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I recently acquired a Chromebook and I couldn’t be happier. The device itself is incredibly lightweight and portable yet robust with superb performance (Acer Chromebook 14 for Work in case you were wondering). It makes me want to work, which explains the huge boost to my overall productivity.
Of course it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows, especially during the first week. The hardest part about switching to a Chromebook is that you can only install Chromebook apps, so say goodbye to your favorite Windows- and Mac-only apps! But once you find and settle in with a few Chromebook app alternatives, you’ll feel right at home.
If you’re reading this as someone who’s thinking of switching to Chromebook but hasn’t yet, here’s what I think: Chromebooks fall short for specialized business or creative work, but they’re perfect for everyday tasks like music, taking notes, surfing the web, documents and spreadsheets, etc. Check out the following apps to see if your needs can be fulfilled with a Chromebook.
1. Playing Music: Enjoy
Since Chromebooks are designed to be used with web apps, the best thing would be to move your local music collection onto the cloud (which you can do with Google Play Music), use your smartphone as your music player, or rely solely on streaming services like Spotify or Prime Music.
I don’t recommend using a Chromebook for local music playback because most Chromebooks don’t come with much internal storage, so your device won’t be able to hold many songs anyway. But if you’re dead set on doing this, Enjoy Music Player is pretty much the only good option for it.
One cool feature is that Enjoy can stream music from Google Drive, so that could be a good compromise for you.
2. Chat: All-in-One Messenger
Whereas most activities tend to be harder on a Chromebook, chatting and messaging is actually easier thanks to this nifty app. With All-in-One, you can manage dozens of different messaging services in one place — no longer will you have to juggle several different tabs and windows.
Popular services supported by All-in-One include WhatsApp, Skype, Slack, Steam, Discord, Telegram, Facebook, Yahoo, ICQ, and more.
3. Notes and To-Dos: Knotes
If you need a heavy-duty note-taking solution, you can always resort to Evernote or OneNote. Both are at the top of their game and they both offer web versions that are pretty much on par with their Windows and Mac versions. I personally use OneNote for my big note collections.
But for smaller notes and reminders, I use Knotes. This awesome app has everything going for it: super fast performance, clean and intuitive interface, as well as apps for Android and iOS for mobile access to your notes. It’s simple and it works.
4. Text Editing: Caret
Chromebooks aren’t designed for intense programming so if you’re looking for a powerful text editor along the lines of Sublime Text, Atom Editor, or Visual Studio Code, you might as well stop now because you won’t be satisfied with anything you find. That being said, Caret works in a pinch.
What’s nice about Caret is that it runs completely offline, which can’t be said for most Chromebook apps. It also has the fundamental makings of a serious text editor: tabbed editing, syntax highlighting, full-text search, project view, and a smart command palette. As long as you’re aware that it doesn’t do much more than that, you’ll be happy.
5. Distraction-Free Writing: Writer
Chromebooks are awesome for writing, but the only downside is that you don’t have access to any of the excellent distraction-free writers available on Windows and Mac. The fact that I can’t use Scrivener or FocusWriter on my Chromebook is a real bummer. Hopefully one day…
For now the closest thing is Writer, which actually isn’t that bad. It works offline so you can write anywhere and everywhere, its colors and fonts are themeable so you can personalize it to your pleasure, it supports word counts and writing goals, and the interface is perfectly minimal.
The app is free but there’s a Pro version with extra features like exporting as an ebook, shareable stats and streaks, exporting to cloud storage, file revision histories, and more.
6. Image Editing: Pixlr
Photoshop is the image editing king with GIMP coming in as a close second — neither are available on Chromebooks. And even if they were, most Chromebooks don’t have the hardware to support the heavy resource usage that both of them require, so it’d be a moot point for most users anyway.
But there are plenty of image editors for Chromebooks, and the best of them is Pixlr. Most notable is the interface, which emulates the look and feel of Photoshop and GIMP. It also supports many of the features you’d expect including layers, filters, brush controls, cloning, spot healing, advanced adjustments, and more. It’s surprisingly good.
7. Torrenting: JSTorrent ($2.99)
And don’t think you need to be a pirate to make use of this app. There are many legal reasons for torrenting and you should take advantage of them if you aren’t already. JSTorrent may not be as feature-rich as some Windows torrent clients and Mac torrent clients, but it gets the job done.
8. Screen Capture: Clipular
Chromebooks can take screenshots using two system-level keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl + Window Switcher captures the entire screen while Ctrl + Shift + Window Switcher captures a region of the screen according to your selection. These are fine, but what if you need a bit more power?
Then Clipular might be for you. Similar to Greenshot and ShareX (on Windows) or Grab (on Mac), Clipular allows you to capture any portion of the screen, annotate it, auto-save to a location of your choice, sync with Google Drive, and one-click share to social media. A must-have app for anyone who takes frequent screenshots.
What’s Missing That You Can’t Live Without?
There are many Chromebook misconceptions floating around, the worst one being that Chromebooks are too limited. That may have been true 2–3 years ago but is no longer the case now that web-based apps are more popular. The truth is, most average computer users are likely to be happier with a Chromebook than, say, a tablet or laptop of equal price.
That being said, I’m fully aware that Chromebooks are not for everyone. If there’s a specific Windows or Mac app that you absolutely need, then now may not be the time for you to switch. Chromebooks can do a lot, but they still have a bit of catching up to do.
How do you feel about Chromebooks? Are there any apps that you absolutely need before you can even think about switching? Share with us down in the comments below!