A Chromebook is a laptop computer that runs the Chrome OS operating system – rather than Windows, macOS, or Linux. Chrome OS is made by Google and is based around its popular Chrome web browser.
While Google itself now produces its own Pixelbook range (and, previously, the Chromebook Pixel), most Chromebooks are made by other manufacturers, including well-known companies such as Samsung, HP, Lenovo, Acer, and ASUS.
What are the advantages?
If you use your computer mainly for email, general web surfing, and social media platforms such as Facebook, then a Chromebook is an excellent choice. The primary advantages are:
- Price. For comparable processing power and performance, Chromebooks are notably cheaper than their Windows counterparts, while Apple MacBooks are considerably more expensive.
- Security. Chromebooks are defended from malware by multiple layers of protection.
- Speed. A Chromebook can start up and be ready to use in seconds.
- Battery. Typically, a Chromebook can be used for a full eight-hour working day (or even longer) without needing a recharge from the mains adaptor.
- Sync. The data from all your Google apps is synced in the cloud, so you can access it in a browser (when signed in to your account) on another device, or in the same apps on an Android smartphone.
- Android apps. Modern Chromebooks can also run the vast range of Android smartphone apps and games.
Because Chrome OS is so lightweight, even a lower-end processor will run things a lot faster on a Chromebook than it would on a Windows PC.
Although it is possible to use many applications and access files offline, Chromebooks are designed to be used mainly online. This is known as “cloud computing”. After logging in with your Google account, you will have full access to your own personal cloud. As well as containing your files in Google Drive (which can easily be shared with colleagues and others to collaborate on) and photos in Google Photos, your personal cloud is based around a range of core office and productivity applications.
About Chrome OS
Chrome OS is the operating system that runs on Chromebooks. An operating system controls the general operation of a computer and manages all the hardware and other software on it. Other popular operating systems include Windows, macOS, and Linux. Chrome OS comes with a range of Google’s own core applications:
- Chrome. Google’s popular web browser is the most important application on your Chromebook, as it’s used to run all the other standard web apps (i.e. non-Android apps).
- Gmail. Google’s email application enables you to write and send messages from your Google account. You can also easily organize emails into folders and filter spam and junk mail.
- Google Drive. This is where all of your files are stored online. It can be accessed from other devices on which you are signed in to your Google account. You can also share selected files and folders with other people, making it easy to collaborate.
- Files. Open this app to find all the files stored locally in your Chromebook’s SSD storage. It contains default folders for Downloads, Camera (for photos taken by the Chromebook’s camera), and Play Files (for Android app files), but you can create your own folders to organize files.
- Docs. Google’s word processing application has plenty of advanced formatting features. As with the other office apps, documents are stored in Google Drive, with a copy of currently open documents also stored on the Chromebook so that you can continue working when offline. It can also be used to open and edit files in other formats, such as Microsoft Word.
- Sheets. Google’s application for working on spreadsheets offers all the usual features such as formulas, charts, pivot tables, and conditional formatting. It can also be used to edit files in other formats, such as Microsoft Excel.
- Slides. Google’s application for producing presentations, Slides offers a wide range of themes and fonts to choose from. Advanced features enable you to embed videos and add animations. It can also be used to edit files in other formats, such as Microsoft PowerPoint.
- Google Duo. This video- and audio-calling app is free to use. Like WhatsApp, it relies on your mobile phone number for identification purposes and to access your contacts.
- Google Maps. If you need to find shops and services in a particular location, the Maps app is a great help. It’s also great for planning a journey and giving you directions.
- YouTube. The world’s most popular video website comes as a web app in Chrome OS. When signed in, you can create playlists of favorite videos to watch later.
- YouTube Music. Formerly known as Google Play Music, this music-streaming service offers a vast catalog of tracks. If you don’t want adverts, you can pay for a monthly subscription.
- Chrome Web Store. This is the place to visit to browse and search for more web apps, games, themes, and extensions to add extra features and functionality to your Chromebook.
- Play Store. Modern Chromebooks can run Android apps, and this is where to find and install them. Browse thousands of apps and games; many are free to install, but may offer in-app purchases.
- Settings. This app enables you to access all the settings for your Chromebook. You can manage accounts, connected devices, security and privacy, and personalize the look of your desktop.
The desktop itself is similar to Windows or macOS:
By: Philip King
A handy guide for anyone new to using a Chromebook – ideal for Seniors!