Nowadays, most of the work we do is online; and as people become less wary of the cloud, our values change regarding what we need in a personal computer. While critics initially wrote off the Google Chromebook as a curiosity, Chromebooks are gaining traction with consumers, in education, and in the enterprise.
While the move to a Chromebook might make technical sense, it can be a jarring transition. The Chromebook is meant to feel different than your standard desktop PC, but you can still get work done.
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Here are 10 apps that will make your Chromebook experience more productive.
1. Gmail Offline
Gmail Offline is exactly what it sounds like, an offline version of Gmail that uses a cached version of your Gmail data to let you respond to email when you are offline. After you compose a message and hit send, it will hold the email until you connect to the internet again and it will send it.
Perfect for business travelers, this app allows you to catch up on your online work when you don't have internet access. So, if you don't want to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi, you can still respond to emails in the air and know that they will send as soon as you touch down and reconnect to the airport's Wi-Fi. You can even access a cached version of your address book.
You can download Gmail Offline from the Chrome Web Store, or you can select "enable offline" through your standard Gmail app settings. Once you begin installing it, make sure to allow it to work in offline mode. This will ensure that Gmail will support cached emails offline.
By the way, you can use this functionality with the Chrome browser to get offline Gmail on any machine.
The app has the standard editing tools—red eye reduction, spot heal, filters (you have got to have some filters), and level adjustment. It doesn't have the horsepower you get with Photoshop, but it has everything the average user would need to edit a profile pic or create a meme.
"Pixlr Touch Up offers a plug-free experience—it's a lightweight, always-on and auto-updating, browser-based app. The app includes all the essential editing tools, including crop, resize, rotate, effects & fonts, enhance color, liquify, adjust contrast and more," said Pixlr community manager, Eric Suesz.
Pixlr Editor can open PSD files, or users can copy and paste from the clipboard. It's easy to get started with and it works quickly.
3. Numerics Calculator & Converter
The Numerics Calculator & Converter is a calculator for math and data nerds that can be used by ordinary people. It can work offline and it has a variety of options for customization.
As a converter, it works surprisingly well. Users can do conversions for measurements, temperature, and currency, among other things. The keypad is large and easy to see, and the UI is well-designed too.
If you are like me, the quality of your workflow is contingent on the lists you make. With Wunderlist, you can create beautiful task lists and to-do lists that are synced across all of your devices, as long as you have a Wunderlist account.
I'll admit it, I'm shallow; and I tend to judge apps (and most software) based on the way they look. I say that because Wunderlist looks great. It is well designed and easy to use, and it makes life simple for users who work across different platforms and ecosystems. You can sync your lists between a Chromebook and an iPhone, and share them with friends or colleagues.
The app has been around for a while, so a lot of the kinks have been worked out. Users can designate background images for lists and set specific badge notifications for alerts. Wunderlist is the "Old Faithful" of to-do list apps.
Chromebook users who are looking to collect and digest content more fluidly should look no further than Feedly. Available for free in the Chrome Web Store, Feedly lets users aggregate the content from other sites into a personalized interface.
"The web is a constantly updated wealth of knowledge and information that can help people perform better at what they do, but content discovery is often at the mercy of robots and algorithms. Feedly empowers people to connect to the sources of information they care about and access that content as it arrives. That's why Feedly is the content discovery and reading platform of choice for professionals," said Josh Catone, content and community manager at Feedly.
Much like Wunderlist, Feedly has been around for a long time. The Feedly app for Chrome will appear as a clickable icon that will take you right to your Feedly page. The minimal design and magazine-like interface of Feedly are its main selling points.
The app works by collecting data from RSS feeds and organizing for the user on their Feedly page. It was also one of the main tools users moved to after the closing of Google Reader. Although Feedly is free to use, they offer a pro version, for $5.41 per month (billed annually), or for teams. Catone said Feedly pro, "has better search functionality, faster content updates for smaller sources and integration with a growing number of useful services, including Readability, Pocket, LinkedIn, Evernote and Hootsuite."
No good apps list would be complete without a screen capture tool. Clipular lets users clip images they find on the web, organize them, and save them to their Google Drive. I'm usually a proponent of the using the standard lasso tool that comes with your OS, but Clipular offers some unique extras.
After clipping an image on the web, users can edit it within Clipular and share it on social media by dragging it to the icon of their preferred social media site. The tool saves the source link and text with each clip, and users can go back and annotate or search their clips based on source links or text.
So, whether you are clipping a weird Facebook comment or a frame from a YouTube video, Clipular gives you the tools to make it happen and keep it organized.
ShiftEdit is an online integrated development environment (IDE) for Chromebooks. Think about it as Wunderlist for developers in the sense that you can develop across platforms.
"The goal of ShiftEdit is to supplement and eventually replace desktop IDEs. The project is in a similar vein to other web apps such as Gmail and Google Docs, which allow you to seamlessly pick up where you left off from one device to another. ShiftEdit is primarily geared towards web languages such as HTML5/ PHP/ Ruby etc.," said Adam Jimenez, developer and founder of ShiftEdit.
The goal of the product is to give developers the same experience, regardless of OS, without having to install software or create site definitions. ShiftEdit, has an autocomplete feature that is compatible with HTML, CSS, and PHP functions; and they support a variety of server types. ShiftEdit is free in the Chrome Web Store, and it also has offline capabilities.
8. imo messenger
For a standard IM-type chat, the Google+ Hangouts extension works well. But, for users who are looking to integrate chat from sites such as Facebook, imo messenger is a great option. Users can share pictures, text, and video with friends on imo, and there is also the option for browser-to-mobile video calls.
You can run multiple chat sessions at a time and the mobile app works on Android and iOS. If you have a session open on one device, you can have the same session open simultaneously on another device. So, if you are chatting with a project manager and need to keep chatting on your way to lunch, you can do so on your phone (just make sure someone else is driving).
9. Google Keep
Check out Google Keep for simple note-taking and saving articles to read later. Users can save URLs, text, and images, while also being able to annotate saved content with additional notes or labels. Saved content will be available across devices wherever you have Google Keep installed.
WeVideo is a video-editing app for Chrome that has three different editing modes to accommodate beginners and experts alike. Users can drag and drop media files into the video timeline and add a title or theme from the app.
"WeVideo is the only true cloud-based offer for the mobile and cloud generation which is device agnostic and provides an adaptive interface allowing creators to move easily between different levels, based on their experience and familiarity with video editing," said CEO Jostein Svendsen.
The app connects to DropBox and social media accounts so users can easily pull pictures, video, graphics, and music files that were already uploaded. Users can take turns editing each others clip libraries through Google Drive and, when you are finished, you can publish to Drive or publish straight to social media.
The app supports eight languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Russian, Japanese and Arabic. WeVideo is free but it costs money to utilize its full range of features. Plans range from $5 to $30 a month.
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.