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What is a Chromebook ?

Chromebooks are (typically) inexpensive laptops which you can use to browse the Internet, read your email, compose documents & spreadsheets, look at your photos … in fact, you can use a Chromebook to do most of the things you currently use your Windows laptop for. If you’ve ever used the Google Chrome web browser, you likely already know how to use a Chromebook.

Chromebooks are not Windows Laptops

Chromebooks run an operating system designed by Google called Chrome OS (rather than Microsoft Windows) and they use the Google Chrome web browser as the principal user interface. Because Chromebooks use Google Chrome as the Internet browser, Chrome OS primarily supports web applications. These are programs that run within a web page on the Internet, rather than software you install on your computer.

Who are Chromebooks for?

If you mainly use a Windows laptop to browse the Internet, check your email, use online banking services, look at Facebook and perhaps write the occasional letter, then there’s a good chance that a Chromebook is all you need.

Chromebooks are Inexpensive (well, most of them are)

Chromebooks are simple devices, they don’t have a great deal of processing power or have huge hard drives for storage. Most Chromebooks cost in the region of £180 – £250 depending largely on screen size (typically ranging from 11 to 15 inches). These laptops would struggle to run Windows at any decent speed, but for the lightweight Chrome OS, they’re just fine. Battery life is good, with many boasting a life of between 8 and 11 hours.

Google Chrome Has Most of the Apps You Will Need

You don’t install software directly onto a Chromebook, instead you access Apps through Google Chrome. It therefore requires a WiFi connection to get the most from it, but if your primary use of a computer is to access the Internet, then it will be connected to your WiFi anyway, right? What’s great about this, is that Google provide thousands of apps available directly through Google Chrome, including email, calendar, word processing, spreadsheet, photo, music, cloud storage – you name it, there’s probably an app for it. You likely use one or two of these already on your Windows laptop or smartphone.

But I Really Need Microsoft Office

Never fear, Google have a number of productivity apps built directly into Chrome, freely available to anybody with a Google account.

Google Docs

Docs is Google’s word processing App, similar to (and compatible with) Microsoft Word.

Google Sheets

Sheets is Google’s spreadsheet App, similar to (and compatible with) Microsoft Excel.

Google Slides

Slides is Google’s slideshow App, similar to (and compatible with) Microsoft Powerpoint.

No, I Really Do Need Microsoft Office!

Did you know that Microsoft also have free versions of Office apps available at outlook.com? All you need is an account at outlook.com and you can use online versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Skype & Outlook directly in Google Chrome. If you already have a Hotmail or Windows Live account, you already have access to these apps. Simply click the squares in the top left of outlook.com to access the online Microsoft Office Apps.

Do Chromebook’s Need an Antivirus?

Nope! Chrome OS is one of the most secure operating systems out there. This is because you can’t directly run any executable programs on a Chromebook, it doesn’t use Java and Adobe Flash player is not included in the Google Chrome browser. From this perspective, it’s much like an Apple iPad. Although it is possible to install bad extensions in Google Chrome, they are easily removed. Once you remove that extension, the problem goes away.

So Chrome OS is Better than Windows, Right?

No. Chrome OS can’t beat the power and flexibility of a powerful Windows PC or laptop. However, if your requirement from a computer is Internet browsing, checking email and perhaps some lightweight word processing and similar basic tasks, Chromebook’s are worth considering.

[While most Chromebooks are low powered, inexpensive devices, there are premium Chromebooks available such as the new Google Pixel Chromebook 2017 priced at an eye watering £999 for the entry level model. I’m not sure there’s much value there though!]