It's definitely possible to use the Raspberry Pi 3 as a work or home PC but, as I found out, there are some stumbling blocks you may run into.
Here are the tips that I found useful in getting the most out of the Pi 3 and its official Raspbian OS.
A decent alternative to Epiphany and Iceweasel when it comes to handling such sites and services is Chromium - the open-source browser that Chrome is based on.
To install Chromium open the terminal and enter the following commands:
sudo dpkg -i chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra_48.0.2564.82-0ubuntu0.15.04.1.1193_armhf.deb
sudo dpkg -i chromium-browser-l10n_48.0.2564.82-0ubuntu0.15.04.1.1193_all.deb chromium-browser_48.0.2564.82-0ubuntu0.15.04.1.1193_armhf.deb
Thanks to Kusti in the Raspberry Pi forums, whose advice I modified to do this.
I also later saw that there is a chromium-browser listed as an official package in Raspbian, so it should also be possible to install it simply by typing sudo apt-get install chromium-browser in the terminal - although I haven't tried this.
Use a script blocker
Iceweasel is easy to download from the terminal. Just use the command sudo apt-get install iceweasel
Once Iceweasel is installed, go to https://addons.mozilla.org and install the NoScript extension.
The downside is that some sites will break or show no content, though you can get around this by clicking the NoScript button in the top right corner and permitting certain scripts to be loaded - usually those loaded by the site you're visiting and a related content delivery network.
Use Chromium for Google Apps
Pretty self-explanatory, I couldn't get the full suite of Google Apps to work in any browser I tried apart from Chromium, which seemed to run Gmail, Docs, Drive and the rest well.
Use LibreOffice if you can
If you only need to write documents or create spreadsheets and aren't worried about sharing them between devices then use LibreOffice.
Even on Chromium there is a definite delay when using Google Docs, whereas LibreOffice Writer felt as responsive and easy to use as on a $1,000 laptop - at least for the lightweight tasks I was carrying out.
Don't try to do too much at once
The Pi 3 is a machine with only 1GB of memory and as such will fall over if you ask it to do too much at once.
Things to avoid include: Opening too many tabs in the browser - I found more than about five to six tabs in Chromium and Iceweasel could max the memory out.
Don't try to run two heavyweight browsers - running Iceweasel and Chromium side by side can easily lead to slowdowns if you have multiple tabs open.
Stagger tasks, rather than doing than simultaneously. Closing and opening multiple heavy programs - in my case two browsers and LibreOffice - at once caused the computer to lock-up for about 20 seconds, it's better to space these operations out.
Read more about the Raspberry Pi 3...
- Can you use the Raspberry Pi 3 as your work PC?
- Raspberry Pi 3: The inside story from the new $35 computer's creator
- Raspberry Pi 3: How much better is it than the Raspberry Pi 2
- Raspberry Pi 3 photos: A closer look at the new board
- Raspberry Pi Zero: What you need to know
- Want Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi? It's virtually possible
Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.