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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 has more information on the features of these apps.
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 lists some excellent apps for tasks like:
- Creating mindmaps
- Annotating Web pages
- Grouping notes based on hashtags
- Organizing your thoughts
- Making to-do lists
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.
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 gives you a handful more options.
There doesn’t appear to be a decent multi-protocol chat app after imo dropped third-party messaging 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. If you use Skype, you don’t need a desktop app for it because you can use Skype through Chrome or any other browser. And now you can even bring your WhatsApp conversations to Chrome.
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 over the desktop alternative.
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, 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 account.
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 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.