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Although we’ve recently published articles discussing Chromebook’s inherent positives, it would be short-sighted to pretend that the devices are perfect and without flaws.

We at MakeUseOf find Google’s Chromebooks extremely useful Chromebooks – Useful or Useless? Chromebooks – Useful or Useless? My wife gave me a choice of gadgets for Christmas – a new MP3 player, or a Chromebook? Read More – the Chromebook is great for travel Your Chromebook As The Ultimate Travel Device Your Chromebook As The Ultimate Travel Device If you're deciding which device to get for your next trip, you may consider checking out Chromebooks. But why choose a Chromebook for travel? Because, when it comes to travel, they are spot on. Read More , you can work offline with a Chromebook Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths One of the biggest criticisms aimed at Google's Chromebooks is that they are online-only machines – ergo, no Internet, no point. How true is this statement? Read More , and it’s possible to dual-boot Linux on your Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Do you need Skype on your Chromebook? Do you miss not having access to games through Steam? Are you pining to use VLC Media Player? Then start using Linux on your Chromebook. Read More . They also provide a simple level of computing to those who don’t want the complexity of traditional Apple or Microsoft machines.

However, here’s a look at three ways Chromebooks can be improved and some workarounds for the meantime…

1. Printing

Whilst Google’s belief in cloud computing and stateless computing is both admirable and visionary, there are some things that will always be best done with physical equipment. Printing is one of these things.

Google’s Cloud Print service is based on the premise that printing can be done from any device, anywhere, at any time, to any one of your cloud-connected printers. The only way to print from a Chromebook is by using this service.

In practice, this means you cannot send print jobs directly to a printer through a USB port. By forcing users to route print jobs through the cloud and into a holding bin Google unquestionably make printing more awkward than it should be. The policy is particularly unsuited to workers or students who take their devices to offices, schools, and universities.

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Google-Cloud-Print

In addition to the practical problems, Google is posing a juxtaposition to its selling point of easy-computing for seniors and the technologically illiterate. Setting up Cloud Print is reasonably straight forward for an experienced user, but would be considerably more confusing to someone who is not technologically skilled.

Chromebooks already require a leap of faith into the unknown, and this is one area that Google could have made simpler and more straight forward.

Workaround: There isn’t a clear work around to this problem. Short of opening the document in Google Docs on your Mac or Windows machine or emailing the document to a machine running Windows or Apple software, it is impossible to print from a Chromebook without using Google Cloud Print somewhere in the process. Nonetheless, if you are trying to use your printer at the office or university it is a simple process for your IT department to enable Cloud Print and share a printer with anyone on the network How To Share Your Printer With Anyone On The Internet How To Share Your Printer With Anyone On The Internet Windows 7’s Homegroup feature makes sharing printers on your local network easy, but what if you want to share a printer over the Internet? This has traditionally been very complicated, involving print drivers, firewall rules... Read More  – this will allow users to print to the device from anywhere Google Cloud Print: Connect printer to the cloud & print from anywhere Google Cloud Print: Connect printer to the cloud & print from anywhere Read More in the world, not just their place of work or study.

2. Skype

Google vs. Apple, Apple vs. Samsung, Microsoft vs. Google. Behind the serenity of your phone, laptop or tablet’s screen there is an endless conveyor belt of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits between the world’s leading technology companies. Sadly, as is often the way in court battles between leading companies of any industry, end-users are usually the ones who lose out.

Windows 8 users will already be familiar with the ongoing Google vs. Microsoft war, it is directly responsible for the lack of Google calendar integration with the native Microsoft calendar app. Microsoft have hit back in the war by refusing to develop a Skype app for Google’s Chrome Web Store, and whilst rumours about a possible release have been swirling for more than a year, there is still no definitive word from either side.

Skype-on-Chromebookv3

Cynics would argue that Google are quite happy without a native Skype app as it forces people to migrate to Google Hangouts. Unfortunately, uptake on Google Hangouts has been slow, and with 300 million users worldwide Skype remains the VOIP and instant messaging service of choice.

Power-users can dual-boot Linux and install a Skype desktop application, but for many users the absence of a native Skype app could be a deal-breaker.

Workaround: In addition to using Linux and Google Hangouts, you could also consider trying newer apps like Appear.in to set up an ad-hoc video chat room Move Over Google Plus Hangouts. Appear.in Is Here & It's Really Good Move Over Google Plus Hangouts. Appear.in Is Here & It's Really Good People have been crying out for a decent video conferencing app for ages. We thought that was Google Plus. We were wrong. Meet Appear.in. Read More , and Plus.im which provides text chat but no video calling.

3. Google Play Music

Google Play Music is service which connects your locally stored music collection with a Spotify-like online streaming service. By using the Google Music Manager, users can upload 20,000 songs for free then listen to them from any device.

The catch? Google Music Manager isn’t available for Chromebooks. This means that in order to use Google’s flagship music service to listen to your own collection through a Chromebook you have to own a either Windows or Apple machine. Similarly, if you download a track directly onto your Chromebook, you have to transfer it onto another machine before you can put it in the cloud.

Google-Play-Music

This issue is not only frustrating for users, but oddly stands in stark contrast to Google’s unspoken philosophy of pulling as many users as they can into their own ecosystem by seamlessly integrating their products.

Currently there is no ideal process for users, and although rumours about a possible drag-and-drop solution have been circulating for a long time, as of today we are no closer to a solution.

Workaround: Use Google Drive or Dropbox to transfer files to a computer that is capable of running Google Music Manager and sync to Google Music from there instead.

Thoughts On The Future

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and in the future we will revisit the topic to discuss a few more issues such as Google Now integration and the native media player.

However, no product is ever perfect. As we said at the outset, we love Chromebooks, and you certainly shouldn’t let these frustrations dissuade you from buying one. Just make sure you check out everything you need to know on Chromebooks Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Chromebooks run a slimmed-down operating system optimized for getting on the web with just the Chrome browser and Chrome apps. Can you switch to a Chromebook? Read More  before you head to the shops.

What are your biggest gripes with the Chromebook? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credits: Kevin Jarrett Via Flickr

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