Spotify for Chromebook

spotify-160pxSpotify is is subscription service for access to a huge collection of music online.

Spotify

Although most Mac and PC users have an app they download, it’s actually available online and works great in Chrome. Spotify have kindly provided this Chrome app, which will let you access your subscription as normal on your Chromebook.

Spotify on the web
Spotify on the web

Microsoft Excel for Chromebook

excel-160pxExcel is still the gold standard for ad-hoc analysis up to anything that needs a database. It’s also hugely popular for holding lists of anything.

Google Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets is, no surprise, an online spreadsheet. It can read and save to .xls and .xlsx files, but complex analyses and anything with VBA won’t work out well. Those more complex functions just don’t exist in Spreadsheets yet. Simpler files, up to and including Pivot Tables, work great. The big advantage of Spreadsheets is that multiple people can edit one file at the same time, which is super useful for compiling data in a team, or ensuring there’s only one copy of the file (no more merging changes). There are a few neat touching for pulling live data in, like live currency conversion data, that Excel isn’t so great at.

Google Sheets
Google Sheets

Office web apps

If you’re used to the look and feel of Excel, and you don’t need the more hardcore analysis tools, Microsoft provide a version of Excel 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.

Excel on the web
Excel on the web

rollApp

rollApp runs LibreOffice and OpenOffice on the web, so you can use them on your Chromebook. Opening Excel files in LibreOffice Calc 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 Excel. The downsides are that, similar to Google Spreadsheets, 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.

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 Excel, 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

Microsoft Word for Chromebook

word-160pxMicrosoft Word and its .doc and .docx files are hugely popular in and out of the business world. You can’t exactly run Microsoft Word on the Chromebook, but you can get pretty darn close.

Google Docs

Docs is Google’s version of the word processor. Everything’s online and it’s totally free. Docs can read .doc and .docx files, but it’s not perfect. If you have some funky formatting in your file (e.g. a particularly complex table), Docs will try its best, but the output is often illegible. Simpler documents and straight up formatting are usually no problem, and you can also save out to a Word file for anyone else. There’s one huge advantage to Docs – 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. No more horrid merge changes!

Docs on the Chromebook does work offline. It doesn’t work fantastically well, but it works well enough for you to jot down some notes when you’re on the Underground or out in the sticks.

Google Docs
Google Docs

Office web apps

If you’re used to the look and feel of Word, and you aren’t using complex documents, Microsoft provide a version of Word 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 Word on the web
Microsoft Word on the web

rollApp

rollApp runs LibreOffice and OpenOffice on the web, so you can use them on your Chromebook. Opening Word files in LibreOffice Writer 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 Word. The downsides are that, similar to Google Docs, 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.

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 Word, 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

Skype for Chromebook

Skype is hugely popular, and it’s probably one of the first things you’re looking to install on your Chromebook. It’s not quite that easy, because Skype have not produced and official client for Chromebook yet, and there’s no direct replacement. That said, we can get you some of the way there.

Use your phone / tablet instead

If you’re using a smartphone / tablet with a front facing camera, you can run Skype for Android / iOS while adding credit and managing your account online with your Chromebook.

Hangout

Hangout is the Google preferred solution – it works great on Chromebook, giving you full audio and video as well as the ability to video chat with multiple people at once for free (you have to pay to do this on Skype.) The downside – you can’t import your Skype contacts, and everyone needs to be using Hangout rather than Skype. (Since there’s no client to download and install, that’s not as big a fuss as it might seem – you can call anyone with a Gmail or Google email address easily.) It does mean moving over to a different system, and not being online to your Skype friends, so they can’t call you unless they’re also on Hangout.

Google Hangout
Google Hangout

Plus.im

Plus.im is an online messenger client, run by the same folk who made IM+, a popular IM app. It works great for passing Skype messages back and forth, but won’t work for video calls.

Skype for Outlook.com

Skype has been released for Outlook.com – however, it requires a non-standard web plugin. Hopefully, Skype will produce either this plugin or a standard Skype client for Chrome OS.

Skype on the web
Skype on the web

IMO

IMO is a web based messaging app. It lets you connect to a bunch of messaging services, including Skype, via the web instead of using a dedicated client. You’ll get the same list of contacts you see in Skype – but you can’t make audio or video calls, just text chat.

Skype IMO on Chromebook
Skype IMO on Chromebook

There are options inside IMO for Audio / Video with a Skype user, which gets you all excited:

Skype IMO video on Chromebook
Skype IMO video on Chromebook

… until you realise the horrifying truth. What it does is IM the user a link to make the call via the web, just like Hangout, except a lot more flaky.

Skype IMO receiving from Chromebook
Skype IMO receiving from Chromebook
Skype IMO video on Chromebook crashing
Skype IMO video on Chromebook crashing

Google Voice

Google Voice is only available in the US, but if you can get access, it’s a great replacement for Skype To Go and SkypeOut. It’s includes some neat features like transcribing your voicemail to text, and saving all your voicemails and texts so you can search through them. You can set up a new number in Voice and use it to set up call forwarding, so anyone calling that number will forward onto your mobile, your landline or all the phones in the house. If you use Android or iPhone, you can use the Google Voice app so people see your Google Voice number when you call.

Google Voice
Google Voice

If you’re a SkypeOut user, i.e. you pay for Skype credit and use it to call regular landlines and mobile phones, Google Voice does that too. You can plug most USB headsets into your Chromebook, and the calling rates are given here. Here’s a quick comparison with Skype:

Country Skype Google Voice
US & Canada 2.3¢ Free from US and Canada, 1¢ elsewhere
UK 2.3¢
Mexico City 2.3¢
China 2.3¢
India 9.2¢
Philippines 19.8¢ 11¢

All prices in cents per minute for landlines, excluding tax.

If I didn’t list yours, you can check the full list for Skype and Google Voice.

One nifty trick, tweeted here by an ex-Googler – you can set your SkypeOut caller ID as your Google Voice number, which means that even if you are using Skype to call out to a regular phone, the call recipient would call you back on your Google Voice number. Shiny!

Vidtel

If money is no object, you can use Vidtel to bridge between multiple video calling services. Let’s say you have two participants, one on Skype and one on Hangout. Instead of calling each other, they both call Vidtel, and can talk with each other as normal. However, it’s an expensive service, starting at $0.15 per minute or $149 per month. More pricing details here.