among the most popular image-editing apps available online. There’s a lot you can do with it, right from touching up photos, to creating collages and banners. It’s my go-to app for coming up with good images for articles Create Good Images For Your Blog Posts With These 4 Failproof Steps Create Good Images For Your Blog Posts With These 4 Failproof Steps With a simple tried and tested method, you can come up with decent images for your blog posts, bad image editing skills notwithstanding. As we find out, image editing is not that bad a chore. Read More .

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If you want a solution that’s more advanced or “Photoshop-like”, Pixlr Editor is the answer. If you prefer an app with a simpler point-and-click workflow, Pixlr Express is a better choice. There’s also a dedicated photography tool called Pixlr-o-matic. Aaron’s roundup of Chrome extensions for image editing Photoshop Is Overkill: Edit Your Images With These Free Chrome Apps And Extensions Photoshop Is Overkill: Edit Your Images With These Free Chrome Apps And Extensions Although Photoshop is a great program, it has its drawbacks. Photoshop is not only very expensive, it also has too many controls for what you probably need. There are a lot of editors you could... Read More gives you a handful more options.

Chat/Video App

There doesn’t appear to be a decent multi-protocol chat app after imo dropped third-party messaging IMO Drops Third-Party Messaging Networks: Save Your History Now IMO Drops Third-Party Messaging Networks: Save Your History Now Instant Messaging app imo just announced they will end support for all third-party messaging networks on March 3rd. Users have until March 7th to retrieve their data, which imo.im has made easy. Read More networks from its feature set. If you’re a Gmail user, the Hangouts extension for Chrome is a must-have for easy chatting and video calling Hangouts Extension For Chrome Brings Conversations To Your Desktop Hangouts Extension For Chrome Brings Conversations To Your Desktop Use Hangouts outside the browser. An overlooked Chrome extension from Google lets you chat without opening Gmail or Google+. Read More . If you use Skype, you don’t need a desktop app for it because you can use Skype through Chrome Need To Use Skype? You CAN Do That On A Chromebook Need To Use Skype? You CAN Do That On A Chromebook A lot of people like Chromebook. A lot of people love Skype. For those of you out there who have been told Skype can't be used on Chromebook, I'm going to show you it can... Read More or any other browser. And now you can even bring your WhatsApp conversations to Chrome WhatsApp Web: Everything You Need To Know WhatsApp Web: Everything You Need To Know Along with supporting all mobile platforms, WhatsApp has now launched a web-based client, so you can finally use WhatsApp on your PC and sync with your phone. Read More .

Office Suite

Web-based office suites like Google Docs, Zoho Docs, and Microsoft Office Online come with a full-fledged feature set. They have made desktop office suites superfluous for many of us. Install the Chrome app for your office software of choice and download your important files for offline use. See why you should pick the online office suite Don't Pay For Word! 5 Reasons You Should Use Office Online Don't Pay For Word! 5 Reasons You Should Use Office Online Office Online is the free and cloud-connected version of Microsoft Office. Limitations are compensated by features, useful even to users of desktop Office. Best of all is its Read More over the desktop alternative.

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If you want a distraction-free writing environment in Chrome, Writer, Calmly Writer, and Litewrite are solid options. I have used them all at one point of time or another. They even work offline, as does Writebox, which also supports Markdown and plays nice with Dropbox and Google Drive. Gingko, another minimal word processor Gingko: An Online Word Processor That Could Change The Way You Write Gingko: An Online Word Processor That Could Change The Way You Write At MakeUseOf, we're always on the look out for innovative text editors that can make our life as writers just a little bit easier. This relatively new service is unique and may just be the... Read More , comes highly recommended by Nancy for its unusual approach to writing.

Chrome Can Trump the Desktop

Unlike desktop-based apps, you can deactivate the Chrome-based ones till you need them next. We recommend you do this using an app like SimpleExtManager, to keep Chrome from slowing down under the bulk of installed apps.

Your desktop apps disappear with every fresh install of your operating system. But your Chrome apps and their data stay in place as long as you have synced Chrome with your Gmail The Ultimate Chrome Sync Hacks For Swapping Between Desktops The Ultimate Chrome Sync Hacks For Swapping Between Desktops Are you the type of person that needs unfettered mobility of their browsing data? With these Chrome hacks, you never have to worry about leaving your webpages, tabs and even clipboard data behind. Read More account.

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If you have a powerful computer configuration, you have the luxury of installing even resource-heavy desktop apps. But when you’re on a netbook or laptop, you need to conserve system resources wherever you can. Swapping desktop apps for browser-based ones is a smart way to do that. Here’s our master list of the best Chrome extensions The Best Chrome Extensions The Best Chrome Extensions A list of the best extensions for Google Chrome, including suggestions from both our readers and our writers. Read More you can choose from.

Not too fond of the default apps bundled with your Chromebook? You’ll find some great replacements on the Web and in the Chrome Web Store. You’ll also find enough browser-based offline apps to debunk the Chromebooks don’t work offline myth.

Do you have a similar browser-based setup? Are you finding it better than the traditional desktop-based one? Share your experiences in the comments.

  1. Von
    June 3, 2016 at 1:01 am

    I would like to know why there's NO WAY to uninstall the Google Drive App if you'd rather not have it? What's the point? Will Chrome malfunction without it or something? It seems like malware to me.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      June 8, 2016 at 6:31 am

      As far as I know, you can uninstall the Google Drive app from its right-click menu (unless you're referring to something else entirely)...

  2. Dude
    April 4, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    I don't wanna mislead the subject but imho "online dekstop" is total junk. Future desktops probably will be made with web enabled tools (blend of html5 tech etc.) tough but there must be some options for people to live their destiny if someone wants to rule his/her own data. So desktops are necessary in every view even for transparency.

  3. Mike Merritt
    April 2, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    My complaint isn't with apps/add-ons/extensions which you can pick and choose (install and uninstall) - my complaint is when the browser developers include a new unrelated "feature" like a video conferencer or tor client (or a virtual can opener) totally within the existing browser. Whether I want this feature/application or not - I will get it anyways and it only contributes to browser bloat and uses up limited RAM for something that I may never use.

    • Akshata
      April 2, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      That I agree with, Mike. It is annoying to have features that you can't disable or apps that you can't uninstall forced on you.

  4. Harry
    April 2, 2015 at 11:11 am

    There are other Chrome-based browsers that take this idea to a whole new level. For example, Citrio. It can replace a bittorrent client, download manager, download accelerator, video downloader, proxy manager and video player. It just saves the pain of installing a ton of software.

    • Akshata
      April 3, 2015 at 5:06 am

      Slimboat does something similar. It's nice to have important apps installed by default, as long as there's an option to disable them if you don't find them useful.

  5. Nick
    April 2, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I would not want my main communication software to be reliant on my browser being open.
    Skype needs to be on all the time.
    Every now and again I need to close my browser (or it crashes by itself) - I can't have Skype going down just because of that!

    I'm also unsure of how a real time software like Skype would perform running in Chrome compared to running as a regular Desktop software.

    • Akshata
      April 3, 2015 at 4:58 am

      I agree, Nick. Chrome can't be a replacement for *all* of your desktop apps.

  6. Victor
    April 2, 2015 at 9:32 am

    As everyone has already said, yes, desktop apps are quite often much more useful. However:

    When using a computer that not your own, knowing what web apps to use can be a huge time-saver, not to mention less of a hassle.

    Also, When Akshata said "Chrome," I'm sure it was because many of the alternative web apps also come nicely packaged in Chrome extensions which Firefox may or may not have.

  7. JaCK
    April 1, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Apps cant replace desktop programs.

    • Akshata
      April 2, 2015 at 3:48 am

      Not always and not all apps. But browser-based apps can make a real difference on laptops and netbooks.

  8. Mike Merritt
    April 1, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Further to LikeFunButNot ... A web browser could have a full game of checkers or solitaire built into it - but what's the sense ? If the features don't add to the browsing experience or facilitate better browsing - they are just excuses for people to write new articles about them.
    The next browser that I create will have a "virtual can opener" built in ! Boy will I get a lot of good media attention. 6 o'clock news here I come !

    • Akshata
      April 2, 2015 at 3:43 am

      No one is forcing us to install apps that don't improve our browsing experience and no one's stopping us from installing apps that we find useful. As a netbook user with minimal system resources, this browser-based approach has helped me keep my computer fairly lean.

  9. likefunbutnot
    April 1, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    With regard to the whole Browser as a platform idea, Firefox can do pretty much all of these things as well. This is not a way in which Chrome is special or even differentiated from other fully capable browsers.

    Also, just because something CAN be made to work as a web app doesn't mean that it's necessarily the best experience. A web browser was originally intended to be a canvas for interpreting HTML files and displaying images. That we've bent, folded and stapled that tool so that its most important quality is real time execution of scripting languages, to the point that we can view desktop-class hardware as nothing but a dumb host for a web application framework, might be a sign that we've gone a little overboard.

    • Akshata
      April 2, 2015 at 3:37 am

      I have mentioned at the start of the article that Firefox can do all these things. I wouldn't recommend switching from desktop apps to browser-based ones entirely, nor am I suggesting that Web apps make for the best experience. But they are convenient in many cases, especially for stuff like basic image editing and writing, and for functionalities that you need on a less frequent basis.

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