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5 powerful things you didn't know Chromebooks could do

Chris Hoffman | Oct. 7, 2014
From Photoshop to Office and beyond, here are five powerful things you might be surprised to learn you can do with a Chromebook.

dell chromebook 11 lid march 2014

The now-familiar knock seemingly started when the very first Googley laptop rolled off the line. "Sure, Chromebooks are nice, but they can't run Photoshop."

Well, that just isn't true anymore. Nor are many other Chromebook myths.

From Photoshop to Office and beyond, here are five powerful things you might be surprised to learn you can do with a Chromebook.

1. Edit images with Adobe Photoshop
Adobe and Google recently announced they'd be making Photoshop available as a streaming Chrome app. This means Photoshop will work on Chrome OS, and even in Chrome on desktop Linux! To do this, the Windows version of Chrome will run on Adobe's servers and be streamed to your Chrome web browser.

It sounds unnecessarily complicated (and means an Internet connection is vital), but Photoshop is actually such a demanding application that this could be useful. When you use demanding functions, they can be sped up because they're running on Adobe's servers--they won't drain your laptop's battery faster or send modest Chromebook processors screaming. Photoshop will be integrated with Google Drive, so you can easily keep track of your files.

Currently, this feature is in beta and available only to "select North America based Adobe education customers with a paid Creative Cloud membership." But it should eventually come to all Creative Cloud subscribers.

2. Use Microsoft Office
Microsoft likes to trumpet how Chromebooks don't have the full desktop version of Microsoft Office, and that's true. But unless you're an accountant, you probably don't need all those fancy features.

Microsoft offers a completely free web-based version of Office called Office Online, complete with Word Online, Excel Online, and PowerPoint Online. Microsoft even makes these apps available in the Chrome Web Store. These web apps aren't just for Chromebook users, though. Windows users could use Office Online to get an official Microsoft Office experience for free, and they let desktop Linux users use an official version of Microsoft Office without hacking around in Wine, too.

If you tried Microsoft's "Office Web Apps" in the past and weren't crazy about them, give them another try. Reborn as Office Online they've been much improved.

Compared to Google Docs, Office Online doesn't offer any offline support, which is a bit of a bummer. But it does provide a familiar interface and more-or-less guaranteed compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. It saves those Office documents to OneDrive, where you can access them using Office apps on any other device--even the full desktop version of Office on your Windows or Mac.

3. Run (almost) any Android app
Google is working toward allowing all Android apps to run on Chrome OS. They recently released just four Android apps for Chrome, but enterprising hackers (the good kind) have found ways to make (almost) any Android app run on a Chromebook. Yes, this means you can now use Skype on a Chromebook.


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