Chromebooks are cheap laptops that run Google’s ‘Chrome’ operating system rather than Windows or Mac OS. It’s a very lightweight system that comprises of little more than a small hard disc and the Chrome browser that you’re used to using elsewhere. So whilst you can’t download programmes like Photshop onto it, or do much when you’re not connected to the internet, there are many advantages to using a Chromebook instead of a Windows laptop or Macbook:
- They’re cheap – the Samsung Chromebook I’m typing this on now cost less than £220 and it will probably only come down in price.
- They boot up in less than 10 seconds. Yo don’t need to shut them down really. Just close the lid and when you open it you’re instantly back up and running.
- The battery life is much longer than in most laptops. I get 6-7 hours from mine easily.
- They’re small – from the outside they don’t look much different to an ultrathin Windows laptop or a Macbook Air. And because they’re so cheap, you can take them out to the field or your projects/events and don’t worry too much if they get thrown around a bit.
- The keyboard (on the Samsung model anyway) is a joy to type on!
For those reasons I think that a Chromebook can be a great choice for running your shoestring charity website. Here’s some of the apps I use to develop and manage this WordPress website using my Chromebook (all are available and free from the Chrome Web Store):
Everyday Website Management (adding new posts, images etc)
- Pixlr – this is what I use for graphics editing. It can be a little frustrating if you’re used to resizing, cropping and adding text using Photoshop. However, there’s not much you’ll find that you can’t do using Pixlr. When adding images to your site, it’s easy to open them from an SD card/USB stick or to just copy the url if they’re already elsewhere on the web. Resizing and saving is pretty easy, and you can do most of the simple effects that I list in my Simple Image Editing article.
- Writer – A great distraction-free text editor for creating your articles and posts.
Web Development (editing PHP, HTML, CSS, JS etc files to create WordPress themes and plugins for example)
- ShiftEdit – this is the IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that I’ve found to be best for code development work. You may well not need this at all if you’re simply adding content to your site and doing everything through the WordPress dashboard. However if you want to edit your CSS style sheets, create new templates etc then you’ll need a code editor and FTP program. Most IDE systems combine both of these. You can edit the style sheets and php files from within the WordPress dashboard, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it doesn’t do code formatting and error highlighting, and it’s much more difficult to go back and undo any edits you’ve made that you now regret! ShiftEdit works with most FTP connections and also connects straight to your Dropbox or Google Drive account.
- Text – The Chromebook is pretty useless when it’s not connected to the internet, but if you really need to work on your HTML/CSS files offline then Text is the only app I’ve found that enables you to do so. It doesn’t do any code formatting or error highlighting though.
- Chrome Remote – This is a surprisingly powerful and speedy app. If you install it on the Chrome Browser on your desktop PC then you can use it on your Chromebook to log in and remotely control your PC (provided it is turned on!). I’ve found this useful to get some files from my hard disk, do a quick Photoshop job, or run some backups.