Switching to Chromebook: 8 Apps to Replace Your Desktop Favorites

Joel Lee 03-03-2017

I recently acquired a Chromebook Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) I've adopted, studied every Windows OS, adapted, and eventually learned to love each of them for different reasons. Are you curious to know why as of today, I'm a Chromebook guy? Read More 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.


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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 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 , 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 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 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 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 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

Switching to Chromebook: 8 Apps to Replace Your Desktop Favorites chromebook app enjoy music

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 The 7 Best Google Play Music Features Is Google Play Music worth trying? Here are seven of the most compelling features you'll find within Google's streaming music service. Read More ), use your smartphone as your music player, or rely solely on streaming services like Spotify or Prime Music Amazon Prime vs. Netflix and Spotify Combined Streaming services are on the rise, so it's all about choosing wisely between them. In this article we ask, "Is Amazon Prime better than Netflix and Spotify combined?" Read More .


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

Switching to Chromebook: 8 Apps to Replace Your Desktop Favorites chromebook app allinone 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

Switching to Chromebook: 8 Apps to Replace Your Desktop Favorites chromebook app 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

Switching to Chromebook: 8 Apps to Replace Your Desktop Favorites chromebook app 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.

I think it’s clear that Caret is the best text editor for Chromebooks 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 , but if you don’t like it for whatever reason, you should consider trying Material Neutron instead.


5. Distraction-Free Writing: Writer

Switching to Chromebook: 8 Apps to Replace Your Desktop Favorites chromebook app 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

Switching to Chromebook: 8 Apps to Replace Your Desktop Favorites chromebook app 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 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 , 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)

Switching to Chromebook: 8 Apps to Replace Your Desktop Favorites chromebook app jstorrent

Didn’t think it was possible to torrent on a Chromebook, did you? I surely didn’t. But as it turns out, there’s a nifty JavaScript-based app called JSTorrent that can handle torrent downloads perfectly, and it works well on newer and older Chromebooks alike.

And don’t think you need to be a pirate to make use of this app. There are many legal reasons for torrenting 8 Legal Uses for BitTorrent: You'd Be Surprised Like HTTP, which your browser uses to communicate with websites, BitTorrent is just a protocol. You could use your browser to download pirated content, just as you could use a BitTorrent client to download pirated... Read More and you should take advantage of them if you aren’t already. JSTorrent may not be as feature-rich as some Windows torrent clients Beat the Bloat! Try These Lightweight BitTorrent Clients Guns don’t share illegal files. People share illegal files. Or, wait, how does it go again? What I mean to say is, BitTorrent shouldn't be dissed based on its potential for piracy. Read More and Mac torrent clients 4 Transmission Alternatives for Mac BitTorrent Users Transmission was struck with malware twice in one year, so you might want to consider a new Mac torrent app. Read More , 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 5 Things You Didn't Know About Chromebooks, And Why You Might Want One Here are 5 things you should know about Chromebooks if you're thinking of buying one. Read More , 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!

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  1. Eric Turnbull
    May 25, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Could we get skyQ on chrome poker

  2. Richard A Orr
    May 13, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I need a portable DVD drive that I can plug into my Acer c910 Chromebook that works! Any Ideas??

  3. GK
    April 11, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a .pdf app or extension for a Chomebook that will provide similar functionality that the Fox-it or PDF Exchange software does on a PC?

  4. Rick
    March 7, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Enjoy Music Player can play music on an SD card or thumb drive too, so no worries about storage for local music. You can even create a music folder with a layered structure of artists and albums and it will still scan and play then all.

  5. Tim
    March 4, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    Thanks for these suggestions - I've installed a few as a result!

    Another really useful app I've found for writing, is StackEdit. It's a Markdown editor, so knowing some MD syntax won't hurt, but there are button shortcuts for the most common formatting options if you prefer. StackEdit also syncs MD documents with Google Drive and Dropbox - the latter means I can "share" docs between SE and Byword on my iPhone - and it can also publish to services including WordPress and Medium.

    One gripe with Pixlr: the Web app adds a HUGE skyscraper ad area, that takes about a quarter of the screen on a typical Chromebook display. If that can't be recovered, I'll have to give Polarr (another image-editor) a decent test...

  6. James
    March 4, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    I've been using Chromebooks for a good 2-3 years now and your summary is good. The one thing that needs adding though is the need for a cloud printer. People often don't realise they can't plug into their USB printer

    • Steven Grabert
      March 4, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Yes you can plug your printer in. I do. HP printer using HP plug in printer app. Works a lot better than Google print. Acer 11 Chromebook

    • Steven Grabert
      March 4, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Yes you can plug in HP printer with HP plug in printer app. I do and it is better than Google Print. Acer 11 Chromebook 2016

    • Tim
      March 4, 2017 at 10:30 pm

      Since late 2016, Chrome OS has added the CUPS printing system (used in macOS and most Linux distros), meaning you can now connect to most USB and network printers. Last time I looked, you need to enable it by going to chrome://flags and turning on the "native CUPS" option. Hopefully they'll enable it by default soon...

  7. Emma
    March 4, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I love chrome book it took a week to get use to it but i find it amazing, light, simple intuitive. The book itself is easy to carry around and with Google is more or less virus free great job . Just hope it last.

  8. Jim Tippett
    March 4, 2017 at 4:27 am

    Is there an alternative for Gnucash?

    • Aayush Desai
      March 4, 2017 at 6:24 pm

      Possible - since it is available for android and chrome books are getting android Apps this year

    • Aayush Desai
      March 4, 2017 at 6:26 pm

      Possible - since GNUcash is android app and android Apps will be available for Chromebooks

  9. Aaron Peters
    March 3, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    If you're a Linux user, one of the first things to check out is Crouton ( You'll need to run your Chromebook in developer mode, but you'll be able to install Linux and use it right alongside Chrome OS, including all your favorite programs.

    • Tim Jones
      March 4, 2017 at 1:28 am

      Thanks, Aaron - that's just what I was going to add, too.

      Later this year, I'll be acquiring my first ever Chromebook - the Samsung Chromebook Pro - inspired in no small part by my fellow gadget man and 17-year-old nephew, who has shown me as how he is currently running Ubuntu Linux (ie: my desktop miniPC's OS) via Crouton on his own Chromebook.

      So from 2017 onwards, an Intel-CPU'ed Chromebook will effectively empower me to run THREE flavours of Linux side-by-side: Chrome OS, Android, and Ubuntu - each with their own extensive app ecosystem. Hence I'm very much looking forward to getting all my mobile computing needs and desires met, and in particular being able to use the apps I currently run on my Ubuntu desktop miniPC (a System76 Meerkat) - such as the LibreOffice productivity app suite, GIMP image editor, Vuze BitTorrent client, etc., &c. - on a light-&-portable, Pen-equipped, 2-in-1 Tablet-&-Laptop hybrid device.

      The Future Looks Bright - The Future Looks { Chrome OS + Android + Ubuntu }Tastic!