Chromebooks Aren’t Perfect – Working Around the Negatives

Dan Price 13-03-2014

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? 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 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 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 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 . 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.



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 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 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.


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 to set up an ad-hoc video chat room Move Over Google Plus Hangouts. 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 Read More , and 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.



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 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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  1. Anonymous
    September 1, 2015 at 6:06 am

    The problem that we face (RTL, especially Arab users) is the suitability of these machines to Arabic and RTL documents. Even if you install crouton and work on Linux, you still have the biggest problem ever, which is the use of Arabic in LibreOffice. If you have a document that has some script written in Arabic, it is almost impossible to read in LibreOffice. No matter how hard you try. All the solutions that I am aware of are non-adequate workarounds. The only one that will work reasonably is the use of Office Online.


    • Mihir Patkar
      September 1, 2015 at 7:34 am

      What a fantastic, insightful comment. Thank you so much for sharing, AA. We sometimes forget that the world is a much larger place than what English-speaking technology caters to. I hope you'll comment here more often, I'd love it if you were a regular part of the community and giving us a perspective we don't often hear :)

    • Anonymous
      September 1, 2015 at 8:24 am

      Mihir, Thanks for the reply. I will certainly keep commenting about topics that matter to the Arab readers of

      And before anybody challenges my comment above. If you create an Arabic document in LibreOffice it is fine and you can still work on it, but if it was created by MS Office, there you get a problem. Same if it was created in LO and want to read it on MS Office.

      • Mihir Patkar
        September 1, 2015 at 9:33 am

        Thanks for clarifying, AA, looking forward to hearing from more you here :)

  2. Carlos
    May 13, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Maybe it's just my particular situation or equipment, but I do not have any of these problems. With regards to printing, all I have is wifi and wireless printers and I can print just fine. I quit using skype years ago and haven't looked back since, but since this is a new post, I will jump over this subject. If I'm not mistaken, the google music manager was put out of commission a while back, so there is no need for it. Also, scanning was mentioned. CloudScan solved that issue almost a year ago, but I'm not familiar with its current status so that may be something to check into.

  3. Jordan
    April 28, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Google Play Music now works on Chromebooks.

  4. oharamj
    March 17, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    There's another way to use Google Play to listen to your ripped music. Load Crouton and Ubuntu Unity. Install the Software Center. Install Chromium. Download Google Music Manager for Linux. The rest is easy.

  5. Ed
    March 14, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    I read somewhere. Maybe on this website, that XBMC under Crouton doesn't work as well as it should because not all add-ons work as they would normally under Linux or Windows. Could it be that some dependencies XBMC needs for add-ons are not installed under Crouton.

    I would love to know how an Intel Chromebook/box handles HD video in both 720p and 1080p on XBMC in Crouton along with verification of working add-ons.

    • Daniel Price
      March 17, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      Hey Ed,

      Afraid I can't help, I don't use XMBC... Perhaps head over to MUO Answers and see if someone there can help you?


  6. uchefe atuyota
    March 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Hi, what about using a USB with portable apps except the chrome book is devoid of a USB port? I think unetbootin can do the trick.I agree we can check if libreoffice works

    • Daniel Price
      March 17, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      Hi Uchefe,

      My Chromebook has three USB ports, maybe older ones don't. LibreOffice works in a Crouton Linux install, I use it every day!


  7. maximiliam steffens
    March 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    as I have no way to buy and test a chromebook wanted to download an image to test, which Which version should I install?

    Chromium OS? > ? or Cr OS Linux,

    • Tyroniuz
      March 17, 2014 at 5:14 am

      Personally l would probably hit ubuntu with chromium installed. It's about as close as you can get without a lot of tweaking under the skin. If you are familiar with the different distros then you can get a bit closer fairly easy. If you are looking for easy ubuntu with synaptic package manager and chromium is about the fastest way to play, especially if you want to install it with windows.

  8. Carey Cummings
    March 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I love my Samsung chromebook, but the printing thing is a real deal breaker for some. I just transfer the to be printed file to an SD card and shove that into my printer. Most newer printers have at least an SD slot, if not wifi, which may be another alternative
    I have crouton installed on my chromebook, along with LibreOffice, but haven' tried to print from there. Has anyone tried this option?

    • Daniel Price
      March 14, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      I also have Crouton and LibreOffice, but haven't tried printing either. You might have just given me an article idea!


  9. Andrew
    March 14, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Don't forget the lack of efficient PDF annotation. I'm a student and the majority of our class notes are provided in PDF format. Unfortunately, Chrome OS lacks a native application for PDF annotation so I'm forced to rely on very poor web apps. I've tried all of the most popular apps in the chrome store and they are time consuming, full of bugs and lack full integration with drive. This lack of a very basic function is the biggest reason I've considered getting a more traditional laptop.

    • Daniel Price
      March 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Interesting... Not a function I have any requirement for, so I wasn't aware. I don't use Evernote, so I'm not sure, but would that not satisfy your needs?


    • Rick S
      March 14, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      That was another one I didn't mention because I do so little of it except at work. For my personal use, I have played with the webapps some and found that PDFEscape works ok aside from having ads on the free account. Better for me, for what little I need to do, is annotating pdfs in Google Drive and Evernote with Repligo Reader and the Evernote app respectively on my Android tablet. Nevertheless, it would be awesome to see at least some very basic annotation capabilities added to Chrome's built in pdf viewer.

  10. Ed
    March 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Just curious about a few things.
    1. How many GB does the actual Chrome OS take up on the SSD?
    2. Hearing how fast Chrome OS boots and shuts down, would adding more features to make it a more full-featured OS like Windows or Linux add to the "bloat" and slow it down considerably?

    I believe Google has their own custom version of Ubuntu used by employees. I wonder what they find missing in Chrome OS that resorts them to using their version of Ubuntu and if it wouldn't make sense for them to take what they find useful in their "Goobuntu" and add it to Chrome OS.

    If Chrome OS isn't useful enough for full time use for Google employees, how can they expect it to be for the rest of us?

    • Daniel Price
      March 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Hi Ed,

      1. Chrome OS itself takes 4GB-ish, though the cache, app data and other hidden data will use more.
      2. I don't think so. Because everything is cloud-based there is very little stored on the machine. At the moment I boot from power-off to login screen in 3/4 seconds. I have installed Linux and the speed hasn't changed.

      I'm not sure about the Ubuntu rumours, but if you are doing a lot of design and coding work Chromebooks aren't the best (yet!).


  11. Rick Shortt
    March 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Even though I am well aware of these limitations, and others, I have become infatuated with Chrome OS, and just pre-ordered one of the new Asus Chromeboxes this morning.

    I have already been trying to do as much as possible in Chrome on Windows experimenting with this, and listing things I will have to find another way to do. Some of my thoughts and issues are:

    1. I don't print hardly anything, but can use Cloud Print to connect to the printer at work. However, I would love to see some sort of scanner integration. With the move to the cloud, and going paperless somewhat related, it would be great to be able to scan documents from a Chromebook. My workaround is going to be using Google Drive or Evernote on an Android device. That will be OK for most documents, but certainly not for scanning pictures and images, something I am currently doing to all my old pre-digital photo albums. Going to have to keep firing up my Windows pc a while longer to finish that.

    2. Personally, I'm not worried about Skype, but I know other people are. I guess, once again, my workaround, if I needed it, would be Skype on Android.

    3. I agree that the Play Music uploading issue is ridiculous, and I have already been using the workaround you mention by having the Windows app monitor a folder in Google Drive that I temporarily place mp3s in until they appear in Play Music. Then I delete them from that folder if I am content to keep one copy in the cloud. Which I am with podcasts, maybe not quite that confident with songs I like just yet.

    4. Another semi-biggie is the current inability to create and open encrypted zip files. Seems like that would be pretty easy to add, since Chrome OS can already handle un-encrypted zip files.

    5. Since Chrome OS can connect to Bluetooth devices, it seems they could also add the ability to detect and connect via wifi with other networked devices on the same wifi, such as network connected storage. That is not really a major concern for me, but it would be nice.

    6. For the forseeable future, I will still have to boot up Windows on occasion to interface with my gps in order to change maps on it, upload and download gpx files, and to edit gpx files with the Expert GPS application. If I eventually upgrade to a newer gps that recognizes kmz files placed on its sd card though, I may be able to work around that limitation as well.

    Anyway, despite some challenges and limitations, I am excited about trying this rapidly evolving OS.

    • Daniel Price
      March 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      I think I read recently that Google were creating zip-file capabilities, so you might be able to cross that one off soon!


    • Rick S
      March 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      That would be great. I feel less apprehensive about certain files being in the cloud with zip encryption and it would be nice to be able to open them in Chrome OS. Right now, as with several limitations, I am going to fall back on Android, since ES File Explorer (among other apps) can create and open encrypted zips. I tried Boxcrytor on Android and didn't like it, and of course, TrueCrypt vaults are not going to be accessible from Chrome OS or Android, since you can't run the TrueCrypt application...

    • Greg C
      March 20, 2014 at 2:32 am

      RickS - for scanning you might want to pick up a cloud printer/scanner device. I picked up the Epson WF-2540 and found this feature. It will save scans directly to a cloud destination such as Google Drive or Evernote without the need to hook it up to a PC. It is really pretty slick - I can drop a document in the feeder, mash three buttons in sequence and the document ends up as a PDF on Google Drive. Its faster and easier than scanning with the PC. The Epson WF-2540 cost me $85 at Walmart so it won't break the bank. Check the specs to make sure it will meet your needs. Its not very fast and the largest sheet size it will scan is 8.5x11 so if you need to scan legal size sheets, that could be a problem. Still, it meets my home office scanning needs and if I need to scan something bigger, I'll drop by Kinkos.

      If I need to scan an image to a JPG file, I use a Doxie One portable scanner. The scanned image is saved to the Doxie's SD card and I pop that into the Chromebook card reader and move it over to Google Drive. From there I can tweak it in Pixlr.

    • Rick Shortt
      March 20, 2014 at 3:50 am

      Greg C - Thanks for the info. That really does seem pretty sweet as far as the wifi and cloud storage connectivity and the usb port go. It's a bigger device than I want, since it is also a printer, and I don't think it would be nearly as good as my Canon scanner for my pre-digital pics scanning project that I hope to finish in the next several weeks - but this or something similar is definitely something I will consider for the future if my experience with Chrome OS goes as well as I think it is going to. Another great solution!