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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.

The Chrome Web Store offers apps for accessing remote desktops. Ericom Software's AccessToGo lets you access Windows remote desktops over RDP, while RealVNC's VNC Viewer for Google Chrome allows you to connect to Windows, Mac, or Linux systems running a VNC server. Citrix's Receiver for HTML5 permits you to connect to Citrix on a Chromebook, but the staff at your organization must first set up the Receiver software on their end.

Google's own Chrome Remote Desktop app offers an easy way to set up remote desktop access on your own PC. On the computer you want to connect to remotely, install Chrome. Then install Chrome Remote Desktop on both your Chromebook and the other computer.

Apps for getting things done
Google Docs is the obvious choice for working with documents on a Chromebook, but it isn't the only one. Microsoft's Office Web Apps offer a Web-based version of Microsoft Office that you can access from the SkyDrive website. These Web apps are more simplified and limited than the full versions of Office, but they're completely free and have excellent compatibility with Microsoft Office document formats. You can also use the Web-based version of Apple iWork on a Chromebook — visit the iCloud website to access it, just as you would on Windows.

Chrome OS has an integrated image editor, but it's extremely basic. Pixlr Editor is a Web-based image editor that will surprise you with its power and features. It can edit images stored in Google Drive, too, so it integrates nicely with Chrome OS.

If you need to edit code, you'll want to install Caret, a Chrome offline app that provides a local, Notepad-style text editor with syntax highlighting.

Note-taking works with the Web-based version of Evernote, but you may also want to try the Google Keep app. Google Keep works entirely offline and syncs with Google Drive when online, so you'll always have access to your notes. is a superb cross-platform checklist app, and it also functions offline.

Chromebooks don't support Skype, but they do have Google Hangouts for remote meetings or one-on-one calls. Google Hangouts offers full video chat with ten participants for free, something that Skype provides only with the paid Skype Premium. You can also use Gmail's integrated phone-calling to call phones in the United States and Canada for free.

Google's Chrome Store offers a wide variety of apps, with categories such as Offline Apps and Business Tools to help you get started. Remember, however, that your Chromebook has access to the entire Web via its desktop-class browser — you don't have to settle for ho-hum Chrome Apps.


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