Saturday, August 16, 2014

ChromeOS, what it is and what it is not

Chromebooks and with them ChromeOS became more and more popular lately. Along with that I was interested into this as well and got my first Chromebook but before I tell more about that in a different post, let's take a look into ChromeOS first.

What is ChromeOS?

ChromeOS is an operation system like Windows, MacOS or Linux, but it is different at the same time.
It is Google's idea of an operation system with the intention to be simple, fast and secure.

And indeed, devices with ChromeOS start up really fast, in average it takes for them around 7 to 10 seconds to be ready for work, depending on the device. It is simple as well as the system more or less only consists of a browser and is aiming to work online most of the time. There are a few apps that can be used offline but most of the time you want to be online in order to use it to it's maximum capabilities.
Also security is provided by this concept as well as patches are delivered automatically and that there is not much to be patched at the same time. Most things on ChromeOS are handled online in the cloud anyway which means the less you install locally the less likely you might get any malware as well.

Chromebook Acer C720

There are several devices available using ChromeOS as their operation system. Most of them are Chromebooks, small and cheap laptops with great battery duration. Further on there are some small boxes, called ChromeBox, which aim to be used as media devices in combination with a TV for example. A few month ago the first all in one Desktop solution powered by ChromeOS has been released as well, the LG ChromeBase.

What you can do with ChromeOS?

Basically you can do everything that can be done within a browser.

The "heart" of ChromeOS, the Chrome browser.

You can surf the web, of course, but you can do much more. 

Use any web based email like Gmail, Yahoo mail, gmx or what ever ...

Work with documents, tables or even create or show presentations using Google's "office" (Google docs for writing, Google sheets for tables, Google slides for presentations). Sure, this web based applications do not reach the capabilities of MS Office but honestly, most of the functions Office offers a normal user never uses or even recognizes. For private and most educational or small business usage the functions Google offers here are more than satisfying.

Docs and Sheets side by side.

Manage your files and storage with Google Drive or Dropbox.

Of course you can also few PDF files, play streaming music like web-radio or even podcasts, watch YouTube, use all the social platforms like Google+, Twitter, Facebook and many more.

Google+, my preferred social network.

For Twitter I like TweetDeck over the original page but that works as well of course.

Video chats or normal text messages can be used by hangouts as well.

You can also watch, manage and edit (to some extent) photos by services like flicker or Google Photos.

You can work in fullscreen mode, arrange windows in size and position, switch between different windows, use shortcuts or gestures (on touch pads like on Chromebooks) and much more ...

Show all open apps to select or switch between them.

A few of the available shortcuts.

Like I mentioned earlier, you can do everything that can be done in a normal browser as well and you might be surprised how much things can be done within a browser today.

What you can't do with ChromeOS?

There are also a few things that can't be done on ChromeOS.
For example there is no Skype client as Skype only works with an installed client and does not offer a web client for that. Of course, other services like hangouts can be used instead but that means both conversation partners would have to use it.

There is no MS Office or even OpenOffice for ChromeOS as well. In my opinion that is not a big deal as Google offers all a "normal" user would need with Google Docs, Sheets and Slides and most functions MS Office offers are never used by the average user anyway. But in fact it might hinder you when you have to exchange documents with other people or companies a lot of course.

There is also no professional picture or video editing. Google (or other services as well) offer basic picture editing with some web services but this are only very basic. Same as with Office, the average user most likely will be fine with that but the professional user might want a bit more.

Gaming is another thing that does not really work on ChromeOS. Of course you can play a few browser based games but that's not the kind of games I personal like.

All in all applications that need to be installed are not really available on ChromeOS. A few small apps can be installed and some of them can be used offline as well but the general rule is, only online services are working well.


I am using mostly Google services anyway since a while on my PC as well so it does not make a huge difference to me whether I access them by my PC, my Smartphone/Tablet or my Chromebook. That's one of the big benefits anyway, I can access all my stuff from everywhere with any device without any problem.
Setting up a new device is done by simply log into your Google-Account and that's it, everything is available immediately.

That in fact might be the biggest problem for some people as well as everything is stored in the cloud (most likely Google's cloud) and some people might be offended by that.

To me that's not a problem for most of my stuff anyway and I really enjoy the options new technology provides.
At the moment I am writing this article on my new Chromebook (a review to this will follow soon) and I am experiencing ChromeOS as a solid operation system for working. The only thing that I can't do on ChromeOS is gaming but that's not the intention of this OS anyway.