Tip: Best Notepad App for ChromeOS

ChromeOS has a simple, integrated Notepad-type text file viewer, but it’s not great. However, there exists one of the better Text file editing and reading applications for ChromeOS.

Called simply, Text, the app provides speedy performance along with fast, syntax highlighting for scripters and coders. It also allows you to open and edit multiple files at once.

Get it here: Text


 

Tip: Changing the ChromeOS Background Daily with Bing Images

Microsoft’s web search tool, Bing, produces some of the best daily images around. By default, ChromeOS includes some really significantly excellent images for updating the desktop background and these are updated pretty regularly. But, what if you see an amazing Bing image that you wish you could update your background with?

A ChromeOS app called Wallpaper from Bing for Chromebook will update the background each day as Bing’s own images are updated. Additionally, when the background is updated, a ChromeOS notification is delivered with the image’s description.

 


 

Tip: Getting Google Assistant Capability for a ChromeOS Device on the Stable Channel

Google is working on delivering always-on, always-listening Google Assistant capability for all Chromebooks someday soon. The option to turn on the feature exists in Canary and Developer builds right now.

If you are running on one of these builds, see: Tip: Enabling Google Assistant on any ChromeOS Device

For now, though…those that are running their devices on the Stable Channel can still enable this capability if just a bit limited. The only thing you don’t gain is the always-listening capability.

To do so, for those devices that support installing Android apps from the Google Play Store install the Google app on the ChromeOS device.

You can get it here: Google

When the Google app installs, it also includes a separate Voice Search app.

To gain quick access to the Voice Search app, right-click to pin it to the ChromeOS shelf.

Now, you simply need to click or tap the Voice Search icon to kick-off a Google Assistant session. You can use it to search, ask for weather, or any other Google Assistant-capable function.


 

Tip: Enabling Google Assistant on any ChromeOS Device

Google is beginning to roll out its electronic Assistant to all ChromeOS devices.

Seen in early canary builds and coming quickly to the Dev channel build, the following flag will enable Google Assistant:

chrome://flags/#enable-native-google-assistant

Of course, the Beta and Stable channels will have to wait for the capability.


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Tip: Turn Any Website into a PWA on ChromeOS

We wrote earlier about a website that offers a list of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) that can be installed using the Chrome browser on Windows or ChromeOS. This capability is new to Windows for those using the Chrome web browser. But, for ChromeOS users, the ability to install a website as an “app” has been around for a while. For example, you can turn your web-based email account (say, Outlook.com) into an app instead of just a website.

To do it…

[1] Go to the website you want to turn into an “app” and choose the “Create Shortcut” option in the Settings-More Tools menu.

 

[2] Once the shortcut has been created on the ChromeOS “shelf” (in Windows terms, this is the taskbar), right-click and select the “New window” option.

 

Now, when you tap or click the website icon, it will open in a windowed environment.

 


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Tip: Locating Progressive Web Apps to Install Using Chrome

If you have the Chrome web browser installed on a Windows computer or running ChromeOS on compatible hardware, you may be interested in Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). More and more websites are producing PWA versions of their offerings. This means that you can visit a website and choose to “install” the website as an actual app. When you do this it creates an “app” icon and treats the website just like an application on the local computer.

Not all websites have gotten there yet. So, how do you locate ones to try out? An easy way is to use the PWA Rocks website.

Here’s a good list to get started: https://pwa.rocks/

P.S. Even the PWA list website can be installed as a PWA so you always have the most currently updated list to work from.

To install a PWA, once on a PWA-enabled website, just choose the “install” option on the Settings menu.


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Tip: Best Snagit Replacement for ChromeOS

As you may have read already, we’re in the midst of testing how viable it is to go Windows-free these days. The results so far have been extra alarming – if you’re Microsoft – because ChromeOS has become a very viable Windows replacement in a short period of time. Of course, Microsoft is less invested in Windows these days, too, and would rather make sure its other products work best on Android, Linux, and iOS. So, now is a great time to venture outside the Windows ecosystem to figure out if other options can work. And, considering that ChromeOS devices are generally a third the price of a comparable Windows or Mac device, it makes it a very enticing option.

We have a full series we’re writing up to cover all the bases, but in the interim, we’re releasing tidbits we’ve found here and there for those already using ChromeOS, or are thinking about it.

(You can run Windows apps on ChromeOS,  by the way)

One of the cooler applications for the Windows environment is Snagit – the stay-resident tool designed to take granular screen captures and provide editing after-the-fact. It’s an excellent tool and probably one of the most used for anyone that works with documentation, blogs, or any project that needs custom images. But, unfortunately, Snagit is only provided for Windows and Mac environments (for now). So, how can one replicate this functionality on ChromeOS?

Enter a combination of tools: Nimbus Screenshot and Pixlr.

Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder is available from the Chrome Store. Once installed it provides a right-click mouse option to capture what’s on the screen in various ways. Just like Snagit, you can capture the visible screen, opt for a small selection, or even automatically scroll and capture an entire web page. In fact, this scrolling option actually works better than Snagit’s capability for some reason.

After capturing the screen (or a portion of the screen), you can save it immediately, or opt to open the Nimbus editing window. The Nimbus image editor is not as full-featured as Snagit’s editor, hence, why Pixlr is needed, but if you just need to make slight modifications like changing the size or add text, it’s just fine.

But, when you need a full-fledged image editor, you need Pixlr.

Pixlr is available as both a web-based editor and an Android app. The Android app is fine in a pinch if you’re not connected to the web, but not as feature rich as the web-based editor.

Pixlr in the Google Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pixlr.express

Pixlr’s web-based editor: https://pixlr.com/web

Once you use Nimbus to capture the screen and save it to the local file system or the cloud, you can use Pixlr to open the saved image to make modifications. Pixlr will open images from the local system, from cloud storage facilities, or even by using just an URL.

Like most apps, Pixlr offers a free and a Pro version. Snagit (with a 1-year maintenance contract that includes free upgrades) will cost you around $70 per year. Pixlr Pro is around $50 for a year. However, for most, the free version of Pixlr is enough and can be used forever. However, if you’re an advanced Snagit user, the Pro version may be more what you’re looking for, considering the editing capabilities are far superior, doesn’t show annoying ads, and comes with an unlimited supply of stamps, themes, and image auto-enhancements.


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Tip: Running Windows Apps on ChromeOS

We’ve been testing the benefits and virtues of being Windows-free over the past couple of months. When ChromeOS and Chromebooks original released, the platform left a lot to be desired. But in a very short period of time, ChromeOS has become a very stiff competitor for Windows 10. Throw in all the recent problems with Windows 10 quality and builds, and drastically better ChromeOS hardware and ChromeOS has become the high ground in the tsunami of Windows problems. We’ll be writing up a complete series on the switch soon so stay tuned for that. The results will definitely surprise you. Essentially, the only reason to run Windows 10 now is choice, not because ChromeOS is missing anything.

ChromeOS has recently gained the ability to install and run Android apps from the Google Play store and also the capability of installing and running Linux apps. But, there’s also rumor that ChromeOS could also tie directly into the Windows UWP app base and allow Chromebook users to run Windows 10 apps natively.

Still, there are those that would like to run Windows apps now. In our series, we’ll go over the very rare cases when you might actually still need a Windows app, but for now, there’s an application that allows ChromeOS users to run Windows legacy apps.

Called Crossover, the app creates a virtual environment to install and run Windows legacy applications natively. The app itself already knows about hundreds of Windows application installations through its built-in database. You simply need to search for what you’re looking to install and it will pull up the list of what it knows.

And, if it doesn’t locate what you want, you can install downloaded application installations from local storage.

Once the installation is complete, the icon for the application shows up in your list of ChromeOS applications like anything else. And when you choose to run the newly installed application, Crossover runs in the background as the container within which the applications runs.

Read about Crossover here: https://www.codeweavers.com/products/crossover-chromeos

Get it in the Google Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.codeweavers.cxoffice

 

There are also Crossover versions for Linux and MacOS, so you can install and run Windows applications on those platforms, too.


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Tip: Resources for Sourcing a Chromebook to Replace Your Windows PC

As a test based on a dare, we’ve been researching if a Chromebook really can replace a Windows 10 PC. Sadly, the tests have been pretty successful. We’ll have a series written up soon that covers the nuts and bolts of how easy it is to replace Windows 10 functionality with Google’s ChromeOS.

During our research, we’ve happened upon a couple excellent and critical resources for determining the right hardware for your personal requirements – in the event you want to start down your own path before we complete the written series.

First off, there’s the Starry Hope Chromebook interactive comparison page:

Chromebook Comparison and 2018 Buyer’s Guide

Using this resource, you can sort through the currently available Chromebook hardware using hardware specs and features as a filter. And, then once you locate the different models that fit your requirements, you can create a comparison list. This is an extremely handy resource and should be your first stop before seeking out Chromebook hardware. The page also provides a very concise and informative guide to the Chromebook and ChromeOS world and gives prescriptive advice to help you determine your own requirements. The last thing you want to do when selecting a Chromebook after running a Windows device is to select something underpowered and under-featured that will diminish the experience.

The second place to visit is the Google Auto Update Policy page for Chromebooks.

Auto Update policy

This page is critically important. Once you’ve used the Starry Hope page to identify a couple Chromebook models you might like, you can locate those on the Google page to determine each device’s supportability, i.e., how long will Google support the hardware with updates. Make sure you choose a Chromebook that still has a couple years of update life left. You don’t want to buy a new Chromebook only to find out ChromeOS will stop updating next year, or the lifecycle is already passed.

 


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Microsoft Admits Office is Now Available for Chromebooks But Isn’t Quite Ready

This past week Office 365 became available for use on Chromebooks. There wasn’t an announcement. It just so happened someone, somewhere tried it and it worked when it didn’t before.

Now, Microsoft has finally admitted that it was intentional, though the announcement is buried in a much larger block of news and seemingly downplayed. Additionally, the company also suggests that its really not quite ready…

Office Mobile apps on Chromebook—Earlier this week, we released a preview of the Office Mobile apps for Google Chromebooks. These apps were originally designed for Android phones, and they’re not yet fully optimized for the Chromebook form factor. We’ve done some initial work on the end user experience and want to gather customer feedback. As with all of our mobile apps, an Office 365 subscription is required to edit documents on devices with a screen size of 10.1 inches or greater.

 


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Microsoft Office Now Works on Chrome OS

The folks at Chrome Unboxed have noticed that Microsoft Office can now be downloaded and used on Chromebooks everywhere.

This revelation took flight just before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The implications for Office working on Chromebooks is huge. Chromebooks are generally some of the lowest-priced PCs available and are popular gifts during the holiday season. And, though Chromebooks have long been scorned by PC enthusiasts for its lack of features, functionality, and poor hardware, Google and its hardware partners have been slowly working to improve the offering.

Many who have tested and reported on the latest Chromebook offerings have been more impressed this go-round. And, with Microsoft Office now a real option, it means that those with rudimentary PC needs can surf, watch movies, listen to music – AND get in a little work at the same time. But, as Chromebooks’ quality of features and hardware specs continue to improve and the price to obtain them remains low, it could quickly spell doom for Windows 10.

But, this is just more evidence that Microsoft’s strategy going forward is all about the cloud and subscription services, and Windows 10 is more and more becoming an afterthought. Microsoft doesn’t care how customers get to their cloud, the company only cares care that customers use it in droves.

Some have said that this is an indication that Windows 10 S has failed. But, in truth, this is a hit against the entire Windows 10 edition lineup.

Chromebook customers can download and use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for free from the Google Play store.

To create or edit documents, sign in with a free Microsoft account on devices with a screen size of 10.1 inches or smaller. For larger-sized screens, an Office 365 subscription is required.



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