Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Taking Aim at 3 1/2 Myths About Chromebooks

Like netbooks before them, Chromebooks are among the most misunderstood pieces of technology today. So much so that in some circles they’re widely mocked and maligned.

They’re definitely not for everyone. And simply because they’re not for you, that doesn’t mean they’re not useful to others. I’ve been using a Chromebook since 2011. I don’t regret the decision to buy one. In fact, in early 2014 I upgraded with a new Acer C720.

Even with all the publicity and the growing number of users, there are several myths that still dog Chromebooks. And that’s exactly what they are: myths.

Let’s take a look at 3 1/2 of the most pervasive of those myths.

Chromebooks Aren’t a Replacement for a Laptop

This is a half of a myth, really. It all depends on what you want and need to do. And the software that you need.

Obviously, if you’re a gamer or need to do professional-level graphics, publishing, or audio or video work then a Chromebook won’t be replacing your desktop or laptop any time soon.

But if you’re like most people, and do a number of lighter tasks, then a Chromebook is definitely a viable replacement for a laptop. It’s all about the 80/20 rule.

You Need an Internet Connection to Use a Chromebook

That might have been the case three years ago, but today the story is very different.

Many Chromebook apps work offline. You do what you need to do, then everything is automatically synchronized the next time you’re connected to the internet. On top of that, there are a growing number of desktop apps for Chrome. These are apps that run in their own window and which you can use while online or off.

You Can’t Do Real Work with a Chromebook

That depends on what you consider real work. As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, a Chromebook can’t tackle certain professional-level tasks. But that’s not the case for a majority of computer users.

In the three plus years I’ve been using a Chromebook, I’ve:

  • Written drafts of three books (and am working on a fourth)
  • Helped write a book from scratch in five days
  • Penned hundreds of blog posts and written dozens of articles
  • Edited images
  • Created numerous diagrams
  • Worked with various clients
  • Done some simple audio editing
  • Maintained a couple of websites
  • Prepared and delivered slides for several presentations

And more. If that’s not real work, I’m not sure what is.

A Chromebook Is Just a Computer Running a Web Browser

It’s a bit more than that. Chrome OS (the heart of a Chromebook) is an operating system. It’s a minimalistic operating system, but an operating system nonetheless.

The browser is just the user interface — like the desktop in Windows or Mac OS, or a Linux desktop environment like GNOME or KDE. The key difference is that it isn’t designed to act like the operating system for a traditional laptop. Chrome OS and, by extension, a Chromebook is intended for people who spend time on the web and do a lot of work there.

Final Thoughts

Chromebooks definitely aren’t for everyone. A number of their detractors seem to be caught up in what I call the power user fallacy: the idea that a majority of people use tools in the same way that they do. It’s a narrow, blinkered way of looking at things.

For people who use them, though, Chromebooks are useful tools. They’re an essential part of their digital lives.

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