Tuesday, May 21, 2013

21 May, 2013
Living on a Chromebook - Day 5

Hello again fellow Chromebook enthusiasts!  I trust you have enjoyed the previous entries.  I encourage you to leave feedback and ask any question you may have about this kind of computer.  I will happily endeavour to incorporate your input in future entries.

As I was pondering my next write-up, it occurred to me that the title of these entries may be a little confusing or misleading.  Specifically, that by using Day 1 or Day 5 that there is an impression of sequential daily entries.  This is not the case however, I am only providing entries when I have something to say, and I am using the day-count to let people know how long I have been working on the Chromebook.

Offline Blues

Okay, speaking of misleading, that title is a little bit also.  I am not suffering from Chromebook offline blues, I am just encountering some of the limitations function offline currently has. So in this entry I will talk a little more on the core Google applications and may speak on some of the additional applications I have been using, and then finish-up with a where I am overall in my quest to move solely to a Chromebook. Lets get started!


Disclaimer - please note that I am endeavouring to ensure all my information is correct and accurate, however I am a new user to ChromeOs. Some of the things I think do not, may in fact work.  I happily encourage anyone to point out any areas which are incorrect!

Google Drive:  I would say that, next to ChromeOS itself, Google Drive underpins the Chromebook and makes it what it is, or is not.  Drive is a fantastic resource that, when connected, gives you to access all your files in almost any media, allowing you to open, use, edit, and then save them (automatically) for the next time you need them.  Drive will interface with Gmail, Chrome Browser and many third party applications so you can send items directly to your cloud drive.  When you are offline however this is not the case.  So does this mean all your important information is lost to you when you are not connected?  Not so.  As mentioned in my Day 1 post once you set-up Drive to work offline (see here for how to do this) some of your files, regardless of what folder you have them in will be available when you can not be connected.  But it appears to be limited to documents, spreadsheet, presentations, and drawings, and it did not allow me to see my media files or .pdf files.  Which I feel I should have been able to, so I will have to do a little research on it to see if I am missing something. If I access my Google Drive files through the file manager, again offline, I can see all my files and folders at the top level of Drive.  But if I try to open the folders, it will not display the contents because it is unable to reach the internet.  When in offline mode with Drive you can not delete, rename, copy or move files (really Google, really?) but you can open existing files and edit them, or create an entirely new file - this holds true if you try to do it through the file manager as well.  At the moment I seem to only be able to create a new Document, Presentation, or Drawing, but not a Spreadsheet, Form, or Lucidchart. Nor will it let me access my photos (they are only stored on-line) excepts those already physically on the laptop, or open a Google Template (again, as these are located on-line only).  Any photos you have already on the laptop can be opened, viewed and edited - but more on that at a later date.

Google Docs:  As mentioned off and on throughout my blog entries, the document editor is very capable.  Not perfect, and not as full-functioning as editors such as MS Word, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, but strong enough for most everyone’s needs, almost all the time.  In on or offline mode, all the formatting features are available, as are most insertion functions, but you can not insert images or drawings. I am not sure why this is, but I suspect it is because Docs is presently only set-up to insert images and drawings from Drive directly, and is not configured to do so from local storage.  Also, as mention previously, you do not have the benefit of spelling or grammar check when in offline mode, again because the program appears to be relying solely on on-line sources.  However, once you regain your connection whatever you have created offline it is automatically synced to the cloud, and will then be scanned for spelling and grammar issues.  In fact, when it is working, I find the on-line Google checker to be better than MS Office.  Particularly the grammar check.  Where MS Officer will allow a grammatical error to slide if a nearly correct word is used, Google will catch the error and suggest the correct word.

Google Spreadsheet: So far I find no appreciable difference between the Google version and MS Word or OpenOffice/LibreOffice.  That being said, I am a really simple spreadsheet user, and I have only checked that it will open my existing sheets correctly.  So far all have opened and appear to function as intended.  I will try to make a sheet using Google shortly, and in fact I had intended to before I started typing this.  However, I began this without my WiFi connection and you can not create a new spreadsheet when in offline mode, or at least I am not able to at the moment.  Once I re-establish my WiFi connection I will check if I need to purposely set sheets to work in an offline mode. Edit: It turns out that this is not a feature available offline...yet.  But it is forthcoming.  

Google Slides:  Here I am a fair bit more accomplished than I am with spreadsheets, thanks to the nature of my work and its love of PowerPoint.  For those of you familiar with MS PowerPoint or the similar programs from OpenOffice or LibreOffice you will feel right at home on Slides.  Bear in mind that if you are trying to make a presentation offline, the same basic limitations noted above for documents applies here as well.  But you have enough editing options available to get the basics of the presentation created offline, and then it can be refined and enhance once you are connected again.

Google Keep: This is the replacement to Google Tasks and Scratchpad, which will be phased out shortly.  It is a simple application that allows you to quickly capture basic ideas and save them to the cloud once connected. As with all apps Google, this of course syncs across all devices you may own.  You have the option of making an itemized list, or a check list that you can then check off as you make progress through a “To-Do List” for example.  The notes will be presented in a grid or list format, and are reminiscent of post-it notes.  You can colour code you notes to help differentiate notes and group like ideas, and you can insert photos into your notes as well.  Think of this a light version of todo.ly meets SpringPad/EverNote.

Google Calendar:  I believe most people will be very familiar with this application, or at least a similar application - Outlook, iCal, Jorte.  So I will not go into the details of the application.  I will say that you can use this application offline, and can therefore always have access to what is coming up next in your schedule.  Unfortunately it appears that notifications do not work unless you are connected. Additionally, when you are offline this application does not yet have the ability to add or edit appointments. I hope this is something they intend to add soon, and allow users to make changes which will then sync with the cloud when you are next on-line.  At the moment this is the largest dissatisfier I have since moving to the Chromebook.


I think that is enough to read and digest for one sitting, so I will end here.  Overall I am still very pleased with my Chromebook and continually find myself excited to use it, which I think is a testament to the value of the machine all on its own.  If you are looking for an inexpensive laptop, and do not need to make huge processing demands on it (ie Gaming), then this is well worth every penny.  This is particularly true if you have someone in your life who doesn't need all the “bells and whistles” and just needs to get on-line, and do basic word processing and the like.  Now, if I can only figure out how to get Terrafirma Craft running on it without having to install Ubuntu, I’d be set for all my portable computing needs!

My next post will most likely be on Friday when we reach the one-week mark. As always, I welcome your comments and input - you can directly shape how this blog continues, so do not be afraid to jump in!  Please +1 this blog, add me to your circles, and shares it around.

created - on an Acer C7 Chromebook, using Google Docs


  1. Good stuff. I've been using a Samsung XE303 Chromebook for a couple of months, and like it a lot. There's still a lot about smooth offline access to files that I don't fully grok. I especially look forward (I hope...) to some level of offline spreadsheet access.

    I am not pleased about ScratchPad going away. Keep is nice enough, but I use ScratchPad as a general light editi where I maintain a "heap" containing brief notes. Keep is not the right answer for my use case.

  2. Hi Ron,

    I am pleased you enjoyed the post and thanks for following me. You hit the nail on the head regarding the offline functionality, but I think this is only because we the users, and Google the maker, haven't yet defined exactly what Chromebook needs to be.....and that is really exciting. We get to be on the front-line defining how this product develops.

    That being said, I hope we can progress the "front-line" so we can get some of these silly things sorted - such as no spreadsheets or editable calendar offline.


  3. Hi J,

    Really enjoyed the read. I am still trying to decided if a Chromebook is the way to go. I will keep my full desktop PC and I am a serious Android users so Google has everything I do anyway so it makes sense really.

    Well it should do, but I do have concerns if I will feel limited and therefore feel I made the wrong call. While they are cheap compared to most PC's it's still a fair investment. (I will add to this I am in the UK so not sure about Google Music and Movie support, plus I can't rely on a fast enough mobile hotspot to use while I am out and about)

  4. Hi Glen,

    Thanks for the comment. I was going to have the week in review up today, but the week ended up being a little too busy. I should have it up tomorrow and will try to cover your comments in it.


  5. Hello all! Sorry for the lack of any posts recently, but I was unable to post before I left with work and I am current very restricted in my ability to connect. I will try to have something up very soon. Cheers!

  6. Can you connect your tablet over usb to the chromebook and move files around like you can on normal computers?

    Also if you are interested in having a go at running ubuntu this article goes through a method that allows you to run both side by side, http://www.howtogeek.com/162120/how-to-install-ubuntu-linux-on-your-chromebook-with-crouton/
    I don't know how 'smooth' it is but I video I saw of it look alright although you might want to increase the swap value so when you aren't using something it is moved out of RAM.