Steam for Chromebook

SteamSteam has become the standard for downloadable games for PC / Mac / Linux. There are two issues – one, it doesn’t carry software that will run on Chrome OS, and two, it’s not available for Chrome OS. That’s not the end of the story for gaming though – and even better, in order to run games on Chrome OS you don’t have to download any software whatsoever.

The Chrome web store

The Chrome web store has a surprisingly decent selection of games, including stalwarts like Angry Birds, Bastion, Cut The Rope, and Runescape. There are plenty of simple puzzle games as you’d expect (e.g. Bejeweled, Fieldrunners) but you’ll also find games that run in 3D (Need for Speed, Hitman) and work offline.

Chrome Web Store games
Chrome Web Store games

Kongregate

Since Chrome OS runs flash, you also have access to any of the flash game sites on the web like Kongregate. These sites mainly provide casual gaming experiences, but there are some great and addictive finds in there.

Kongregate Heximilate
Kongregate, running Heximilate

Minecraft for Chromebook

MinecraftMinecraft is an open world indie game that allows players to create environments out of cubes. It is available for PC, OS X, Linux, Xbox 360, Android, iOS and a Java based web version. However, Chrome OS does not by default support Java and hence cannot run the web version of Minecraft.

Running on Ubuntu

You can install Ubuntu, but this is only for those who are very comfortable technically. If you’re serious about your Minecraft and you’re happy to take the plunge, check out this great in-depth blog post.

Running on Chrome OS

I haven’t tested it myself, but there are instructions for installing Java on your Chromebook and getting the web version of Minecraft to work on Chrome OS. It’s not going to be pretty, and expect to spend time trawling forums and blog comments.

  1. Head into Developer Mode (instructions for all models are here)
  2. Install Java (these instructions are for the CR-48, but should be a useful starting point)
  3. Install Minecraft (which in this case is not just simply heading to the web based URL)

Chrome OS Developer Mode

Alternatives

Although Minecraft for the web doesn’t quite exist yet, the voxel.js project shows the potential. You can see some early examples here – click on any of the voxel-* projects to see it running on your Chromebook.

voxel on Chromebook
voxel.js

I will update this page with more information (fingers crossed for a release on the Chrome web store!)

Notepad for Chromebook

NotepadNotepad is the simple, built-in text editor that comes with Windows. It’s great for making quick edits to text files, coding, and making notes. Most of these things are easy to do on Chromebook, with one exception – editing text files. It’s actually kinda hard to edit a text file in local storage and resave it back to local storage. The fastest solution is to upload any text files to your Google Drive, and edit from there – there’s lots of apps for that, and we’ll show you some below.

Text

Text is a native (“v2”) app, so it runs directly on your Chrome OS device, and hence works great offline. It’s a plain and simple text editor – no syntax highlighting yet, but it’s fast and functional.

Text
Text

Writebox

Writebox is a great app to pick up. It’s a text editor in the distraction free style (one document open, wide margins, large line spacing) – it opens and saves text files directly from your Dropbox or Google Drive.

Writebox
Writebox

Google Docs

If you upload a text file into Google Drive and head to drive.google.com, you will be able to open your text file with it. However, you may get a slight frowny face when you realise that it actually creates a separate Google Docs file, and any changes you make will be made there rather than the original .txt file. Therefore, you can use it to open and read files (but not really edit them) and it creates a bit of a mess on your lovely Drive.

Google Docs text
Opening a text file in Google Drive
Google Docs text
Google Docs viewing a (converted) text file

Write Space

Write Space is a full screen, distraction free style editor that works offline. It’s not quite a regular editor – you can’t save files with it, you just copy all the text and paste it somewhere else – but it’s great for making some crucial notes when you’re offline. You can open files using the “Import” function shown below. (For the technical amongst you, it saves your text to HTML5 local storage.)

Write Space editor
Write Space editor

Write Space import text

Scratchpad

Scratchpad is Google’s built-in note taker for ChromeOS, similar to the sticky notes in OS X – you’ll find it in your apps menu. Just start typing, and everything you do saves straight away as a Google Doc file in the root of your Google Drive. Simple! The files save down as regular Google Docs files, so you can edit them either from Docs or from Scratchpad.

Scratchpad
Scratchpad

Drive Notepad

Drive Notepad is a text editor that’s built to open and save text files directly back to Google Drive, which is great – but it’s a bit flaky. Not recommended yet.

Drive Notepad
Drive Notepad, failing

Chrome

Oddly, you can use Chrome itself as a simple text editor. Open up a new tab and type this in the URL field / Omnibox:

data:text/html, <html contenteditable>

You’ll get a very simple, no formatting bit of space to write text in. If you need something super fast that will always work, save this as a bookmark and use it when you’re in a jam.

Kindle for Chromebook

Kindle logoIf you’re used to reading books on your Kindle / iPhone / iPad / Android, you’ll be pleased to know that you can go right on doing exactly that on Chromebook. Even better, you can download books so you can read offline.

Kindle on Chromebook
Downloading a book for offline reading
Kindle on Chromebook
Reading a Kindle on Chromebook

Install Amazon’s Cloud Reader app in the Chrome store to get started.

Final Cut Pro for Chromebook

Final Cut Pro is a video production suite, used to produce movies like The Social Network, 500 Days of Summer and 300. It’s not available for Chromebook, but if you’re shooting for Hollywood this probably isn’t the computer for you. However, if you’re editing a home video or preparing some concert footage for upload to YouTube, there are some alternatives you can use.

YouTube Video Editor

YouTube Video Editor
YouTube Video Editor

If you’re uploading to YouTube, you can use the YouTube Video Editor – upload your raw video first, then hop into the editor to add captions, effects and cuts between clips. It’s not hardcore stuff, but if you’re after some basic editing and you’re already using YouTube, it’s a good option.

WeVideo

WeVideo

WeVideo is an online video editor with the usual set of basic features, plus some nice standard background animations you can fill out your movie with (e.g. for transitions). You can also collaboratively edit video, if that tickles your fancy. The downside is that it isn’t free – you’ll need to pay to export more than 15 minutes of video per month.

Apple Keynote for Chromebook

keynote-160pxKeynote is Apple’s presentation tool, creating and opening .key files.

Keynote on iCloud

iWork for iCloud, which includes an online version of Keynote, is currently in beta. It has been tested on a Chromebook, and is fully functional.

This online / iCloud version of Keynote does not appear to support the full functionality of Keynote (e.g. master slides or advanced transitions like Magic Move) but works great for simple text and graphical editing and presentation.

The current beta is open only to Apple registered developers, but will be available at icloud.com to users on release.

Google Slides

Slides is Google’s presentation tool. Everything’s online and it’s totally free. The big downer is that Slides can’t read Keynote files. However, there’s one huge advantage – multiple people can edit one single version at once, even at the same time – you’ll see their cursor and what they’re doing as they type. You can also do a presentation over the web, and see what slides the other participants of your meeting are looking at – neat!

Google Slides
Google Slides

Sliderocket

If you enjoy the fancy transitions and smooth design focus of Keynote, Sliderocket is worth a look. Like Slides, it’s a completely online tool.

Angry Birds for Chromebook

Angry-Birds-160pxAngry Birds is a hugely popular game on iOS, Android and pretty much every other system you can think of. The good news: Rovio made a special version just for Chrome.

Angry Birds for Chromebook
Angry Birds for Chromebook

You can install the apps straight from the Chrome Web Store:

Angry Birds (classic)
Angry Birds Space

Alternatively, you can get straight into the action by heading here.

Microsoft Powerpoint for Chromebook

powerpoint-160pxMicrosoft Powerpoint and its .ppt and .pptx files are hugely popular in and out of the business world. You can’t exactly run Powerpoint on the Chromebook, but you can get pretty darn close.

Google Slides

Slides is Google’s presentation tool. Everything’s online and it’s totally free. Slides can read .ppt and .pptx files, but it’s not perfect. If you have some funky formatting in your file, Slides will try its best, but the output can be illegible. Simpler documents and straight up formatting are usually no problem, and you can also save out to a Powerpoint file for anyone else. There’s one huge advantage to Slides – multiple people can edit one single version at once, even at the same time – you’ll see their cursor and what they’re doing as they type. You can also do a presentation over the web, and see what slides the other participants of your meeting are looking at – neat!

Google Slides
Google Slides

Office web apps

If you’re used to the look and feel of Powerpoint, and you aren’t using complex documents, Microsoft provide a version of Powerpoint for the web. It’s in beta, but it works pretty well. Just head to My Office on office.com, sign in with your Microsoft account and get rolling. While it’s easy to create new documents and export them, to open existing documents you’ll need to upload it to Microsoft’s Skydrive and open it from there.

Microsoft Powerpoint on the web
Microsoft Powerpoint on the web

rollApp

rollApp runs LibreOffice and OpenOffice on the web, so you can use them on your Chromebook. Opening Powerpoint files in LibreOffice Impress is easy – you can connect to your Dropbox or Google Drive and open them like regular files. You also have access to some more complex features that you might be used to from Powerpoint. The downsides are that, similar to Google Slides, it doesn’t interpret files perfectly, particularly for more complex documents. It’s also not hugely stable yet, being still in beta, and free accounts are limited to three documents at a time, and an automatic shutdown after 10 minutes idle.

rollApp running LibreOffice Impress
rollApp running LibreOffice Impress
rollApp opening from Drive
rollApp opening from Drive

QuickOffice

If you’re one of the lucky few with a Chromebook Pixel, you have QuickOffice installed which can read (but not edit) Word documents. We should get editing enabled in the next few months, and a rollout to other Chromebook devices from there.

Nivio

If you absolutely must have a full version of Powerpoint, you can try Nivio – it’s a web service that lets you run a remote Windows instance. It’s a paid service starting at $50 per month if you want access to Office (it’s Office 2010).

Nivio for Chromebook
Nivio for Chromebook

iTunes for Chromebook

Many folk on both Mac and PC use iTunes to manage a music collection, sync with your iPhone or iPad, and rent / download movies and TV shows. You can do most of these things on Chromebook, but you cannot use Chromebook to sync your iPhone / iPad / iPod or use Airplay to connect to an Apple TV (without installing a different OS, which isn’t a great idea for most people.)

Don’t panic though – let’s look at the best ways to deal with this situation.

Just use your iPhone / iPad on its own

You can use iTunes on your iPhone / iPad no problem without plugging it into a computer at all. Buy music, sync contacts, calendars, photos, books and iOS apps directly to Apple iCloud – all without syncing to iTunes on a Mac or PC. The downside is that your music and books won’t be available on your Chromebook (you’ll need to plug your headphones into your phone instead), and movies won’t sync at all. Mail / contacts / calendar / notes / reminders are available online at icloud.com:

iCloud
iCloud

Migrate over to Google Music

If you still have access to your Mac, you can use the Google Music Manager to migrate all your tracks to Google Music. (If you don’t have access to a Mac or PC any more, you can try the Music Alpha app to upload tracks directly from your Chromebook.) It’ll take a while to upload if you have a large collection, but it’s a fairly straightforward process. You’ll get free storage online for up to 20,000 tracks, and once it’s up there you can play everything on your Chromebook.

It’s a bit tricky ongoing though – if you continue to buy music from iTunes, it won’t show up in Google Music, and if you buy music from Google Play, it won’t show up in iTunes on your Mac. If you go with Google, you can still access your new purchases on iOS using an app like GoMusic, it just won’t sync using the usual Music app.

GoTunes
GoTunes on iPhone

Amazon Cloud Player

If you buy MP3s from Amazon for download, you may have vaguely registered that it also saves everything you purchase to Amazon Cloud Player. Check it out – you might find a lot of your music is already available for you to listen to on your Chromebook.

Amazon Cloud Player
Amazon Cloud Player

Chrome OS itself

Chrome OS has a basic music player built into it. Really basic. It will read MP4 movies, MP3 and OGG audio files (full list here), but if you have AAC, FLAC, WMA or any other file format you’re outta luck.

The built in music player
The built in music player
The built in movie player
The built in movie player

Rockbox

If you have an iPod and you really need it to work with Chromebook, Rockbox is a radical solution – it’s a replacement firmware for your music player that will make it pop up as a drive in the Files app. In fact, you’ll no longer need iTunes to manage your music on any computer. The downside is that it only works with much older devices (up to the 1st gen iPod Nano or the iPod Video).

Drivetunes

If you snagged the 100GB free space on Google Drive, this is your chance to use it. Upload your music to Google Drive, then install DriveTunes to get a music player in Drive and access to to your tunes from wherever you are.

Drivetunes
Drivetunes

Spotify

You’ll need to install this app from the Chrome store, which bumps you into the beta streaming site so you can access your subscription – but when that’s done, you should be able to access your Spotify no problem.

Spotify
Spotify

Rdio

Rdio is pretty darn similar to Spotify, but it’s built for the web from the ground up, so it works great on Chromebook.

Rdio on Chromebook
Rdio on Chromebook

Deezer

Deezer is French, but besides that it’s pretty similar to Rdio – built for the web, access to major label music, and not free. There is one major bonus with Deezer on Chromebooks – it works offline with the Chrome Web Store app.

Deezer
Deezer

Netflix

If you’re used to using iTunes to get access to movies and TV shows, Netflix can stream movies in the same way over the web (although it does not work with ARM models, i.e. the Samsung Series 3). YouTube, Amazon Instant and Hulu also offer movie rental, and they all work great on Chromebook.

Grooveshark

Grooveshark is built for the web, so it works great as a replacement for iTunes radio functions and potentially parts of your music library.

Grooveshark
Grooveshark

InstaDJ

If you’re after that major label music and you don’t want to go subscription, InstaDJ is a great option. You can find a lot of what you’re after on YouTube, and this site will help you build a playlist so you can leave it playing in a tab and get on with your day.

InstaDJ
InstaDJ

Photoshop for Chromebook

PhotoshopIt’s a ridiculously powerful application, and you can pretty much guarantee that every movie poster and celebrity photo shoot has been through it at some point. However, if you’re just looking to crop your photos or create a poster for the school play, there are some great tools that work just as well.

Chrome OS itself

It’s not obvious, but Chrome OS has some simple image editing tools built in. Just head into the Files app, click on your image, then click the pencil icon to flick into editing mode where you can auto-fix colour, crop, adjust brightness and rotate your image. It all works offline, so you can process your images any time.

Chrome OS image editor
Chrome OS image editor

Pixlr

Pixlr is an online image editor that works great for cropping, resizing and annotating images. The advanced mode can handle layers, automatic area selection and has multiple undo levels.

Pixlr
Pixlr

Sumo Paint

Sumo Paint is more in the style of GIMP or an earlier version of Photoshop. You get layers, a bunch of colour, drawing and filter tools that will look very familiar.

Sumo Paint 5.0.5
Sumo Paint 5.0.5

Photoshop Express

Adobe have their own version of Photoshop that runs on the web, called Photoshop Express. If you’re a hardcore photoshop user you’re still out of luck, but if you want some simple and neat tools for photo editing, it’s pretty good. (Quick note – if you’re running Adblock Plus, make sure you disable it on this site or it won’t load.)

Photoshop express
Photoshop express

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is a smartly designed online photo editor. It’s perfect for adding filters, touching up and adding text to a photo, and it’s integrated with Google Drive so you can open images directly from your Drive rather than heading to PicMonkey and uploading. The only slight downside is that many of the fonts & filters are displayed but restricted to a subscription version.

PicMonkey
PicMonkey

Piccy

Piccy is very similar to PicMonkey, with a whole host of photo retouching tools, instagram style filters, and built-in export to Flickr. Currently, it appears to be completely free to use.

Piccy
Piccy

Sharing tools

If all you’re after is some simple cropping or Instagram style filters, your photo sharing service itself probably has some of this built in. You can crop and edit photos on Facebook, Google+ and Flickr, and the latter two give you some pretty decent photo processing tools as well.

Google+ photo editor
Google+ photo editor
Flickr image editor
Flickr image editor