Chromebooks for Authors

A few weeks ago, my all-in-one desktop computer’s motherboard died. Thankfully, a Dell technican came by and sorted it out. However, the desktop remained out of use for another week as after the motherboard replacement, the computer was struggling to get beyond the Dell startup sign.

Not good, but hopefully by the time this article is released, it will have been fixed (again)!

In the meantime, I’ve been using a Chromebook. I’m mostly satisfied with its ability, and it allows me to get most of the coding and web hosting side of Draebox sorted, but as an author and a multi-passionate entrepreneur, I know there are others out there who may be considering a Chromebook but are wary to do so because of business requirements.

The Chromebook does the job for the most part. If you already use Google Drive, Google Docs or Google Sheets, the Chromebook as a whole won’t knock you over with its first impression – you’ll already be dulled to it. Two features I was quite curious about, was how fast it loaded on startup, and how well it worked offline – I’ll get into the offline mode in more detail later, but startup is quicker than a Samsung smartphone and relatively as fast as a Windows 8.1 computer. (For those unfamiliar with those – it’s no faster than most devices or recent computer systems.) On the plus side, it is quicker to shut down when updating!

When my motherboard died, I bought my Chromebook on the second day without a working computer (all my netbooks died last year, haha). For those interested, it is an Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311. Setup was quick – far quicker than Windows 8 and Windows 7. It then guided you through using it with a little tutorial. I was also happily surprised at the few pre-prepared wallpapers for your Chromebook (I usually go on to customise these with favourite art, but at the moment mine still has the fox one that comes with the Chromebook).

The Juicy Bits

Ok, so you may have heard that Chromebook needs access to the internet. This is both true and false. If somebody were to ask me for a one sentence explanation of a Chromebook, my answer would be, “A Chromebook is a device that looks like a laptop but is actually a glorified Google Chrome Browser add-on.”

Positives

  • You can still use the Chromebook to network with other readers and writers using social media.
  • You can let people use it in guest mode without giving them access to your manuscripts.
  • The Google Chrome browser and google Docs comes with inbuilt spell checking. The downside? It’s US English only.
  • If you already have been using Google Chrome to browse the internet and save your favourites, you have access to those and your viewing history on other devices.
  • You can create and manage Google Docs with ease, creating additional folders and sub-folders to your heart’s content. Google Docs is smooth, in the same way that Word 2013 is, but it automatically auto-saves every few seconds and whenever you pause in your typing.
  • The menu at the bottom of your screen (usually called your taskbar/startbar by Windows before Windows 8, and called your shelf in Chromebook), is easy to pin things to, and has an app menu (like in Windows 7, Vista, XP and older when you would press the Windows button or start button in the bottom left corner). It doesn’t take up the whole screen and there is almost no delay.
  • Amazon Music is able to be pinned to the shelf.
  • Preparing blog articles is possible on Google Docs or directly in your WordPress installation.
  • Pretty much everything you did online before you can continue to do with ease.
  • Microsoft Outlook is compatible in the shape of an app (however, I have neglected to use it on my Chromebook, preferring Bluehost on my Android devices instead).
  • You can download anything you write in the Google Drive suite (Docs, Sheets etc), as a PDF, Microsoft Word, OpenDocument, rich text or zipped HTML.
  • There is a Microsoft compatibility mode, so you can still read those files.
  • There are USB possibilities – you can save on USB external hard drives or open files from them too.
  • Using Sublime Text is free (this one will make coders like me happy).
  • bulletpoints when copied off a Google Document to a WordPress blog, convert properly (I draft my articles on Google Docs)!

 

Downsides

  • Some conversion issues when converting and exporting a google Doc file to a Microsoft Word file – so far I’ve discovered an issue with apostrophes and quotation marks. You will most likely need to go through the exported Word version later to retype those in so they display correctly and when you later compile in Scrivener.
  • Scrivener is not yet compatible with Chromebooks.
  • Gimp, a free graphic software, is not yet compatible with Chromebook.
  • Photoshop is not yet compatible with Chromebook
  • Painter is not yet compatible with Chromebook.
  • There is no Amazon Music app like there is for Window users, meaning you have to sign in every time.
  • You’ll miss that screenshot key, but you will quickly adapt to Chromebook’s alternative way.
  • There’s no inbuilt way to unzip zip files – you have to find an online site that will unzip them for you (and at the time of writing this, there is no extension or plugin to do it either).

 

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