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Chromebook power tips: How to work smarter online and offline

Chris Hoffman | Jan. 23, 2014
Don't let the "Scroogled"-spouting Pawn Stars guys fool you: Chromebooks aren't useless hunks of plastic.

Start by installing the Gmail Offline app from the Chrome Web Store. The app syncs your email in the background, so you can open it and use Gmail when you don't have Internet access. Gmail Offline also lets you write email messages and queue them to send when you reconnect.

Google Drive functions offline, as well, allowing you to view, edit, and create Docs, Sheets, and Slides. To enable this feature, install the Google Drive app, visit the Google Drive website, and click the More option at the left of the page. From there, select Offline and click the Enable Offline button. Similarly, Google Calendar functions offline after you install the Google Calendar app. Click the gear icon in Google Calendar and look for the Offline option in the menu. If you see a green checkmark, everything is synced for offline use.

Chromebooks offer a few gigabytes of local storage, so you can save files there for offline use. Chromebooks also support flash drives and SD Cards. While you're offline, you can open PDFs, Microsoft Office documents, images, videos, and even music files using the Files app, which functions in a similar way to Windows' File Explorer.

Here's another handy trick: To access a webpage while offline, you can use the Print option in Chrome's menu, select Save as PDF, and save the page to your Chromebook's local storage.

Google recently introduced a slew of new offline Chrome apps that function fully even while you're away from the Web. We've highlighted some of the best options.

Printing
The paperless office
isn't a reality quite yet. Printing is possible with a Chromebook — but you can't make it happen by connecting a printer to your Chromebook, even if it's a USB printer. You need to set up Google Cloud Print.

If you have a Google Cloud Printenabled printer, you can print over the network after setting up Google Cloud Print on your Chromebook. If your boss gave you a Chromebook, your organization may have already set up a managed printer, which will appear in the Print dialog box.

A Chromebook cannot directly connect to a printer that isn't Cloud Printenabled, alas. For all other printers, you'll need to connect it to a Windows or Mac computer running Chrome and configure it to accept print orders sent via Google Cloud Print. To do so, open Chrome on that computer, click the menu button, select Settings, click Show advanced settings, and click Sign in to Google Cloud Print under Google Cloud Print.

Remote access
One of the major knocks against Chromebooks is their complete lack of compatibility with traditional desktop programs. Setting up the ability to remotely access a Windows, Linux, or Mac computer dulls that potential pain.

 

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