My confession: five months ago, I went full-Chromebook and I haven’t gone back.
Though I’m not a Web developer, I manage over ten Websites. Though I’m not a graphic designer, I create hundreds of graphics every month.
Currently, I have approximately 100 extensions, 100 apps, and 16 tabs open. Yes, I’m what you call a multi-tasker. I’m also impatient.
And, guess what? Nothing has been slowed. Nothing has crashed. I’m fully functioning.
This has been my experience with my Dell 11 Chromebook five months into my journey.
So, what do you need to know?
First, do your research before you buy. I did extensive research on what I wanted out of a Chromebook. Being in Round Rock, I was familiar with Dell’s previous Chromebook. I knew they had made substantial upgrades to their Chromebook 11. I was torn between the Acer touchscreen and the Chromebook 11. Sadly, I did not know at the time there was actually a Dell Chromebook 11 touchscreen. Had I known that, I would have purchased that. Nevertheless, I decided I wanted something durable. Dell’s Chromebook had a reputation for being sturdy with its rubber edges and smooth hinge. I also decided to get the 4GB of RAM. If you’re hesitating on whether or not to spend a few extra dollars on the RAM, do it.
Figure out what you’re wanting in a Chromebook: great screen resolution, touchscreen, durability, etc. Once you have decided what you want, do your research. Figure out which Chromebook best meets those specs.
Understand what a Chromebook is. One of the first realizations in your road to Chromebook success is understanding that a Chromebook is not like a typical computer. It is drastically less expensive. So, while you can do a ton of functions, understand that they may not be the exact same as a Mac or PC. You will also change how you work. Before I had saved items to my desktop for quick access. Now, they are just in a Drive folder labeled quick access. You don’t have a desktop. You do have a limited downloads folder. However, if you’re using GAFE, you have UNLIMITED Drive storage. So, why not use it? You won’t be installing software. Instead, you will be adding Chrome Apps and Extensions. Your computer is disposable. What is not is your Google/Chrome account. That is your operating system. That is what manages your computer. Remember your Chromebook is only a means for accessing your account. Your account is everything.
A summary of my first five months going solo with a Chromebook: Early on, I realized that I had to change my thoughts on what a computer was or could do. When I realized a Chromebook was just a mechanism for accessing GAFE and Chrome, I was able to make headway. It is not like other PCs and Macs where the device is the end-all. In those case, you are buying a device that will do it all. Well, your Google/Chrome account already does it all. So, when you buy a Chromebook, you are not buying a supercharged device. You don’t need it. You’re buying the most efficient way of accessing your accounts.
- I can still edit photos and videos. In fact, I can almost do it better. I recently went to Costa Rica and took a lot of pictures on my camera (not my smartphone). I was able to connect it via USB to my Chromebook. When I did that, it opened up a Chromebook Files menu where I was able to drag and drop them into a Costa Rica folder in my Google Drive. Within minutes, I had hundreds of photos in my Google Drive. Since I have both the Pixlr and PicMonkey apps, I was able to, then, right click on the photos I wanted to edit and choose to open in either Pixlr or PicMonkey and make the edits. They immediately saved into My Drive. It really is that simple. And, yes, my Chromebook was able to handle the workload.
- Be an extension/app nut. It’s okay, I’m one. I have nearly 100 extensions and 100 apps. No, I don’t have them running all at once. However, it is through those apps and extensions that I’m able to beef up my Chromebook. My Chromebook can do more than your Chromebook only because my Chrome account is supercharged. Yes, that’s a challenge! One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the more apps and extensions you add, the longer it can take to load. So, I use the Extensity extension to manage my extensions. I turn them all off and, when I open up Chrome, I turn on only those that I plan on using. This allows me to have a super fast browsing experience.
- It updates automatically! Yes, you read that correctly. This is one of my favorite things. If I haven’t restarted it recently, it gives an arrow in the bottom right of the shelf, letting me know that updates are available. No annoying messages about your computer shutting down. It does the updates.
- Quick wake-up and restart times. This may be my second favorite thing. If I do have to turn my computer off, I can have it back on with all of my Chrome apps and extensions loaded in under a minute. That’s a game changer! Think about how this affects the classroom!
- Battery life. You just can’t beat this. I go all day without charging my Chromebook. This means I can transport it back and forth, toss it around, and it’s still ticking with a huge battery life. This alone makes it more valuable than a laptop to me.
- Keypad. I actually love this keypad batter than those on a laptop. There is no center mouse that makes keys jump around.
- Camera. The built-in camera is nice and easy to access in non-native camera programs. You can just click on the magnifying glass in the bottom right and type in Camera. It will pull it up and you can take pictures and edit.
- Screenshots. There are three keys to hold down and you can do custom screenshots and edit. I was fearful of losing my simple snipit available on Windows, but this is just as good and it saves them automatically in your downloads.
- Mouse. This is the only feature I do not like. So, the easy solution: buy an external wireless mouse. Problem solved.
- Notepad. I used Notepad ++ a lot on my old laptop for various reasons including writing HTML. Well, I found Drive Notepad that works like a charm. I was most fearful of this and my problem was solved in under 5 minutes.
- Internet Explorer. There is an IE Tab extension you can add that will open up IE pages in your Chromebook. Another problem solved.
- Offline access. Yes, your Chromebook works without the Internet. Drive, Gmail, and Calendar all have offline access apps available. Add them and you’ll be able to work offline just fine. I was able to access my Gmail offline while in Costa Rica to pull up important documents. Huge benefit!!
- Speakers. No difference from a laptop. I have no complaints. I actually use Chromecast to cast my Spotify player to my TV and play from there. And, I do that all from my Chromebook while still having 15 other tabs open.
- Projecting. This was easy. I bought an HDMI to VGA adapter for $12. I take this everywhere and I can project easily. I just click in the bottom right of my shelf and tell it to mirror. This was much easier than trying to get a screen to duplicate in Windows.
- Multiple users. While you cannot have multiple Google Accounts signed on normally in a Chromebook, you can sign on another one in Incognito mode. I do this all the time. I am logged into my Chromebook via my personal Google account. Then, I open an Incognito window and sign into my work Google account. Works simply!
- Signing PDFs. I was a bit nervous about this one, but I found the DocHub Drive app. It gave me the ability to edit PDFs and sign them. Simple and easy!
So far, I have not felt limited. I have started to use different products, but my workflow is the same. I am every bit as productive as I was before. The only complaint I have is the mouse and, to fix that, I use a wireless external mouse. With that, I am speeding along.
If your hesitant on going 100% Chromebook, start by finding what programs you use the most. See if you could find similar ones in the Chrome Web Store. If you can, you are ready to go Chromebook. Do it. It’s cheaper and so much more efficient. Oh, I forgot to mention the weight and size. It is much lighter. I have dropped mine twice and have not broken any toes and the Chromebook still works
Want to learn about your Chromebook? This Thinglink (a few updates needed) does a pretty decent job. I’ll be adding some more Chromebook how-tos to Fennovation.org.