Google Photos (OCR)

I’ve been using Google Photos for ages, but it was only recently that they added an optical character recognition feature. Basically, if you take a photo of text on your smartphone, check it out in the Google Photos app or (after it’s been uploaded and synchronised to the cloud) computer web browser and you get the option to optically scan the text in the photo and convert it to editable text. It will even read it aloud for you.

While we’re on the subject of Google and text, there’s also another app that’s very useful, one that I use all the time. One of the features of Google Keep is that you can record audio notes that are automatically transcribed into text. It’s remarkably accurate and useful for those times when you have an idea and are unable to type. I used it for this blog post and it required minimal editing to finish it off.

Enjoying my blog posts? You might like to Buy Me a Coffee.

LibreOffice: A Free Office Suite

The best free office suite just got even better as LibreOffice 7 was released recently. It’s the nearest you’ll get to Microsoft Office without having to pay a penny, and the latest version is even more compatible to it than previous versions.

LibreOffice includes several applications that make it the most versatile Free and Open Source office suite on the market: Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (databases), and Math (formula editing). Source.

So, if you don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office and like to use software installed on your computer (rather than in the cloud) this might be for you. There’s also a portable version that you can run directly from a USB flash drive, and you can even install it on your Chromebook.

Note: I currently use both LibreOffice and Microsoft 365 (as Microsoft Office is now called) because a subscription to the latter includes OneDrive cloud storage.

Simple Human Interactions

I spent this afternoon at Costa Coffee inside the Odeon Cinema foyer at Silverlink Shopping Park waiting for my car to be serviced at a nearby Citroën dealership. Having bought coffee and cake, I told the staff to let me know if they needed the table, especially in the light of reduced capacity with all the coronavirus social distancing measures, as I had done in McDonald’s in the morning.

An elderly lady and her middle-aged daughter came and enjoyed some refreshments before going into the cinema. As they left, I was still in the same place doing personal business on my Chromebook. They came over and struck up conversation, quite concerned that I had nowhere to go.

They were genuinely relieved when I explained why I was 35 miles away from home and could only have my car serviced there because it came free as part of the original sales agreement. Oh, how we laughed. Life’s little interactions are important, always talk to people whenever you have the opportunity.

Essential Chromebook Apps

focused woman browsing laptop on windowsill
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

When I first got my Chromebook I downloaded loads of apps, but I’ve deleted many of them because you can do most things you want in the Google Chrome browser.

Amazon Prime Video and Netflix: Although you can watch movies and TV series in the browser, there are some apps that work better as apps and these are two that I do use. Other content providers are available.

Chrome Canvas: This is an excellent, and possibly little-known, drawing app that comes with the Chrome OS. Yes, you can use it in a browser on any operating system, but there are advantages of using the app on a Chromebook, not least the fact that the app defaults to full screen.

JotterPad: This is a wonderful distraction-free notepad app that I use on my smartphone and tablet as well as on my Chromebook. It’s free, but does have in-app purchases. Two of these are one-off payments to unlock extra features, but if you want to connect to a cloud services there’s a monthly payment. I’ve paid for the two one-off benefits, but haven’t bothered with the cloud integration as you can easily share the notes manually with other apps and services. There are many adjustments you via settings, so an altogether essential app for me.

Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder: This is a Chrome browser extension rather than an app, but I include it here because it’s useful on whichever device you use this browser. It does what it says on the tin with many different options.

Photoshop Express & Snapseed: Everyone knows about Photoshop, and so their app for Android devices is pretty much a must-have. Snapseed is not so well-known, but it’s a neat little photo editing app to have in your Android tool box. Take your pick, or install both.

VLC: This media player is simply essential on any device, make sure you have the app on your Chromebook.

ZArchiver: If you work with ZIP files this is an essential app.

Note: I hope this selection of Chromebook apps is useful to you, and remember the apps can be used on any Android device.

Debunking Chromebooks Myths

acer chromebook on the white desk
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

If you’re having to self-isolate or work from home (or simply not going out so much) in the current coronavirus pandemic you might be considering some new computer equipment. A Chromebook is an excellent choice, but you might have some reservations or even believe some of the myths.

For a start, Chromebooks are not just a browser with a keyboard. There’s so many apps (probably the same ones you use on our smartphone) that you can install to do all the things you do on a laptop. You can easily stream music and watch movies, even in full HD if you go for that option. Editing photos is a breeze.

“Ah, but I can’t use Microsoft Office!” Sorry, yes you can! You can use the Microsoft Office Mobile App or Office 365 online, and there’s an app for OneDrive.

You might think that Chromebooks are cheap and not worth buying. Not true. Yes, you get what you pay for, but there are some excellent budget models as well as very high-end ones.

Finally, you might think switching to a Chromebook is complicated. Sorry to disappoint you again, if you can use a laptop and a mobile you can use a Chromebook. You can also access your work on all three and synchronise etc.

Oh, and I didn’t mention that they’re stylish, light, have an incredibly fast start-up time, and a battery charge lasts forever! See also here.

Note: You can also make your own Chromebook from an old laptop, it just won’t have the same battery life etc.

Windows is NOT the only OS

Linux-Mint-19.3-830x518

I’ve previously posted about making your own Chromebook from an old laptop (or netbook) using CloudReady, well here’s another way to do it using Linux.

Now that I have my own Chromebook, I’ve installed Linux on both an old laptop and netbook; Linux Mint on the laptop and Puppy Linux on the netbook, although there are many Linux operating systems (or distros) to choose from.

Puppy_Linux_Tahrpup_6.0_CE

You will need to download and install your Linux distro of choice onto a USB flash drive, and then use it to boot your laptop. This is a little bit technical, but don’t let that put you off, find a geek to help you (or ask me nicely and buy me a coffee). Then it’s a simple process. The process wipes the laptop, so backup first.

What are you waiting for? Your new FREE Linux laptop awaits you!

Note: I tried Linux Lite before Puppy Linux, but had some keyboard issues. Having said that, Puppy Linux is great and very fast on an old netbook.

Make your own Chromebook

Cloudready_large+(1)

Have you got an old laptop (or netbook) that you don’t know what to do with? Maybe it’s running slowly and driving you to distraction? Perhaps you’ve got your eye on a shiny new laptop, but can’t afford one? Or what about a Chromebook, although you hesitate because you’re not sure?

Well here’s an answer for you! You can turn your old laptop into a Chromebook, give it a whole new lease of life, and it will cost you nothing! Everything is done online with Google apps in the Chrome browser, a bit like using an Android smartphone (and you can synchronise all your devices). I use Windows 10 mainly, but have a spare laptop running CloudReady for ease of use and ‘relative’ portability (it’s a heavy laptop).

You will need to download and install CloudReady onto a USB flash drive, and then use it to boot your laptop. This is a little bit technical, but don’t let that put you off, find a geek to help you (or ask me nicely and buy me a coffee). Then it’s a simple process, all you need is here. The process wipes the laptop, so backup first.

What are you waiting for? Your new FREE Chromebook awaits you!

Note: you can also revive an old laptop with a Linux OS, you can find about it here.