Reaching Total Web Nativity
So can you replace your Mac or PC with a ChromeBook and rely solely on Web Applications to get stuff done?
You're considering ditching your Mac or PC and go totally Web Native with a ChromeBook? Well, so did I.
The Test is still ongoing as I am writing this post using the Cloud9 web IDE, which is running on Chrome which I have set to "Windows 8" mode.
Chrome's Windows 8 modus gives you a good feel as how it might be like using a ChromeBook comfortably knowing Windows or OSX is only an alt-tab away.
Practically there is only one application I need to go back to on Windows and that is my password manager.
Luckily it works great on Android so I can still use it from there, but I sometimes miss the copy-paste advantage.
The combination of an Android phone seems to be key for the success of going totally Web.
With extensions and apps like Evernote, Pocket, PushBullet and Google's suite of applications I hardly ever need to go to the Windows desktop.
All in all, I think i'll keep my current Windows laptop for another couple of months, learn some more features of Cloud9 and keep to web apps as much as I can.
Finding alternative applications
List of apps I totally rely on
- Cloud9 for web development and writing blog posts.
- GitHub for project repository and planning.
- The usual Google Drive tools for office-like work.
- Google Inbox for email.
- Evernote Web Client for note taking and reminders.
- Sunrise Calendar for scheduling (links great with Evernote and Foursquare)
- Trello for project and personal planning, although I rely mostly on Evernote's "reminders" feature still.
- Pocket for news reading.
- Duolingo to improve my German and learn Italian.
- Kahn Academy for all sorts of studying, currently improving my math skills.
- Streaming music on Deezer and Radio Paradise.
- Google Photos for picture management.
- Google+ for the communities, eg. GDG Düsseldorf.
- At work we use Basecamp and Microsoft Visual Studio Online and I read my work email over VPN using Outlook web mail.
Apps I tried once, but wasn't really into (yet)
- Draft powerfull writing app.
- Pixlr Editor for image editing.
- Writer, a super clean, focused text editor.
- Slack, really want my team at work to go for this excellent communication tool!
Why I would totally make the switch
- Apparently I seem to be be more focused on getting work done when I limit myself to web apps. Freedom of mind and easy of use might be responsible for this. With web apps you just don't need to worry about virusses and crashing hard-drives at all anymore.
- I haven't been writing before as much as I did since making the switch to Web Apps. Not sure why, but the excellent writing tools available for free might help.
- There is a ton of software available out there on the Google Chrome Store.
- Cloud9 is an awesome application; it has an excellent interface and powerfull features previously only available on Linux/Unix based machines and it all runs within Chrome without hiccups. Really impressive.
- Google is really backing ChromeBooks all the way and give away tons of free web-space. My 1TB Dropbox space might suffice too though.
- Apps are always new and the latest and you don't even need to do anything for it! Just open the web app in a browser window, log in, and enjoy.
Why I am still holding back
- Image editing is challenging. It's a little silly, but I kinda miss good old "Paint.net"... Still looking for a decent vector based editor.
- The password manager application I use does not have a web client (not naming it for security reasons), but I can of course still use the Android version.
- Since I don't have an actual ChromeBook, syncing files to Google Drive has not been that easy since- Chrome on Windows 8 keeps popping up Microsoft's OneDrive whenever you need to save a file locally to disk.
- Windows 8.1 has full screen "metro" style or "modern" apps where a toolbar comes down from the top of the window as soon as the mouse is coming too close to the top which is super annoying because Chrome's tabs are also up there in the top portion of the screen. Of course this issue will not happen on actual ChromeBooks.
- A lot of the more serious web applications require paid monthly or yearly subscriptions.
- Web apps are more prone to being abandoned by the developer. If they shut down the server, you will loose access to the app and perhaps even your files. This is one of the reasons why I keep my files synced across multiple providers.
- For the time being I only have one "workspace" in Cloud9. Still need to see how to deal with multiple applications in the free subscription model.
- Can't watch DVD's on a ChromeBook. Only streaming video like Youtube, Netflix etc.
- No CD burning on ChromeBooks. :smile:
- I listen to music through the speakers on my current laptop and the quality is excellent. There is no such alternative available in ChromeBooks yet. Now that's an idea: a multi-media ChromeBook with first-class screen and speakers.
- Oh, I am only using my laptop at home. But I can totally see why being offline with a ChromeBook is no fun at all, even-though progress is being made on offline-capable apps.
What kind of ChromeBook to consider?
My current laptop is still a super decent work-horse: a Dell XPS 15 L502x from 2011. It runs on an i7 processor (2nd gen), 8GB of RAM, has a beautiful display and the best speakers I ever heared on a laptop. Also, it is totally over-powered to be running it only as a "browser" and super heavy and big to carry around.
The weight and the hard-drive are currently potential motivators for me to make the switch to a new ChromeBook, especially since today there are some nice models available.
All major PC hardware makers now offer a ChromeBook device. They are all similar, but some are standing out in terms of quality and value for money.