The Chrome OS Challenge: A New User’s Day on a Chromebook

Ben Stegner 26-08-2015

We’ve written plenty about Chromebooks at MakeUseOf Top 10 Tips And Tricks For Google Chromebooks If you are one of the latest converts to Chromebooks and are looking for some of the best tips and tricks to get you started, then read on for some great hints. Read More , and by following their progression it’s easy to tell how much these devices have evolved. From the humble Chrome browser shell to today’s full-featured OS that allows you to do quite a bit, the Chromebook is a serious contender in the laptop-lite world.


However, how does it stack up for someone who’s used to a Windows or Mac setup? Angela, our Browsers editor, challenged someone to get a Chromebook and document their early thoughts with it. Seizing a deal on a refurbished model online, I’ve done just that. Here are my thoughts after a few days with Chrome OS.

It’s Surprisingly Accessible

When making the jump to a new operating system, it’s natural to be concerned that you won’t be able to take the best Windows software The Best PC Software for Your Windows Computer Want the best PC software for your Windows computer? Our massive list collects the best and safest programs for all needs. Read More or your favorite Mac apps The Best Mac Apps to Install on Your MacBook or iMac Looking for the best apps for your MacBook or iMac? Here's our comprehensive list of the best apps for macOS. Read More with you. However, since Chrome is such a popular browser on all platforms and it’s the backbone of Chrome OS, the majority of a Chromebook will seem familiar if you’ve used Google’s browser before.

If you have a Google account, everything is synced over as soon as you log into your Chromebook: your extensions, bookmarks, and even your installed theme 5 Gorgeous Themes to Brighten Your Google Chrome Browser Most of us spend many hours on the web, browsing websites and prominently ignoring the looks of our web browser, which is fine since they usually don't effect changes in our browsing behavior, in contrast... Read More make the jump with you, making you feel at home right away.


It’s amazing how much of our computing is done in a browser nowadays Mac, Linux or Windows: It Really Doesn't Matter Anymore [Opinion] It matters less and less every year what operating system you use, because every year we all spend more time on our computer using nothing but the browser. And browsers are cross-platform. Want to have... Read More . Microsoft’s embarrassing line of advertisements Microsoft, You’re Embarrassing Yourself. Please Stop. [Opinion] Microsoft: we need to talk. Yes, it’s about those Scroogle ads. No, I don’t think they’re funny, and no: I don’t think Google is worried about them. Read More claimed that a Chromebook is useless offline 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 (even though most Windows laptops are, too), but this is actually a testament for how easily you’ll get used to one.


Unless you rely heavily on some desktop app, you’ll be just fine watching YouTube, checking email, browsing social media, or listening to music on a Chromebook. This makes them a perfect travel item 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 , especially if you’re not a fan of tablets.

The Chrome OS Challenge: A New User's Day on a Chromebook mac pc

Another aspect of Chrome OS’s accessibility is its keyboard shortcuts. If you’ve seen a Chromebook’s keyboard, you might be concerned that typical Windows keys like F1-F12, the Windows key, and the Home/End keys are missing. Don’t worry, because the keys that are there provide plenty of shortcuts for you to try out.

One of the first Windows shortcuts Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Keyboard shortcuts can save you hours of time. Master the universal Windows keyboard shortcuts, keyboard tricks for specific programs, and a few other tips to speed up your work. Read More I instinctively tried on my Chromebook was the Windows key + 1, 2, etc. to launch programs on the taskbar. Since Chromebooks don’t have a Windows key, using ALT + 1 will launch the first thing on your Shelf (the equivalent to the Taskbar) and so on.


What’s even better, especially for visual learners, is an interactive keyboard shortcut guide built into the OS. Pressing CTRL + ALT + ? will launch a pop-up that shows you available shortcuts. It’s a great way to get acquainted with your new machine, and I was pleased with it.


Getting Work Done

The subtleties of Chrome OS are all well and good, but for this article, I wanted to see how one does when put against a day’s work. To accomplish this, I decided to write this article from start to finish on my new Chromebook.

In an effort to increase my writing opportunities, the first thing I did was take advantage of the system’s backbone and dual-boot Linux on my Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Here's how to install Linux on your Chromebook so you can start using other apps like Skype, VLC Media Player, and more! Read More . It’s a breeze to set up, and gives you a nice environment for testing Linux Testing A New Operating System? Stay Secure With A Virtual Machine Read More .


After that wiped my system and I got started for real, my touchpad seemed to be skipping all over the place – I chalked this up to it being refurbished, and figured I’d just use a spare wireless mouse instead.


This brings up another plus of the Chromebook: external devices work in a snap. The wireless mouse dongle worked as soon as it was inserted, and I was even able to use my PlayStation Wireless Stereo Headset, which also uses a dongle, without a hitch.

Not having to fiddle around with any drivers How to Find & Replace Outdated Windows Drivers Your drivers might be outdated and need updating, but how are you to know? Here's what you need to know and how to go about it. Read More definitely scores the Chromebook points. After a software update, that I only noticed once I had finished my initial tinkering, the touchpad issue was gone and I noticed quite a few UI differences, mostly for the better.


Chromebook owners can claim a few deals, one of them being 100 GB of free Google Drive space for two years. As most models only have 16 GB of internal storage, this is a helpful perk.

With Drive space being so cheap (you could keep that amount of space after the two years for just $2 a month), I don’t have any problem with the system having limited drive space. However, my Chromebook also isn’t my main device, so if you have a huge music collection The 4 Best Tools to Manage Your MP3 Music Collection These are the best tools to manage your MP3 collection, helping you cure your music library management headaches. Read More or regularly deal with large files, you’re probably not going to want to deal with streaming that stuff from the cloud all the time.

Speaking of the cloud, if you’re like me and have your files spread out over different cloud storage providers How To Get The Most Free Space On Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive & More - The Complete Guide Cloud storage services offer a minimum amount of free space to everyone who signs up, but you can often get more. You can upgrade your cloud drive with gigabytes and gigabytes of free space in... Read More , you’ll miss their integration into your file browser, because having to use their websites is tedious. I almost listed this as a dislike, since I usually save my article materials in Dropbox, but thanks to crafty developers, there’s a solution.

It’s really easy to access Dropbox and OneDrive files on your Chromebook How to Access Dropbox and OneDrive Files on Your Chromebook It's now possible to easily integrate your OneDrive and Dropbox accounts directly into the app, allowing you to view your files without having to use the respective web-based clients. Read More . Grabbing File System for Dropbox lets you not only access Dropbox, but also adds an entry for it in your file browser. If you prefer OneDrive (maybe you’ve read our guide on how to use all its free space How To Best Use Your 15GB Of Free OneDrive Storage OneDrive gives you a healthy dose of cloud storage for free. Let's take a look at what you can do with that. Read More ), you can grab File System for OneDrive.

Some Shortcomings

I’ve had a lot of good to say about Chromebooks so far, but unfortunately not everything is perfect Chromebooks Aren't Perfect - Working Around the Negatives 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. Read More when it comes to getting work done. While there are tons of tools for productivity 15 Can't-Miss Chrome Extensions for Productivity Today we bring you a few more essential extensions geared toward helping you work better online. Read More , sometimes Chrome apps just don’t cut it compared to traditional desktop programs.

For instance: I like to listen to music when I write The 20 Best Video Game Soundtracks for Studying or Relaxing Video game music is engineered to promote focus with enjoyable background tracks. If you need some music for studying or relaxing, look no further. Read More , and I found the Spotify Web Player (which is the only option on Chrome OS) inferior to the desktop version; it’s a bit cluttered and laggy, but at least it’s still functional. Angela, though, has written on what makes the Web Player special 7 Reasons to Start Using the Spotify Web Player Today Spotify is about to shake things up by making the desktop and web app experiences more similar. So, it's about time many of us asked ourselves, Why not just use the web app instead? Read More , so you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

One glaring instance of this app issue when it comes to work was trying to find a Markdown editor Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster Markdown is the best way to write in plain text but still create complex documents. Unlike HTML or LaTex, for example, Markdown is simple to learn. Read More . On Windows, where I typically write, I use MarkdownPad, a fantastic tool that I really didn’t appreciate until I was without it.

I tried one Markdown app for Chrome, but disliked it right away due to its lack of shortcuts and live preview. I ended up penning this piece in the WordPress editor, and found a better Markdown app when I was almost through.

Minimalist Markdown Editor doesn’t have all the features of MarkdownPad on Windows, such as keyboard shortcuts for bold/italics or a pop-up for adding hyperlinks, but it’s still better than nothing.

[Editor suggestion: Use SimpleNote or another web-based markdown editor]


Another lacking feature is Chrome OS’s built-in photo editor. It’s convenient that any photo can be edited by just double-clicking it in the file browser, but it’s rudimentary and only allows you to crop, rotate, and change the brightness.

This would almost be enough for the basic screenshots in this article, except that cropping doesn’t show you the image dimensions as you edit, which I need to see to ensure they fit into the article. Thankfully, there are much more powerful image editors available for Chromebooks Four Excellent Image Editors For Your Chromebook Do you like editing and tweaking images but find the Chromebook's default editor too limited? Here are some alternatives. Read More , so check out Pixlr for a full-featured editor, or Sumo Paint for a simpler solution.


This might be nitpicking, but something I really missed from Windows is a simple, no-frills text editor. I frequently want to paste something to keep for a short time, or just jot a quick note, and Notepad (or one of its feature-filled replacements Notepad Not Doing The Trick? Try Out The Lightweight Alternatives Xint & Subpad Read More ) is perfect for this.

On Chrome OS, your only choices are Google Keep or opening a Google Doc. While both of these work fine, they don’t feel as disposable (anything you type into a new note is automatically saved to Keep, which would clutter up your actual reminders and notes 4 Google Keep Tips And Tricks For Better Notes, Lists And To-Dos Read More ). It’s a minor complaint and can easily be replaced with an app like Text, but it still feels like something that should be in the OS by default.

Was It Worth It?

Overall, I have to say that most of my complaints can be fixed by installing apps, which, if we’re being fair, is the case with pretty much any OS – just think of your phone without the best Android apps The Best Android Apps on the Google Play Store for 2019 Looking for the best Android apps for your phone or tablet? Here's our comprehensive list of the best apps for Android. Read More . I’m a big fan of the Chromebook’s look and feel, having Chrome be the backbone of everything feels natural, and I don’t feel like I’m on a “lesser device” when I’m using it.

I didn’t want to focus on device or hardware specifics too much in this write-up, but the screen is decent and the speakers aren’t too bad, either. My Acer model has an SD card slot, which is a cheap way to add some offline space Two Hardware Hacks to Improve your Chromebook: SD Cards and USB Modems What's the best way to super-charge your Chromebook's functionality? Try out these two hardware hacks to make your device do more. Read More , and the battery life is excellent. The standard keyboard is comfortable, though it doesn’t hold a candle to a mechanical keyboard 3 Reasons You Should Consider Buying A Mechanical Keyboard Read More , and the trackpad is nice and big.

For whatever reason, I get a better picture on my TV using a VGA cable with my Windows laptop than using an HDMI cable with my Chromebook – this might be a quirk of my TV, as I’ve had the same issue with other HDMI-enabled laptops, but it’s still an annoyance as it’s much more comfortable to write an article using a TV monitor than a small laptop screen.

In all, my biggest work-related problem with the Chromebook is the lack of MarkdownPad. Using the WordPress editor is enough to get by, but I’m so used to my usual writing environment that it felt foreign. For general use, though, I love my new Chromebook and think it makes a great side machine.

Whenever I want to do something quickly (seriously, this thing boots up in like eight seconds), when I’m travelling, or if my main laptop dies, I’ll be reaching for my Chromebook. And because of that, I’m totally satisfied with it; I just won’t be working on many articles with it going forward.

Thinking about a Chromebook? Check out everything you need to know about switching to one 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 , or read up on what advantages using a Chromebook brings The Fundamental Advantages Of Using A Chromebook Chromebooks are highly divisive and a consensus about the merits of Google's offering is a long way from materialising. Here are the key advantages of using a Chromebook when compared to Windows and Macs. Read More .

If you have a Chromebook, what do you like and dislike about it? If you don’t have one, would you be interested in one, and why? Share your thoughts with us below!

Related topics: Chromebook, Google Chrome.

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  1. Anonymous
    September 1, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    You lost me at the beginning when you said most Windows laptops are useless offline. Seriously? How is a Windows or Mac laptop useless offline? Maybe if your computing is rooted in social media and streaming video/music. Which, this is the crowd most interested in Chromebooks. For doing real work/computing--sorry, a Chromebook will not do the or offline.

  2. Anonymous
    September 1, 2015 at 3:25 am

    I bought a 13 inch Asus chrome-book for $179 on deal of the day some months back and I'm quite impressed despite limited local storage but recently I've been moving away from significant on board storage and onto a Raid 1 NAS and 5 tb USB 3 external drives. The primary motivator has been the issues around Windows upgrades of late to Win 8 and Win 10 where I've seen too many aggravations and a few crash and burns. Keeping my video, pictures, music and documents on external devices is proving to be the safest bet as I don't want to dump them on any cloud based storage other than my own home system.

    I'd have to say that other than heavy duty work such as video editing and rendering where I need Windows, the Chrome book does most of what I need in emails, web browsing and watching videos either on the 13 inch screen or on a 42 inch or bigger flat screen TV.

    I do agree that a light weight off line word processor would be useful or even a spread sheet and maybe a cut down version of LibreOffice would be good. My SD card slot has a permanent 64 gb card in it giving me 96 gb total storage and the USB3 slot can still be used for a 256gb memory stick or even a portable HDD so local storage isn't really an issue.

    The only major omission I find is the lack of Skype. I know some have finagled it to work but I don't want to risk messing up the system if there's not a native Skype program available so for now, its Windows or Android.

    For light usage use for which it was designed, I'd give it 8 out of 10 as it fires up in 2 secs and shuts down just as quick unlike Windows that seems to be perpetually carrying out updates on power up, in the back grounds and on power down. In fact I had 3 programs running on a Win 8.1 PC yesterday and lost that work when Microsoft deemed it suitable to update and restart.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 1, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Installing Skype really won't mess with your system. Dan Price has a great guide on it, and he'll be happy to help if you need anything: //

      • Anonymous
        September 1, 2015 at 1:58 pm

        Thanks for the info and I had a quick look at the install guide for Skype and it looks pretty comprehensive. Just a couple of points, will it still allow me to use Skype out for calling land lines from the Chrome book and I assume voice & video works on Skype to Skype just like a Windows lap top.

        Thanks Mike

        • Mihir Patkar
          September 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm

          I'm not sure about that, Mike, sorry! Would you mind commenting on that article? That way, Dan will see it and he'll help you out with any queries you have :)

  3. Anonymous
    September 1, 2015 at 3:20 am

    For a simple text editor just type
    into a browser tab and enter text etc. straight into the browser.

    save it as a bookmark and you have a simple text editor right in the environment your working in.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 1, 2015 at 7:25 am

      But that doesn't save the text, right? Even saving it as a bookmark, you'll be able to go back to a plain, empty text editor each time (I think). Please correct me if I'm wrong.

  4. Anonymous
    September 1, 2015 at 12:59 am

    For photo editing, the built-in with Google Photos can handle the basics....check it out at: and click on the 'pencil' icon.

    If you need more, I'm not sure why you didn't list/try Pixlr Editor ?

    • Ben Stegner
      September 1, 2015 at 2:05 am

      In the section about photo editing, I talked about the built-in editor and what I found lacking about it. Right after that, I did talk about Pixlr editor, and linked to it.

      • Mihir Patkar
        September 1, 2015 at 7:22 am


    • Mihir Patkar
      September 1, 2015 at 7:10 am

      Err he did list Pixlr. He said the built-in photo editor wasn't good enough, so he recommended alternatives like Pixlr.

  5. Anonymous
    August 28, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Chromebook is a netbook with Chrome OS. What happened to netbooks after the initial surge in interest?
    AFAIK, Linux only can be dual-booted on a Chromebook. It cannot replace Chrome OS.
    No distro other than Ubuntu can be dual-booted with Chrome.
    Exchanging one walled garden (Microsoft or Apple) for a Google one.
    Automatic updates sound great but do we really know what Google is dumping on the Chromebooks? Remember all the crap Lenovo installed (may still be installing) on their laptops?

  6. Anonymous
    August 27, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Hangout is great great but no Skype sux, 'nuff said

    • Anonymous
      August 31, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      Two reasonable Skype access options for Chromebooks: (1), or (2) Skype for Chrome (beta) on the Chrome Web Store.

  7. Anonymous
    August 26, 2015 at 8:02 pm
  8. Mihir Patkar
    August 26, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Can I set up a Plex media server on the Chromebook, Ben?

    • Ben Stegner
      August 26, 2015 at 11:10 pm

      I honestly haven't ever used Plex, Mihir. I'd imagine it's possible with some determination, but I'm not the right person to ask, unfortunately.

      • Mihir Patkar
        August 28, 2015 at 12:31 pm

        I guess it's not entirely important if you live in the cloud.

    • Anonymous
      August 27, 2015 at 2:46 am

      You can't set up a plex *server* but it does have a plex app (basically a chrome packaged version of the web player) so you can access an existing plex server.

      If you're adventurous and install Ubuntu, then you could easily run a server (and it'll work in the background even while you're using ChromeOS). Though I think a laptop is probably a poor choice to run any sort of server on. For accessing content from an existing server the Chrome OS app works pretty flawlessly.

  9. Anonymous
    August 26, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    What I adore about my ASUS Chromebook 13 (4GB/32GB):

    -- Lightweight
    -- Sleek hardware finish
    -- Everything I need to do on the web can be done on it
    -- Fast
    -- Works fine with a wireless mouse
    -- Great screen resolution
    -- Decent sound
    -- Decent keyboard
    -- OS updates are effortless
    -- Reboot takes seconds
    -- Decent battery life
    -- Plays music from my OneDrive account with little difficulty

    What challenges me:

    -- Some media files are not supported in Google Chrome, which means I have to convert them in order to watch/listen to them.
    -- Winrar files are not supported.
    -- Google Docs is not as comprehensive a document creation tool as MS Word, so I compromise on functionality.

  10. Anonymous
    August 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    What I really like of my ChromebookS ('cause I have two):
    - Lignt and extremely quick to connact and do business on the net.
    - On the new one, I got Linux installed, full Ubuntu working off my USB key and it is surprisingly fast, considering all the bloatware of Ubuntu on a CPU like the Chromebook.
    - Very reliable.
    - Very easy to carry around
    - Long-lasting battery for normal use

    Little problems:
    - I could not get the pad working under Ubuntu. I need an external mouse.
    - I could not get Citrix to work to connect to my office.
    When typing, accessing French characters on a US keyboard is a bit ackward, but not much more than using the alt+codes under Windows. Using a US keyboard is my choice, so...........