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Chromebooks beyond the cloud: Everything Chromebooks can do offline

Brad Chacos | July 18, 2014
The offline abilities of Chrome OS have skyrocketed since the first Googley laptops hit the streets, and now Chromebooks can tackle many of the most popular PC uses completely offline.

Once you've configured Google's various services to work offline, take a second to unplug that Internet connection and ensure that they're truly working. The offline capabilities in Google's apps can be a bit, well.. finicky from time to time. Consider yourself warned. (Be sure to double-check everything's functioning correctly before hopping on any long, Internet-deprived flights, too.)

But not all data lives in discrete apps. Chrome OS includes tools for working with local files, and those tools work just fine offline. You can view PDFs, view or edit Office files, play music and movies, and both view and lightly edit images offline using local files. You'll find your local files in the Files app. Just double-click on one to open it in the appropriate file viewer.

One more thing: To access a webpage while offline, use the Save as PDF option, found under the Chrome menu's print section. It'll save the page to your Chromebook's local storage.

Kick back and relax
Chrome OS's offline chops aren't limited to work-related functions. You can take your play offline, too, and no, it's not just limited to slapping a thumb drive stuffed with movies into your Chromebook's USB port.

Google recently rolled out offline movie and TV show playback for Google Play, the company's app and media marketplace. Any content you've purchased through the service can now be saved locally--at least if you're using a Chromebook. Just look for the small, gray download icon at the bottom of a listing; clicking it saves the film for offline viewing. Note that you'll need to install the separate Google Play Movies & TV app to see the option.

There's one thing to remember when you're saving any files for offline use, but especially space-hungry movies and TV shows: Chromebooks were designed to lean on the web. After all, who needs a big hard drive when you're living in the cloud?

Stingy storage specs help keep prices lows, but you'll want to keep an eye on your available storage, and be diligent about removing movies you've already watched. If not, you'll quickly run out of space. Going into the Play Store app's settings and unchecking the "Prefer high quality audio" button can also help somewhat.

Literary fans will want to check out Amazon's Kindle Cloud reader. This app automatically downloads the book you're currently reading so it's available offline. You can also manually save books for offline reading.

Chromebooks currently have one glaring offline entertainment weakness: Music. While my fingers are crossed that Play Music will offer something like Google Play's offline video playback sometime soon, for now, your only real offline option is manually loading up your laptop with MP3s.


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