When you think of doing digital design or graphics editing on a Chromebook, only one app comes to mind...Pixlr. There's a good reason for that. Pixlr is not only a solid entry in the field, it's also been around for quite some time.
There is, however, a new kid on the block, hoping to make some serious noise on the Chromebook graphics design front. That kid is Vectr. The app is in beta, but it's already showing some promise. What sets this particular app apart is its ability to do real-time collaborating on a graphics project...especially when applied to website graphics. I've tested out the real-time capability of the Vectr bet and it's seriously impressive. Seriously.
But the real time feature doesn't matter if the app itself doesn't have the features necessary to get the job done. And that is the big question. Before I attempt to answer that question for you (and show you how to use the app), you have to understand that Vectr isn't going to take the place of Photoshop or Gimp (not even close). But we already know that, based on Pixlr. So you're not going to be working with a lot of filters, plugins, or even some of the basic tools associated with graphics design (there's no rotation tool, no layers, no masking, etc.).
However, even with the lack of features to entice a serious graphic artist, there's a certain feature found in Vectr that might have a certain appeal to a specific audience.
Let's first get Vectr up and running and then we'll talk about this handy feature.
Open up Chrome on your chromebook and then point it to the Vectr page in the Extensions store. Click the ADD TO CHROME button and then, when prompted, click Add app. Vectr will install and you'll see the launcher in All Apps. Click it to launch and you'll be prompted to sign up for an account (it's free). This step is actually very necessary. It will not only enable you to share out work for real time collaboration, but will allow you to make use of the "killer feature" Vectr offers.
I won't get into using Vectre to create graphics...mostly because, at its foundation, it's incredibly basic to use. Anyone that's worked with graphic editing tools can get up to speed quickly.
The killer feature?
If you happen to design for web sites, Vectr has a feature that you'll want to make use of. With it you can link website graphics to Vectr documents in your account. What this means is that when you update a graphic in vector, it will automatically update the image on the site...without having to update the site code. That is pretty handy. How do you manage that feat? It's actually quite simple. Let me show you.
When working on an image, you'll see a small icon, near the top right, for links. Click on that icon and a url will appear (Figure A).
Using Vectr on an Asus C720 Chromebook.
Copy and paste that URL. To use that address for an image on a website, copy the address and paste it between your img tags and add the .png extension to the end of the address. So if the address is https://vectr.com/username/designs/welcome, the address you will use in your code will be https://vectr.com/username/designs/welcome, This will link the image file to your account on the Vectr servers. Anytime you update that image, the image will auto update on your site.
Of course, everyone knows that the same thing can be done using a standard image editor and an FTP client. Edit your image and upload it back to the server. As soon as the image is uploaded, the website graphic will update.
However, when you add the real-time collaboration to this, Vectr starts to stand out a bit. Imagine you share that same link (minus the .png extension) and anyone can watch you edit the image...in real time. If you have a remote client and you're attempting to edit a website image (to their satisfaction), you can simply share with them the URL, allow them to chime in while you edit, and (once the image is finished), the image will update on the website.
In the end
I'm glad to know that Vectr is in beta, because it has a ways to go before it's a viable solution for graphics design on any level. The interface is a bit clunky, the tools are sparse, and its lack of real layering makes it rudimentary at best. If the company behind the tool can address those issues, Vectr could turn into a serious app for Chromebook users. Until then, your best bet is to stick with Pixlr. But if you're curious as to where this app is heading, I highly recommend installing it and playing around with the the basic feature set.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.