Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Chrome Challenge Day 1 - The Terms and Conditions

My Chrome Challenge - For 1 week, I will use nothing but the Chrome browser to do everything I need to do on a laptop

Well... sort of.

The point of this exercise is to determine if it's worth purchasing a Chromebook which houses the Chrome OS - an operating system based almost entirely on the Chrome browser.  The Chromebook has a few extras which makes it a little more like Windows or Mac OS X.
- A file system
- Ability to run movie files in the browser (codecs, for the more technical amongst you)

One other thing to mention is that the Chromebook is designed to compete against tablets. (The observant ones among you will notice Google also have Android tablets out there. Which product do they trust in more? Chrome OS or Android? That's another discussion)

So here are my terms and conditions:
  • I will use the Chrome browser on my (dying) Mac OS X but here are my conditions:
    • I will not jeopardise my day job - at work I will be using Windows and Linux where necessary.  This exercise is strictly for my laptop
    • At home, I have a fully functional Mac Mini.  I intend to keep it that way.  Again, the exercise is for my Macbook Pro which I take around with me.
    • I will use my Mac filesystem.  Chrome OS has a filesystem, the Chrome browser does not. So I need to compensate.
I think these are fair conditions and you are free to disagree.

So without further ado, I shall give my first day experience.  I will try to give links to useful Chrome Web applications as I go along.

Offline works!

The first thing I wanted to try was doing my work offline.  Plus I needed a way of taking notes for my blog without always being online.  So I went shopping on the Chrome Web Store for some web apps!  (Remember, web apps are essentially web sites designed to look and operate like a desktop application.  Chrome extensions however are little utilities that usually sit next to your search bar in Chrome)

Google have made it obvious which apps work offline.  Take a look at the annotated screenshot below.  A screenshot which I took with a Chrome extension called "Awesome Screenshot".  I'm serious about this challenge!

The Scratchpad app has a nice simple interface, and a pop up mode which makes it look and feel like a desktop application.  You wouldn't know it's a web application.  Behind the scenes, it saves the scratchpad to a folder in Google Drive called "Scratchpad".  Google Drive is what Google Docs used to be.  Now, it is like Dropbox (a cloud based file system) but it comes with applications to edit the files.  You can work on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and much more.  All accessible from any web browser.  So a folder here is perfect to store my notes.

How about Google Drive itself?  Whilst there, if you look at the menu on the left hand side, you can see an Offline option, where you can opt for offline documents.  All your documents are then saved in the browser.  Of course, I tested this out whilst on the tube.  Lo and behold, I was tapping away editing my spreadsheets within Chrome as if I was using Microsoft Excel without so much as an internet connection.  Once I did get internet connection, the documents synchronised in the cloud again.

It's worth noting that I have an Unlimited Internet plan with my Google Nexus 4, which makes using Chrome that much better.  As long as I have 3G phone connection, I can tether and provide access to the internet to my laptop and therefore to my Chrome browser.

What else can I do offline?  The essentials I could think of were GMail and Google Calendar.  There is an Offline GMail application in the Chrome Web Store and Calendar has an offline option if you click on the gear icon for settings. The only disappointing thing was that Google Calendar offline is read-only.

Offline games.  Searching the Chrome Store for offline games was pretty straightforward.  Just look for the lightning icon and you can play away on those games without any internet connection.

In the evening, I needed to connect to work.  In my terms and conditions, I said I would use work applications on Windows for my day job.  But I was at home.  Normally I would use Remote Desktop to connect to my Windows computer at work.  But as far as my Mac is concerned I am under contract to use Chrome only...

Chrome RDP to the rescue! The interface for this Chrome Web application was just like the Microsoft RDP Desktop application.  The experience was smooth, not laggy and I was able to get my work done.  Not too shabby! There is a similar web application for connecting to your own PC's called Chrome Remote Desktop.  I use that to connect to and operate my Mac Mini at home... all through the Chrome Browser. 

So what do we have on Day 1?
GMail, Google Calendar, documents, spreadsheets, various games all available offline (and more)
Connecting to my work computer or home computer using remote desktop through the Chrome browser

...not too shabby for a first day.


  1. made it thru the first day. let's see how it goes after this...

    1. So far it doesn't feel like a chore!

  2. This first day was weird, because I had to make an effort to be offline for testing purposes. We're just naturally online these days.