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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.

This is becoming easier all the time. You can now use the ARChon Package app on Android to quickly convert an Android app to run on Chrome, or install the twerk Chrome app to quickly package an APK file for installation in Chrome.

This feature is very likely to keep improving, so apps that don't work perfectly now should eventually work better. When Google is done, Chromebooks will be able to access a whole new universe of software without any hacks whatsoever.

4. Work offline
Yes, you can work offline on a Chromebook. Read your Gmail and compose new messages? Sure. View your Google Calendar? No problem. Edit documents in Google Drive? You got it.

Beyond the basics, you can download Kindle eBooks, videos, music, and PDFs to view offline. Use a Chrome app like Google Keep to compose notes or manage your to-do list with an app like Wunderlist or Any.DO. You can even purchase TV shows and movies from Google Play Movies & TV and download them to watch them offline, too. If you just want to kill some time, you can also install games that run offline.

Sure, many things on a Chromebook can only be done online, but let's stop pretending that's unique to Chromebooks. It's 2014, and even a Windows or Linux laptop feels practically unusable when there's no Internet connection available.

And, in Chrome 39--which is still working its way through development versions, so you probably won't have this feature yet--you'll be able to play an endless running game whenever you see an "Unable to connect to the Internet" page.

5. Use a full desktop operating system
This last feature isn't for the novice users that just buy Chromebooks for their simplicity. But this is World Beyond Windows, where I tout the benefits of Linux, so I can't leave it out.

Flip the developer mode switch (it's in software now, but it used to be a hardware switch) and you can get full access to your Chromebook's internals. You can install a full desktop Linux system (like Ubuntu) alongside your Chrome OS system. Flip over to the Linux system when you want to do some work with traditional desktop apps and powerful terminal commands.

Or, even better, install Steam for Linux and play games--as long as you have an Intel-based Chromebook and not an ARM one, that is. Or, with Steam in-home streaming, you could run those games on your gaming PC and stream them to a Chromebook running Steam for Linux.

You could also install other Linux applications like Minecraft and Skype for Linux, both of which are now Microsoft applications. Yup, Microsoft makes Skype (and now Minecraft) for desktop Linux, but not Chrome OS. MakeUseOf has a great primer on installing Linux on a Chromebook if you're curious.


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