How to master… your Chromebook

Everything you need to know about squeezing the most out of your GoogleBook

Okay, we admit it. Chromebooks aren't as sexy as a sleek new MacBook or the shiny HP Spectre 13.

Well, almost all Chromebooks aren't. Google's own pricey Chromebook Pixel is a square shaped thing of beauty, but for the most part, Chromebooks won't make design fans drool with envy. But that's okay.

They're far cheaper than your average notebook, and are perfect, affordable companions for those of you who want nothing more than to bash out words, play some casual games, fire off a few emails and keep up to date with the freshest, crispest memes.

If you're already rocking a GoogleBook (or planning on buying one), we've rounded up some of the best tips and tricks below to help you master it, unlocking its full potential. Enjoy.

The Basics

Reach for the Skype

Let’s face it, Google Hangouts simply isn’t as popular, or enduring as Skype. Unfortunately there isn’t a built-in app or extension for the latter in the Chrome Store which often puts people off buying a Chromebook. How misinformed people are - it’s perfectly possible to use a Chromebook with the Skype web client. Just head over to web.skype.com and you can sign in as normal, and have that chat with Aunt Sally in Australia.

Who wants to click

Chrome OS is browser-based, so any apps or extensions open in browser tabs, but it doesn’t need to be that way. In order to open any application or extension in a normal-looking window, without the omnibar and bookmarks, just right click the relevant icon and select ‘window’. This makes for a far more desktop-like experience when using programs like Microsoft Word’s web client.

Work the remote

Sometimes you’ll need to access other functionality from a desktop PC or Mac. Thankfully, Chromebooks make using a remote desktop client incredibly easy. All you need do is install the Chrome Remote Desktop extension on the target system and do the same on your Chromebook. Whether you need to do some heavy video editing or simply access a work-based computer from the comfort of your living room, the process is simple and painless.

Choose your command

The more tech savvy among you might want to access your Chromebook’s innards and tinker around with the operating system itself. There are plenty of examples online of custom modifications ranging from minor tweaks to those who fancy a Linux partition. Accessing the command line is easy, just press Ctrl + Alt + T to access the shell and away you’re off! Of course, for most of us mere mortals, poking around under the hood is probably highly inadvisable.

Pick your price

Chromebooks range in price from a lowly S$270, all the way to up to the mighty Chromebook Pixel, Google’s own offering which can set you back more than S$1,800. Each unit obeys the same fundamental design principles: cloud-first, OS-light, and browser-based, but there is a great deal of variability in the quality of the hardware. If you want a more Macbook-like typing experience, you’re probably better off skipping the cheaper models and opting for a higher-end unit.

Better your battery

One of the great advantages of a Chromebook’s modest CPU is its equally modest power consumption. Dell’s own Chromebook sports an incredible runtime of 13 hours with constant use - something inconceivable on most laptops with their in-built GPUs and other tomfoolery. When searching for the right model for you, be sure to remember that unlike cheap laptops, which are notoriously awful at conserving power, Chromebooks excel. A Toshiba Chromebook 2 will easily sustain a day’s work on a single charge.

Offline Extras

Watch Game of Thrones

Chrome is a barebones operating system but it packs a built in media player capable of opening most video files. 16GB of onboard memory isn’t a huge amount, but it’s more than enough to store a whole series of Game of Thrones for watching on a long haul flight or on the Underground. If one TV show simply isn’t enough, then most models can expand their basic memory using the built-in SD card slots, an inexpensive way to double, triple, or even quadruple your storage power.

Finish that email

Google Docs and Gmail are usually online-only services, but with a Chromebook, it’s possible to use them when you’re not connected. The full functionality of both services is at your fingertips, and any amendments are simply synced with the cloud when an internet connection next becomes available. It’s important to note here the offline editing in Drive and Docs isn’t enabled by default. Click the Setting button in the Chrome browser then head to the Offline area to activate this ability.

Power play

There are a wealth of games in the Chrome Web Store which don’t need an internet connection to function, allowing you to happily wile away rare moments of offline status. Of course, a Chromebook is no gaming laptop, so most titles are of the standard you’d expect from browser-based gaming, but you’ll easily be able to compete with a smartphone. There are platformers, puzzle games, word searches, and even the odd action game thrown in for good measure.

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