Living with Chromebook: The Basics

Posted on August 19, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in iOS, Mobile with 110 Comments

Living with Chromebook: The Basics

In sharp contrast with my Windows 10 S experiences, Chromebook can be surprisingly usable. But there are many caveats: You need to pick the right device, you’ll have a much better experience if you’re not using G Suite, and you need to be open to using at least some Google products and services.

So let’s step through some of the basics.

Hardware

Most Chromebooks are fairly low-end devices, and 11-inch devices are very common. Good 13-to-15-inch devices are as expensive as mid-range PCs in most cases, and even then you’ll run into issues like display scaling (which is terrible). And keyboard backlighting is unusual, even on expensive Chromebooks. So set your sights accordingly, and be sure to read several reviews for any Chromebook you are considering.

Related to this is that few Chromebooks have access to Android apps today, and even fewer for those unwilling to use a beta/pre-release version of Chrome OS. So in addition to finding a device that means your needs, you will need to cross-shop it with Google’s list of Android-compatible Chromebooks. Even though it’s buggy, I consider Android app support to be a minimum for using a Chromebook, and I wouldn’t consider buying a device that did not support this functionality. All Chromebooks that ship in 2017 and beyond are Android-compatible, Google says.

On that note, my test rig is an Acer Chromebook 14 for Work. It’s a long-term loaner, and I waited for many months for Android app compatibility to arrive even in pre-release form. According to Google, this device needs to be in the Beta channel to use Android apps, and I do have mine configured for that. (Chrome OS supports Stable, Beta, and Dev channels, and I’ve never had any issues not being on Stable.)

The Acer Chromebook 14 for Work is mostly excellent. It’s expensive for a Chromebook: The base model, with a Core i3, costs about $475, but my Core i5-based loaner is about $550. It includes 8 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, both of which are on the high-end for a Chromebook, a 14-inch 1080p (1920 x 1080) IPS display, a decent backlit keyboard, 802.11ac and Bluetooth networking, a 720p webcam, and a great selection of ports: two full-sized USB 3.0, a full-sized HDMI-out, an SD card slot, and USB-C for power. The build quality is excellent, and that helps justify the price. I’m not a fan of the Gorilla Glass on the outside of the screen lid, but that’s aesthetic. It weighs 3.2 pounds and delivers a manufacturer-claimed 10 hours of battery life (which I have not tested).

Google account

You can’t really use a Chromebook without a Google account, which should be obvious. If this is an issue for you for some reason, you can simply look elsewhere.

Less obvious is that if you’re using a custom Google domain—meaning you’re paying for a G Suite account—then you are in for a world of hurt. Many Chromebook features are disabled by default on these accounts. And finding where to enable them—even understanding what they are—is very difficult. And in some cases, the setting you wish to enable doesn’t even exist. (PIN logon, for example.) In short, the G Suite admin console is a freaking disaster, especially for the normal people who have never encountered such an interface.

Using a Chromebook

For the most part, you will be pleasantly surprised by the Chromebook experience. This is especially true if you master a single feature called “Open as window,” which lets you open web apps in their own basic windows, rather than in Chrome web browser tabs. As with the similar functionality on Windows, this makes Chrome web apps look and work like native apps, and it really changes the experience into something more familiar and usable.

Beyond that, you will settle in immediately with the basic Chrome OS user interface. In lieu of Start, Chrome offers a Launcher interface that can be accessed from the Start button-like Launcher button in the taskbar or by pressing the Search key on the keyboard (which, on Chromebooks, replaces Caps Lock).

You can pin frequently-used apps on the taskbar, just like with Windows, and a tray area provides access to notifications, system information, Settings, and controls for powering down and locking the device. All of this should be immediately familiar to any Windows user, even with the slight differences. In fact, I find the Chrome OS interface to be more familiar, and friendlier and more usable, than that of macOS. Most keyboard shortcuts from Windows work as expected, but you will want to learn Chrome OS-specific shortcuts too.

Chromebook doesn’t offer a Windows Hello-type sign-in experience, though I’m told fingerprint readers are possible. For the most part, you will sign-in to the device using your full Google account password, which I find tedious. Thankfully, you can use Smart Lock for Chromebook (Beta) if you have an Android handset. Or you can enable PIN unlock, assuming you don’t have a G Suite account; I could not figure out how to enable this feature.

Maintenance, even for those on the Beta channel, is effortless and seamless, and updates are never disruptive. Performance is excellent, too: This machine, at least, boots in seconds when booting is necessary, and comes out of sleep instantly. I have never run into performance issues using the Acer, even with multiple apps and tabs open. (Android apps may be a different story. See below.)

On the downside, the Chrome OS UI is not scalable in an elegant way. What you can do is scale the entire display down to a lower resolution, which is desirable on my loaner unit. To do so, you type CTRL + SHIFT + – (that, CTRL and SHIFT and the minus key). On the Acer, this changes the resolution to 1536 x 864, which is actually quite nice looking in general. But the issue is that text in menus and other places remains very small; it’s like these UI elements do not scale. Whether this is an issue for you will depend on the hardware you select and, of course, your eyes.

Android apps

With the advent of Android apps on Chrome OS, Chromebook users have some interesting and confusing choices to make.

For example, in some cases, there are both Chrome web app and Android mobile app versions of a product or service you may want to use. The Android apps can be buggy and not play nice, especially with devices that do not support touch or provide a 2-in-1/tablet form factor. Some apps, for example, are designed only for a phone, and are OK running in a phone-shaped window but look terrible full-screen.

The list of things that are wrong with Android integration into Chrome OS is too long for me to bother with here. But the good news is that the situation is improving regularly as Google improves Chrome/Chrome OS and the list of compatible devices grows. Long story short, I will be writing more about this aspect of using a Chromebook soon as I feel that it is a key differentiator for the platform and is, potentially, a game changer. Just expect some problems and go into this with an experimental mindset.

Microsoft on Chromebook

Since I do focus largely on Microsoft and feel that its productivity solutions are superior to anything offered by Google or other third parties, I have always been particularly keen to see how well the firm’s solutions work on Chromebook. But this is becoming more complicated with the addition of Android app compatibility. In short, you’ll see a compromised experience on Chromebook, and you will want to test whether Microsoft’s web apps or Android apps make more sense for you. I could see using a mix.

But the problem for Microsoft, of course, is that many Chromebook switchers will simply expand their use of Google products and services because they are right there and are better integrated. Consider this one example. Chrome OS includes a Files app that works much like File Explorer in Windows. It offers integration with your Google Drive storage, as you’d expect, but it also lets you “mount” other cloud-based storage systems into the file system. Including, amazingly, OneDrive.

You won’t get sync with this arrangement, of course. But the ability to browse OneDrive from Files is great, and it means that apps can potentially save files there too. (This requires the app to know about Files, which is sadly often not the case.) The issue is that this mounting times out, forcing you to manually re-mount it. Which is really tedious, because you have to manually type in your username and password, and then handle whatever two-step authentication you set up. Every single time. Put simply, unusable.

A few other thoughts

Chromebook users reading through this article may notice a few points with which they disagree, where things don’t work the way I described for them. This type of thing is most likely caused by my use of a G Suite account, which really does screw up the experience badly. I did configure a normal Gmail account too, and I may have to switch to that on Chromebook to get the full, or correct, experience.

You’ll also note that I have not touched on the big complaint about Chromebook here, that it basically requires an Internet connection for a complete experience. This was certainly true in the early days of the platform, but it is less true now. And aside from local storage, I suspect that the offline Chromebook experience isn’t too much more unusable than, say, the offline Windows PC experience. But I have not tested this a lot in recent days. So I will do so soon. But let’s be honest here: The typical Chromebook user will use this device around their home almost exclusively, and Internet access is to be expected. It’s 2017.

As for Chromebook, I don’t anticipate turning this into a long series, and I won’t be using a Chromebook every single day as I am doing with Windows 10 S. But there are definitely some areas of exploration here, key among them Android app support, so it’s reasonable to assume I’ll have more to say soon. Let me know if there are any key topics you’d like to see me address.

But I will say this. I wrote this article entirely on the Chromebook, using Google Docs. I found and edited (using Pixlr Editor) the hero graphic entirely on the Chromebook. And I posted it to the website (via WordPress) using the Chromebook. This process was considerably easier—more natural and familiar—on the Chromebook than its been with Windows 10 S, and that’s true after three straight weeks of trying to make Windows 10 S work for me. This says a lot, I think, about the relative state of these platforms. And that is especially true when you consider that I am a Windows guy.

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Comments (110)

110 responses to “Living with Chromebook: The Basics”

  1. Avatar

    Daekar

    I'm starting to wonder if people realize how trivial journalistic computing needs are for work. I have done that kind of work on an Android phone with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, or on a $70 Windows tablet. It just doesn't take much power of any kind.



  2. Avatar

    Paul Thurrott

    Guys, I'm not interested in personal attacks. I will just delete those comments.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      For those of us paying for Premium memberships and leaving strong comments in the Premium comments, can you legally do so? I haven't noticed ANY links to terms of service for Premium memberships, so under US law, could you remove any premium comments without breaching the implied contract with paying members? Would you be refunding premium membership fees in full?

      If you want to place restrictions on what we can post, don't you need to post terms of service first? Premium at least isn't just a blog you can fully control. When you take our money, you incur some legal obligations you may come to find distasteful.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Personal attacks are not allowed. It's not a difficult concept.

        • Avatar

          hrlngrv

          In reply to paul-thurrott:

          Reasonable, but to repeat, where's your terms of service? If this were just a blog, NBD. You set your own rules. However, once you charge money for content and separate comment section, you're bound by US commercial law, no? That imposes many more requirements on you (or more to the point on Blue Whale Web) which you can't just brush off.

          • Avatar

            skane2600

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            Unless Paul explicitly told paying members the they have the right to unconditionally publish anything they want in the comment section, he's not under any legal obligation to allow it. If you want to waste your time and money feel free to talk to a lawyer about it.

            • Avatar

              hrlngrv

              In reply to skane2600:

              I'm not a lawyer, but I do know enough commercial law to know that ambiguity in terms is resolved in courts in favor of those who didn't or couldn't have set the terms and against those who did or could have set terms.

              Had there been only one comment section, I figure it'd be easier to take down comments. Since there are premium comments which only paying subscribers can post, and since there are no posted terms on what would be considered unacceptable, I figure slander and fighting words would be about all which could legally be removed.

              I think Blue Whale Web's own lawyers are better informed than either you or me about which comments would need to be left up on this site.

              • Avatar

                skane2600

                In reply to hrlngrv:

                You can't just assume what a business is required to deliver in exchange for a fee out of thin air. We all know that neither you or any other premium member is going to sue, so if you don't like it, don't renew your membership.

                • Avatar

                  hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  If that business doesn't bother to spell out its own terms of service, then by default it has accepted whatever the UCC baseline provides, and I don't have to guess about that.

                  You've never come across much US commercial law, have you?

                • Avatar

                  skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  I've decided (belatedly) this is a pointless argument so I'm not going to continue to comment on it.

        • Avatar

          Angusmatheson

          I am now and old man. I remember during the early days of the internet, it was a safe place where you would feel supported and find understanding people even if you couldn't in real life. What happened in the transition from message boards to comments and twitter to allow Trolls (dear hrIngvr - I am not calling you a troll, I do not know what you wrote. I can tell what you wrote hurt paul and his taking down your comment hurt you. But where I can read what people write online and I do see a lot of trolling - Intentionslly inflaming issues or attacking others). I really love this site because in general people are respectful of each other and their ideas I suspect part of that is because the readers here are awesome, but another is that Paul and Sam must work to keep the comments are forums appropriate and safe for everyone. I am thankful for everyone for making this a great community. This feels like the good old days - a bunch of nerds geeking out together online. reply to paul-thurrott:


    • Avatar

      StephenCWLL

      In reply to paul-thurrott:


      It all depends on how personal people get. If someone calls Paul a Microsoft lover on in bed with Microsoft or not very good at his job, that's one thing. If they call him anything stronger, then I don't see any problem with deleting such comments. No good comes with insulting people.


  3. Avatar

    John Armwood

    I am quite disappointed with a number of your conclutionary statements and findings found in this review. To set a baseline for my comments I must state that I have been using Chrome OS since the first Samsung Chromebook in 2011-2012, I have had a Windows computer since the DOS days and first used a Mac in 1991. I own a Surface Pro 4, a MacBook Pro and a MacBook 2016 plus an Android and an IOS tablet. Your cursory dismissal of Mac OS is downright factually in error and ludicrous on it's face. Obviously you do not have enough experience with the OS to judge it. Then you state this about Chrome OS. "And in some cases, the setting you wish to enable doesn’t even exist. (PIN logon, for example.) In short, the G Suite admin console is a freaking disaster, especially for the normal people who have never encountered such an interface." Pin logon on a Chromebook is quite simple. Go to settings, then go to screen lock, input your password then follow the prompts for setting up a six digit pin. I use one on my Pixel LS, my Samsung Chromebook Plus and my Asus C302A.


    Android phone unlocking is a one click affair. Android apps generally work without hitch on chromebooks but for productivity the Google online suite works better with a keyboard and track pad than the Android touch oriented apps. The touch productivity apps are simular to that on Microsoft Surface hybrids which means not very good. I prefer the web version of Evernote over the Android version because it has more features like easy drag and drop but there is a Chrome Web Store version that also has this and other web features. I gave a subscription with the G Suite but I do not use it with my Chromebooks.


    In closing I believe that a good reviewer should start from a platform ignostic playing field and learn the device he is using in context. The Chromebook 14, which does not offer a touch interface, is obviously not suited for reviewing Chrome OS with Android apps. I suggest better preparation for any further reviews on Chrome OS or and other operating system.

  4. Avatar

    dcdevito

    It seems nothing makes a Microsoft fanboy angrier than a Chromebook, yet now there's Windows 10 S. I don't personally use one anymore, as now all I use is my OnePlus 5 and my custom built desktop running Win10 Pro. But they're great machines for what they offer, especially at their price point. I have many family members and friends using them now and they're maintenance free. My wife uses one at work (teacher) and she bought one for personal use at home. They're awesome machines, albeit were a bit ahead of their time (ermergerd it's just a browser derp derp). They're cheap, fast and secure. hard to beat.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to dcdevito:

      I think the suitability of Chromebooks comes down to two things availability and your workflow.

      In Germany, and many other countries, Chromebooks are noticeable by their absence; I think the high-point was with the ARM based Samsung Chromebook, for $599 on Amazon, which just crept into the top 50 best selling laptops about 6 months after its launch, I haven't seem any other Chromebook creep into the top 100.

      And workflow - apart from research and finding information, I don't really use the web. I would say 98% of my workflow (excluding looking up material on knowledgebases) is Windows or Linux based and by that I mean using local applications.

      Many of the ERP systems I've used haven't had a web front end or the web front end is severily limited and the manufacturer actually recommends using the thick client. Most of the VOIP telephone exchanges I've used have thick clients for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, but no web front-end.

      Most of our users use tools like Autocad, which, again, don't really have a webapp alternative. We use the full MS Office suite, again, locally. The web versions are too restrictive - and the data has to be stored "on-site"/locally for contractual reasons, so saving to the cloud isn't an option.

  5. Avatar

    wunderbar

    I have a Windows 10 desktop computer and a Chromebook as a living room/travel machine.


    For all of the tasks I need/want to do on a laptop, Chrome OS is 100% fine.

  6. Avatar

    John Scott

    It is coming down to choosing a ecosystem OS on the desktop like mobile. You have Android and IOS on mobile, and Windows 10S, Google Chrome OS, and Mac OS. Neither Mac OS or Windows has done well with a store front app store so far. I do not know of too many Mac users who lock down their Mac's to only the Mac OS store. As Paul said about Windows 10S its a work in progress that's not ready. Chrome OS at least has a semblance of progress in apps and adding Android apps might help. No matter what you choose you must choose wisely based on what you use in apps and how that works within these ecosystems.

  7. Avatar

    iPetr

    Interesting, I actually wanted to buy Cromebook for Work about a year ago before I got my work laptop and that is enough for me. Still seem like a good HW.

    On the other hand, it looks like you are holding Chromebooks to much lower standart than Windows 10S. Have you any any issues installing drivers(you marked that as an issue with Win10S)? Possibility to print? Problems with Android apps running on the platform?

    I do not want to put Win10S and Chrome OS on the same level, but expectations from users are probably very similar...

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to iPetr:

      Windows 10 S is a crippled version of Windows 10. It looks like Windows 10 but cannot run Windows applications or (as you are apparently trying to point out) the custom apps that come with hardware drivers.


      This is a different OS from a different company that is designed to just work. It does less, for sure, at least compared to full Windows. But compared to Windows 10 S? I think it does more.

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        But lack of scanning tools etc. will be the same issue, whether you are using 10S or Chromebook, I would assume. So either Chromebook needs to be put down in the category of external hardware, drivers and utilities or it needs to be pointed out that such things "just work", compared to Windows 10S.

        • Avatar

          hrlngrv

          In reply to wright_is:

          I don't have Windows 10 S, so no first-hand knowledge, but I figure it has all the bundled desktop applets and optional features as MSFT-signed software which it does run. That would include Windows Fax & Scan.

          Then again, most recently manufactured scanners have usb ports and can scan to files stored in usb drives. Do that, then remove the usb drive from the scanner and plug it into a Chromebook, and the Chromebook would have all the scanned files. Crude, but it works in a way.

  8. Avatar

    plettza

    So I can go to the Google Play Store and download and install Office 365?


    Surely I must be able to print to my network printer on this Chromebook?


    You also mention a buggy Android app experience on Chromebook; does Windows S have a buggy UWP experience or can I just run UWP apps on it without the drama?

  9. Avatar

    paulkocz

    I think part of the problem is that you are trying to use Windows S as a Windows machine. How about trying to use Windows S like you did the Chromebook. Try entirely using the browser and see if the workflow is the same. What you have described can be done exactly the same (minus using Chrome as the browser) on Windows S or even Windows Pro/Home. Maybe you are trying too hard on a Windows machine as that is the workflow you are used to. I see this same problem when users use Mac and Windows. They don't like the other OS because it messes with their workflow.

  10. Avatar

    polymath

    in my humble opinion ..android.. for chrome,, is a step BACKWARDS


    I think google should be concentrating on the web page future with tools for WEBASM, Progressive web app's and WEB hardware


    Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome - are all compatible with this future.....


    Its easier to write an "APP" for a web page, that works on any machine, any operating system using one of those browsers,,, instead of the ciaos of today writing windows, apple ios, iPhone, android, and maintaining all of them, crazy?

  11. Avatar

    mortarm

    What I'd like is to have touch shortcuts when I'm not in keyboard mode. Preferably using the on-screen keyboard.

    >...the offline Chromebook experience isn’t too much more unusable than, say, the offline Windows PC experience.

    Really? 'Cause I have no problem using my PC offline. Like when I'm using Photoshop or Premiere or Audacity or Blender or... Well, you get the idea. I'm surprised you'd make such a statement.

    • Avatar

      polymath

      In reply to mortarm: All societies have popular technologies which then become "supported" even fraught for,,, there has been Microsoft DOS that became windows then a change to NT and now another change to UWP's
      another is becoming apparent, the use of just web pages rendered by a browser in a device that "looks" like a conventional laptop from the windows or apple groups mentioned earlier.
      off line is mentioned in the latter group simply because originally web only ment online only, then technologies were added to allow some off line working to take place.
      think of moving from live music to Edison cylinders then disks then CD's and mp3 tracks ,, now subscription services were you have access to all the content and play lists become important
      Chromebooks, i'm typing this on a Chromebook no fuss technology,, "..it just works .."


  12. Avatar

    Tony Barrett


    I'd argue many of these points. I've been using an Acer 12" 'touch' Chromebook since 2013 - it's still working fine and is as fast as it was when new. It's not getting Android apps - not that I'm worried. It's never had malware or a virus, it patches and reboots instantly and all of this in 2GB RAM and 16GB Flash. There are quite a few descent Chrome apps, but all the Google services work perfectly.

    Maybe if your coming from Windows, and have a lot of apps your dependent on you'd have a potential problem, but for basic Internet usage (which 90% of Internet usage is), it's perfect, and if many gave them a chance, you'd find out this too. Most reviews I've read of people who tried using Chromebooks as their main machine were pleasantly surprised. You can even run GOffice or Office 365 on them without a hitch.

  13. Avatar

    polymath

    may i say the Chromebook in this article is the exception to the rule,


    most Chromebooks are 11.6 inches 1366*768 pixels LED-lit Screen win an ARM cpu, 2..4GB ram and 16..32GB SSD,, If you want to explore the "ordenry" Chromebook experience,, look for the ASUS C201PA, preferably with 4GB, amazon still have some $189.99,, I've used one every day for a year,, a real work horse,,, and before some one says its only a quad core ARM,, remember its just a terminal... it dose not do any of the work, which is performed in the server farms on fast scalable computing resources.


    An example, optical character recognition, OneNote used to perform this locally on the windows PC, now it has been moved to OneDrive which means even a mobile phone can snap a photo of a document and have searchable text moments later. I believe the same is true of Google Drive.

  14. Avatar

    polymath

    it was a mistake to call chrome on the Chromebook, "OS", as it gives all the wrong impressions,, people then start comparing chrome books with laptops, which they are not!


    LOOK for "PDP-11/40 Computer and ASR-33 Teletype" on you tube,, an old computer, a length of wire and a TERMINAL teletype. Today we use WiFi as the connection from the Chromebook to the internet and the "cloud" based server's as the computing resources.


    The Chromebook is a modern TERMINAL

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to polymath:

      It's not quite that simple. Many web apps use JavaScript that runs on the client machine, not on the server. The rendering of pages is also done on the client. That requires at least an order of magnitude more processing than dumping ASCII to a CRT or teletype.

      • Avatar

        polymath

        In reply to skane2600: ok,,
        a Chromebook can display a media stream with sound from YouTube, google movies, Netflix without hiccups or glitches,, and since they are on 802.11 b/g/n/ac or 4G cell connections the data connection is not a problem,,,
        i was trying to convey all the real work is done on the servers, so if they were producing a moving image of some complexity the Chromebook is sufficiently fast enough to display it, That it dose not need i3 or i5 processors with 8GB of memory....
        incidentally my humble Asus C201, has a HDMI port, and can display movies streamed from the internet, not saved in flash, while allowing the user to edit documents, watch YouTube at the same time,, it dose not seem to suffer from speed issues of that sort.


        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to polymath:

          I didn't claim that Chromebooks had insufficient processing power, just that they aren't analogous to classic terminals or teletypes. There are certainly cases where the per client processing power on the server required for a web activity is less than the processing required on the client. Streaming may very well be such a case since the server only has to transmit the data while the client both has to receive the data and render it.

  15. Avatar

    polymath

    NOTE,, if you have the Chrome browser on your apple MAC or windows PC ,


    you can log into the browser with your google account and have much the same experience as a chrome book user ...


  16. Avatar

    polymath

    the Mark 2, chrome books are beginning to appear,


    360 hinge, TOUCH & INK ( Wacom Pen ), camera in the keyboard for Tablet mode, more memory for Android.


    example,, search for.... and on YouTube >>>> "Acer Chromebook Spin 11"

    ( Education versions may have Wacom pressure sensitive Pen's )

    ( don't get confused with the earlier acer R11 )


  17. Avatar

    polymath

    Chromebooks are full of keyboard short cuts.... press CTRL ALT ? ... ESC to quit,, press the CTRL, ALT, SHIFT,, keys to see all the combinations.


    Also use CTRL ? to get the ONLINE help panel .. which is searchable


    UI elements do not scale - realy?

    SHIFT ALT S,,, press the cog wheel,, type FONT into the search bar... "font size" small, medium "recommended",, Large,, Very Large ,,,


    Also in that panel is "Page Zoom" ... 80..90..100..110..125 etc...

  18. Avatar

    polymath

    Android APPS are already avilable for all Chromebooks,, Goto the chrome store and click "avilable for Android"" many of these are android apps in "containers" much like windows store on windows 10 S
  19. Avatar

    ErichK

    Can't we just rewind back to the days of East Germany where there is only one OS? Then we wouldn't be debating which one to use. :)

  20. Avatar

    dave0

    Paul, stop the maddness! Chromebooks, Windows 10S, these are dead-ends for most people in their current form. Everyone needs Win32 apps at some point, and mainsteam laptops are already cheap enough.


    Stop the insanity!!!


    :)

  21. Avatar

    StephenCWLL

    I'm confused. When are Android apps actually coming to Chromebooks? It feels like ages ago it was announced and still it seems to be delayed?

  22. Avatar

    ponsaelius

    There is a strange circularity here. Windows 10 S is there to compete with Chromebooks but it doesn't run Chrome. Many UWP apps are now web wrappers. If Chrome is part of your workflow and you are faced with Windows 10 S or Chromebooks then the Chromebook may now have the edge and, with Android support, it will have a major app ecosystem.


    Releasing a version of Windows without the ability to run traditional Windows apps and with a poor choice in the Windows Store may push people to the Chromebook.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to ponsaelius:

      It is a chicken and egg situation for Microsoft. They want to push people to use the app store, but until there are a significant number of users using the app store, the apps won't be there, if there aren't any apps, people won't use the store...

  23. Avatar

    djross95

    This is a great article, Paul, very much appreciated. I'm generally a Windows guy as well, but have an Android phone and have been thinking about Chromebooks for a while. Once you power-wash a Chromebook and fully restore it in less than 5 minutes, it's hard to look at Windows (or a Mac) the same way again! The issue of Android apps (particularly those from MS) and how well they run in ChromeOS is front and center with me, so I'll be looking forward to future articles of this type from you.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to djross95:

      Thanks ... I've been using various Chromebooks for a while now, but not regularly. I'm kind of surprised by how well it seems to work now. But I'm not sure if it's a reaction to Windows 10 S, which is terrible. Or just that Chrome OS has improved to the point where it works well enough.

  24. Avatar

    dontbe evil

    "You can’t really use a Chromebook without a Google account, which should be obvious. If this is an issue for you for some reason, you can simply look elsewhere."


    Funny if it's up to google is obvious and not an issue...when comes to ms and windows of course is the other way around


    "I wrote this article entirely on the Chromebook, using Google Docs. I found and edited (using Pixlr Editor) the hero graphic entirely on the Chromebook. And I posted it to the website (via WordPress) using the Chromebook. This process was considerably easier—more natural and familiar—on the Chromebook than its been with Windows 10 S, and that’s true after three straight weeks of trying to make Windows 10 S work for me."


    this made me roll on the floor from laughing

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to dontbe_evil:

      I literally don't understand anything you wrote.


      I've praised Microsoft for making it easier, over time, to use Windows 10 without a Microsoft account. You can sign into individual apps (except Chrome), which I like.


      What is funny about the quoted text? It's true.

      • Avatar

        dontbe evil

        In reply to paul-thurrott:


        Can I have more details about this?


        "using the Chromebook. This process was considerably easier—more natural and familiar—on the Chromebook than its been with Windows 10 S"


        how differ in this case Windows 10 S from Windows 10? is a chromebook more familiar than windows 10 too? Is it more familiar than years of using Windows?

    • Avatar

      Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to dontbe_evil:

      Sorta makes the case that there might be a lot of people out there that don't need much more than a Chromebook to do quite a few things.

      • Avatar

        James Wilson

        In reply to Darmok N Jalad:


        A lot of non-techy people out there want to use a PC because 1/ It's got a bigger screen! That's pretty much it for the general population and the reason why Android / Chrome apps won't do so well - they were never designed to scale well.


        If you also look at non-techy users and how they use their machines, the majority of their work could be done on any platform (email, web browsing) but each of these people have a 1% need for something unusual. This is usually to do with some form of document e.g. they are sent a document to fill out, they have to scan and email a document for some reason etc or they want to print out a document (usually having been sent in Word or PDF). They generally (from first hand experience) get upset when they can't do this easily.

  25. Avatar

    CajunMoses

    This author has used a much harsher tone in the past when reviewing Chrome OS devices. But, I can't say that he hasn't been more or less fair, at least for a Windows fan. Suddenly though, he seems to take a somewhat conciliatory tone. Still, I do take issue on a couple of points. First, with one exception, I seldom see any advantage to setting up shortcuts to start Web apps windowed instead of in tabs. The exception is when the app needs a lot of scrolling. So that's mostly Docs and Sheets. And that's because you get more app area when you eliminate all the the stuff that lives at the top of the browser. But, I admit, windowed apps may feel more comfortable and familiar for people who aren't accustomed to using Web apps. The other issue that I have with the article has to do with scaling text size. Chrome OS has an accessibility feature that you can enable that allows you to use the Ctrl+Alt and the brightness-up and brightness-down buttons. I love it and use it often.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to CajunMoses:

      I think there is some confusion on the text size issue. Obviously Chrome does a great job of scaling text in a web page. What I mean is the UI. The little menu that pops up when you click in the tray area, for example. Those UI bits do not scale well.

  26. Avatar

    timo47

    "I wrote this article entirely on the Chromebook, using Google Docs. I found and edited (using Pixlr Editor) the hero graphic entirely on the Chromebook. And I posted it to the website (via WordPress) using the Chromebook. This process was considerably easier—more natural and familiar—on the Chromebook than its been with Windows 10 S, and that’s true after three straight weeks of trying to make Windows 10 S work for me."


    I'd really like to know what it is about Windows 10 S that does not allow you to type a few paragraphs of text and do some slight editing on a picture? What about the Chroomebook made this easier and more natural and familiar?

    • Avatar

      SvenJ

      In reply to timo47: What makes it easier and more familiar is that Paul does all his work in Chrome running on a Windows machine. That's the biggest issue with Win 10 S apparently, it can't run Chrome so he is forced to actually use Windows. /s


      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        In reply to SvenJ:

        So ... Not exactly.


        I bet I spend most of my time writing, and I do that in MarkdownPad, which is a Win32 app.


        On Windows 10 S, I use Appy Text, which is good. Good enough that I paid for it.


        On Chrome, however, I use Minimalist Markdown Editor, which works more like MarkdownPad. But it's a Chrome web app.


        I do prefer Chrome to Edge. But whatever, I can use Edge for the most part. A temporary issue is that Adobe Photoshop Elements doesn't work in Windows 10 S right now for some reason. When they fix that, it will be a nice plus for me in Windows 10 S. And 10 S does of course have Paint, which I like (and use).


      • Avatar

        Jorge Garcia

        In reply to SvenJ:

        Even though I love Windows personally (I detest it as an OS for the general population), I'm the first one to say that life would be a lot worse without Chrome. Sure, on most PC's you MUST install a tab/memory manager as an add-on to keep at least some of your RAM available for other things!, but other that that, Chrome is completely indispensable.

        • Avatar

          James Wilson

          In reply to JG1170:

          It's weird how we each have different requirements. I am a Windows and Mac person and have no Android / Google / products. I absolutely don't have Chrome at all on any of my desktops / laptops / phone.


          So for me - I really don't care about Chrome. Obviously, for others, particualrly if you have an Android Phone - Chrome / Google becomes the centre of your universe (just what google wants! ;-)

          • Avatar

            Jorge Garcia

            In reply to James_Wilson:

            The day that Google's oppression becomes too noticeable or intolerable, I will jump ship as I have no allegiance to them. But for now, Chrome is just awesome. Everything just works exactly as it should, 100% of the time. And Google Photos is so awesome that it literally changes how you take and deal with your photos. It turns it into a perfect and modern, hassle-free experience, all for "free" :).

      • Avatar

        Username

        In reply to timo47: Paul does all his work in Chrome ... the biggest issue with Win 10 S apparently, it can't run Chrome


        What Chrome or web features he'd need that Edge cannot facilitate?

        • Avatar

          Paul Thurrott

          In reply to Username:

          I've written about this a lot. The big issue is that Edge can't let web apps run like apps in windows (outside of the browser).

          • Avatar

            Chris_Kez

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            You were the first person to show me this tip, and since my company went all-in on Google last year I've been running Gmail, Google Calendar, Chat and Photos as "apps" in their own chrome-free windows. Over this time I've led dozens of Google training sessions for hundreds of colleagues (and quite a few friends and family) and I always share this tip.

            Amazingly, not a single person I've ever showed this to was aware of it. I've had a handful of people come back and say they love it, but most folks just kind of shrugged and said they didn't think it was any better or worse than just having it in a tab (or pinning a tab).

            The complete lack of awareness, and the generally "meh" response among my little sample group leads me to think this might actually be a fairly niche bit of functionality. So while you and I love it, I'm thinking its absence in Edge might not be a notable deterrent for the population at large (at least not compared to things like Edge's smaller library of extensions and absence on iOS and Android). Just my $0.02

          • Avatar

            James Wilson

            In reply to paul-thurrott:


            It's interesting that both google and Microsoft and Google are looking at this (web apps). Microsoft is using Project Westminster to try to do this though, rather than letting Edge do it natively - so apps like LinkedIn, Amazon use the Project Westminster bridge.


            As you say, next stage is to allow Edge to do this natively, with Windows Hello, notification integration right from Edge (via the website itself).

  27. Avatar

    skane2600

    "Even though it’s buggy, I consider Android app support to be a minimum for using a Chromebook, and I wouldn’t consider buying a device that did not support this functionality. "


    If Android support is a minimum requirement then they'rd be no value to ChromeOS and all those schools who bought Chromebooks made a mistake. Presumably a better solution would have been to make Android more "laptop compatible" and skip ChromeOS altogether. Or Paul might just be wrong :)

  28. Avatar

    Watney

    Paul, if you want to do a follow-on article, and one that's applicable for Microsoft customers, please consider the following: back when Anroid on Chrome OS was first introduced, you could install Microsoft Office Apps on the Chromebook Pixel, the first device that supported Android apps. Abruptly, Microsoft disabled Office Apps in the Google Play Store for ALL Chromebooks.

    Two years on, you still cannot install Office Apps on most Chromebooks that support Android. I can't install Office Apps on my Pixel and my HP 13 G1. The apps are disabled in the Store. Microsoft permits Office Apps on only a handful of Chrome OS devices.

    What we want to know, and "we" is the large community of Chromebook users, is this: what are Microsoft's plans for Office on Chrome OS?

    Will I ever be able to use the Android Office Apps on my Chromebook Pixel? HP 13 G1? Which Chromebooks are currently supported? What, pray tell, is Microsoft's policy!!?

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Watney:

      The Office apps for Android work fine. I'm not sure what you mean? Is this something that is specific to certain devices?

    • Avatar

      UbelhorJ

      In reply to Watney: I have the Office apps on my Chromebook Plus. I put it in developer mode and installed them from the APKs. In Microsoft's defense, they really were quite crap a few months ago, and still aren't perfect. They really don't seem to understand running inside ChromeOS, and ironically couldn't handle being in a window instead of full screen. You can use them with a mouse, but clicks interpreted as a finger touch, so some parts of the UI are just ...weird. Until recently, you couldn't even scroll using the mouse!

      Just today I couldn't take it anymore and put my Chromebook on the beta build so I could get Android 7.1.1. which seems to work much better. It still won't allow any Android apps to see the SD card though. Ugh!

      If Microsoft does actually want Office apps to run on ChromeOS, I think they're waiting for Google to get things sorted out. The vast majority of Chromebooks can't run Android apps at all, and most of those that can are still running Android 6. No point in supporting such a small potential user base when Google is still rapidly changing things.



    • Avatar

      djross95

      In reply to Watney: Great comment, and one that I'd want to know the answer to as well!


  29. Avatar

    Jorge Garcia

    I'm incessantly flabbergasted by Google's dropping of the ball in the last 5 years. They initially got everybody in the world to get a Gmail account, and then they got 85%+ of the world using Android phones....then they stopped there. They could have created a pervasive, good, UNIFIED messaging platform like WeChat, but they didn't. All we got was a jumble of half-assed messaging platforms. They could have taken the Android mobile-only OS and morphed it into a dynamic OS that worked well on whatever type of Computer you have, but they didn't, giving MS yet another lease on life (in the consumer world at least, where they no longer belong). In fact, Android itself is a marketing blunder because normal people don't even "get" that it's a Google product, they just think of it as a poor-man's iOS. If I were Google, I would have renamed Android into "G-System" or GoogleOS or G-Whatever a long time ago, and started partnering with PC makers to relegate Windows to 20% market share. Instead they made wonky and crippled ChromeOS.

    • Avatar

      Stooks

      In reply to JG1170:

      I agree that Google offerings and their direction is confusing at best. There is Android and Chrome OS. There has been talk/beta testing of a replacement for both but that was killed off recently?


      The messaging solution for Android is a train wreck now. Android messenger, Allo, Hangouts, Duo etc.


      Should we use Gmail or Inbox? Inbox was the rage and then they stopped pushing that. There are apps for each, what is the direction?? Will one be phased out?


      The worst mess is music/video. There are apps for youtube, Google Play, youtube music and youtube tv. In some or all of those you get youtube red. Subscriptions for those are a mess as well. If you buy Google Play music you get youtube red. Or if you buy Youtube red you get Google Play music but with neither do you get youtube tv.


      Google photos is great! My fear is they will get bored with it and it will wither and die at some point.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to JG1170:

      You should consider the possibility that Android can no more reduce Windows to 20% of PCs as Windows 10 S could reduce all other Windows SKUs to 20%. There's a mountain range of Win32 desktop software most Windows PC users want to continue using. I suspect a lot of those software titles have no Android equivalents.

      • Avatar

        Jorge Garcia

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        You're right, I was a bit hyperbolic with that number, but honestly, outside of SOME business cases, there are fewer and fewer reasons every day for normal, non-techie people to fire up a general-purpose OS. I do believe that had Google made a credible Windows alternative (that happened to play perfectly nice with your phone) and partnered with HP/Dell, etc, they could have stolen a large percentage of Desktop/Laptop purchases for use in the home. Naturally, as it gained market share, Android developers would have started tweaking their Apps to have different modes that could look and work better on a desktop as well. I cringe so much when I go to Best Buy in 2017 and still see grandmothers buying Windows PC's so they can browse their favorite knitting websites and watch youtube. I know that a lot of suffering awaits them. An android based Desktop or laptop would serve them a million times better, but it doesn't exist yet. I believe project fuchsia will eventually solve this problem, about 8-10 years too late.

        • Avatar

          hrlngrv

          In reply to JG1170:

          I'd like to have DOSBox at least to run really old software. There were some things which came out on CDs in the early 1990s, e.g., National Geographic archives by decade, which I still want to use (not every day, but more than once a year).

          I'm not convinced people want to run much Android software on non-mobile devices. I may be wrong, but I figure phones are good for some apps for which PCs are poor and vice versa. I just don't believe Android PCs are the answer to a problem anyone is having.

          • Avatar

            Jorge Garcia

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            Please visit the Samsung DeX website and imagine how nice it would be (for non-techie people) if you didn't need any specific phone to run that beautiful version of android; it was just a standalone OS in a desktop puck or in a clamshell. I can name at least 6 people in my life who desperately need something like that...they can't use windows without either messing it up or experiencing a lot of misery, or both.

          • Avatar

            Jorge Garcia

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            Android in it's current form, no, it is not desirable on a PC. But had it been slowly evolving over the last 5 years, there'd be enough available "optimized" software to satisfy 80% of home users. And yes there is a big problem. My 75 year old mother strains her eyes to accomplish things (all day long) on a smartphone because there is no laptop available that works like a real desktop, but with the trouble-free OS of a mobile device. She will never go back to true windows as long as ANY alternative method is available, even if it means squinting and typing with her thumbs. I see this sad scenario every day, and everywhere I go. The fact that you even know what DOSBox is means that you that you are not the target audience for what I speak of.

            • Avatar

              hrlngrv

              In reply to JG1170:

              Your mother couldn't get by with a Chromebook or Chromebox with large monitor? What Android software is must-have for her which has no web app alternative?

              As for DOSBox, anyone who wants to run 16-bit DOS or Windows software needs it these days. The odd thing is people still using 16-bit software. In my case, National Geographic isn't likely to upgrade the software which came with their CDs from over 2 decades ago, and I'm not going to buy the same content again.

              • Avatar

                Jorge Garcia

                In reply to hrlngrv:

                ChromeOS is dissimilar enough to a mobile OS that I know she would not use it, she would revert to squinting and pecking on her phone in a week. I am in search of the perfect balance of mobile/laptop, meaning I want it to have the entire Google Play Store, just as it is on Android, but still navigate somewhat like Windows does. This is not an impossible nor unreasonable request as RemixOS, PhoenixOS and DeX all do this balancing act very nicely. I just want GOOGLE to do it officially, and couple it with a decent piece of official hardware (G-laptop). Google almost had it right with the Pixel C, but they left Android stock, instead of optimizing it for some trackpad/mouse use. ChromeOS with APK support is not good enough, it feels like a hack because it is. Normal people don't want that.

                • Avatar

                  hrlngrv

                  In reply to JG1170:

                  I don't see it in Google's financial interest to take the lead on this. Or if Google did, their own Android laptops would cost over US$1,000 like their Pixel Chromebooks. Google doesn't need a loss-leader, so don't hold your breath expecting one from them.

                • Avatar

                  Jorge Garcia

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  All they'd have to do is buyout Jide and rebrand/keep tweakng RemixOS. Why wouldn't the same model as Android work for them here? It is just Android on a larger format device with a keyboard and trackpad support, and some UI adjustments to reflect the use case? Google just wants your data, they can give the OS to third parties just as they do with Android. Chromebooks are simply off-putting to many and I know why. If it simply worked like your phone does in some key areas, people would simply gravitate to it. Unfortunately for Android/Windows fans like myself, Apple, of all companies seems to now understand this about humans, which is why they are slowly morphing iOS into something that will work decently well in a clamshell form factor. When they eventually make their "iBook", it will sell like hotcakes.

                • Avatar

                  Angusmatheson

                  I agree that a touch based OS - Android or iOS - would work well with a mouse and keyboard, while I do not think mouse and keyboard based OS work well on touch (although a pen really helps the biggest problem - the targets are too small for the finger.) Mobile based OS (touch, locked down to store, ARM based so long battery life) on laptop would be great for lots of people. The mobile 2-1 - I've just used iPad Pro and messed with microsofts and never the pixil C or Samsungs) just don't seem to work for me. Not quite a tablet not quite a laptop. So maybe a mobile OS laptop should be like that but more? In reply to JG1170:


  30. Avatar

    UbelhorJ

    ChromeOS is actually very good at scaling. It's just labeled very stupidly. When you lower the resolution, it's actually just changing the scaling. The "resolution" you pick is the effective resolution at that scaling level. If I lower the resolution on my Chromebook Plus all the way to 600x400, it's still super crisp and clearly still rendering at 1440p.

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