With Chromebooks due out in less than two weeks, and many people eager to get their hands on them, I thought I’d create a short list of tips for achieving greater productivity with your Chromebook.
Congratulations! Because you’re running the Chrome OS operating system on your new laptop, you’re already ahead of the game. That is, you won’t have to worry about constant system distractions and error messages while you’re trying to get work done.
1. Microsoft Office Web Apps
Microsoft Office has a free app for Chrome that includes full-featured versions of MS Word, Excel, OneNote, and Powerpoint. What’s it like? Well, it’s Microsoft Office (see review). Documents that are loaded, edited, and saved in the app are 100% compatible with the respective programs on other platforms (including OpenOffice). If you work with Office documents frequently, this or the equally-good Google Docs app should be one of the first free apps you install.
2. Get Organized
Use your Chromebook to take notes? Why not? There are a variety of free note-taking and organization apps available for Chrome — some of the best-reviewed are EverNote, SpringPad, Microsoft OneNote, Remember the Milk, Catch Notes, Scratchpad, and many more. All of these apps can help you get organized and all have additional features that will appeal to different people — students, paralegals, fashionistas, and so on.
We suggest using one of the many cloud storage options to keep your files synced and available on multiple computers. Some of the best free options are DropBox (up to 16GB), CloudMe (3GB), and Box.net (5GB). Installing the Microsoft Office app for Chrome provides 25GB of free SkyDrive storage for documents under 50MB each.
3. Keep Track of Your Finances
Whether you’re a business or an individual, there are free apps that can help you finally get organized and keep track of your finances. One great free app is Wave, an accounting program (review) that is catered especially toward small businesses, independent contractors, and self-employed professionals (it can also assist you in creating invoices). Another highly-regarded free app is CashBase, personal finance software for Chrome that allows you to organize and tag transactions, as well as manage multiple accounts. It’s worth mentioning that QuickBooks also has a version for Chrome, but unlike the previous apps it requires a subscription as always.
4. Quickly Edit Photos and Graphics
There is an astonishing number of graphic design and image editing apps already available for Chrome at no cost. Two of the best image editors for Chrome are Pixlr Editor, which is essentially “Photoshop for Chrome,” and Picnik, another very powerful image editor that anyone can use. There are many other free image editing apps for Chrome, ranging from very sophisticated applications (such as Aviary’s Advanced Image Editor and the node-based Filter Editor) to very simple apps ideal for blogging and making quick adjustments/enhancements to photos (such as Aviary’s HTML5 Photo Editor). If you work with photos a lot, however, you’ll definitely want to…
5. Invest in a Portable Mouse
Though the Chromebook boasts an over-sized laptop touchpad, if you really want to be productive on the go, you should invest in a portable mouse. Preferably, you should try to buy a wireless one so you don’t have to deal with cords at the coffee shop or in your hotel room. There are many, many options for wireless mice — some will work on Chromebooks and others may not. See some of the best portable mouse options in our Chromebook accessories section.
In keeping with the “5 tips” theme, I wasn’t able to hit on every possible tip for everyone here. There are apps that will appeal to stock traders, apps for reading the news, apps for creating music and editing audio, and nearly anything else one can think of. If you have any other tips or article suggestions, please leave a comment below. Thanks!