One of the biggest complaints about Google’s Chromebooks in their lack of ‘regular’ software that Windows and Mac users are accustomed to. While we have long-espoused the virtues of stateless web-based computing, it is an unfortunate truth that if you require specialist software for your job or hobby then a Chromebook would not make an adequate primary machine.
A particular area where Chromebooks have lagged behind traditional computers is in their lack of a functional and reliable BitTorrent client. BitTorrents used to be vilified as the domain of illegal music downloads and pirated films, yet they are increasingly being used by reputable companies as an effective and efficient method of distributing software. If you’re not sure what a torrent file is, try reading MakeUseOf’s free Torrent Guide eBook.
Has the Chrome OS finally managed to catch up to its rival operating systems to provide a high-quality BitTorrent client? MakeUseOf investigates…
JSTorrent is not free, but it is the original and arguably the best BitTorrent client available in the entire Chrome Web Store.
Available for €2.29, the app can handle files up to several gigabytes in size and can comfortably run on the lower-end Chromebooks which use an ARM processor rather than an Intel one.
The app is equipped with a media player which can stream files as they are downloaded, and has the ability to download files directly into either a Chromebook’s Downloads folder or onto an attached external hard drive.
Despite critics’ beliefs that Chromebooks don’t work offline, this app is yet another one to add to the ever-growing list that do work when you’re not connected to the Internet. The offline functionality means you can view and manage your torrents at any time, which is useful if you are dealing with a long list of concurrent downloads. Finally, as you would expect with any traditional client, JSTorrent allows you to select which files within the torrent you want to download and also supports private trackers.
A January 2014 update saw the introduction of a new, clearer user interface along with sortable columns and computer standby prevention. The developer has indicated they plan to continue adding new features over the coming months with the aim of making the app mirror a typical desktop client experience as closely as possible.
Using the app is simple and straightforward. Once you find the link to a torrent you want to download, just open JSTorrent and paste it into the search bar. Alternatively, you can download a torrent file directly onto your machine and open it using JSTorrent, which will then begin the download process.
If you don’t want to pay for the app you can find the latest beta version on GitHub, though you will be required to unpack an extension every time you reboot your device. It also goes without saying that a beta version may also have bugs and issues that are not present in the main stable release on the Chrome Web Store.
If you don’t want to pay for JSTorrent and you are not comfortable using GitHub, there is no need to worry – you still have options available to you.
Bitford is slowly gaining popularity as an alternative client, though with approximately 5,000 users it still trails well behind JSTorrent which has almost 20,000 users.
The extension is designed to allow playback of media files while they are being downloaded and also provides you with the ability to save files both locally on your Chromebook and in your online Google Drive space. One drawback is that the extension does not currently support magnet link integration.
The app has an extensive user interface, giving experienced BitTorrent users plenty of customisable settings whilst still working ‘out of the box’ for less confident users or those who have no interest in tweaking and modifying the settings.
Which BitTorrent clients do you use on your Chromebook? Have you downloaded torrent files with either JSTorrent or Bitford? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.