Essential Chromebook Apps

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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

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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.

Closer to the Edge

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Having recently posted about the updated Edge browser from Microsoft, here are some of its features that might convince you to try it. It’s being rolled out now and replaces the original Edge released originally with Windows 10. Microsoft is particularly keen to get users of Google Chrome to change, especially in the light of privacy concerns, although I’m not sure if there’s much difference in that respect between huge corporations.

So, the first benefit of Edge is the ability to import browser data from Chrome. In order to get you to switch, Microsoft has made this process as painless as possible with many options when you install Edge for the first time, or you can do it later. You can also synchronise your data across devices (although fairly standard these days) and switch easily between multiple accounts.

One of the criticisms of the original Edge was the lack of add-ons, but now you can install extensions from the Microsoft Store, but (and this is probably a clincher) from the Chrome Web Store. You can also switch between light and dark modes.

There’s easy customisation of the home, new tab pages, and news feed. A built-in task manager enables you to identify and kill resource-hungry processes. You can hear web pages read aloud at different speeds and jump backwards and forwards from one paragraph to another. You can also turn websites into standalone apps and pin sites to the taskbar.

One ‘good news/bad news’ issue is that although Edge is multi-platform, a Linux version will likely to be some time arriving on the scene.

Why not have a go with it? If you alter too many settings, you can easily reset Edge to default settings. Oh, and did I mention, there’s a dark mode!

A great browser from Microsoft?

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“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” is a question posed by Nathanael (a disciple of Jesus) in John1:46. The same question is often directed at Microsoft, and the surprising answer is often yes! Admittedly, Windows 8 was something of a dog’s breakfast, especially because its predecessor Windows 7 was much better, but Windows 10 (there was no Windows 9) is remarkably good in my humble opinion.

However, Microsoft web browsers have never had a good reputation. The old joke went that Internet Explorer was only good for one job, namely downloading the vastly superior Mozilla Firefox (or more recently Google Chrome). But that negative reputation could well be about to change.

Microsoft Edge first came out with Windows 10 and was better than Internet Explorer, but many people again only used it to download Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. So, what’s all the fuss now?

Well, last month (January 2020) Microsoft released an updated version of Edge and it’s being rolled out to users now. It’s totally revamped, Chromium-based, and it looks like they’ve finally got it right – a browser that’s fast, secure, open-sourced and packed with useful features. Some have gone as far as suggesting that it’s as good as, if not better than Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Part 2 of this post Closer to the Edge can be found here.

Security for Facebook

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My observation of comments on Facebook (and other social media sites) suggest that there is considerable confusion between cloning and hacking.

Cloning does NOT involve someone getting into your account, so your password isn’t compromised. Hacking (on the other hand) DOES mean that someone has gained unauthorised access to your account, and you will need to regain control and change your password.

So cloning a Facebook account is NOT hacking; it’s when someone copies your personal details and tricks your friends and others into thinking it’s you. It can happen because your security settings allow the general public to see your friends list. Cloning can’t be prevented, but it’s less likely if you set the visibility of your friends list to [Friends only].

You can prevent hacking (when your account IS compromised) by setting up two-step verification; this simply involves a verification code being sent to a previously nominated mobile phone when there’s a login attempt from any new browser or device. This way, you are alerted to someone attempting to hack your account before it happens, and can deal with it.

Two-step verification is widely available for many websites.

People often complain about Facebook (and rightly so sometimes), but the tools needed to limit cloning or prevent hacking are already available, and have been for a considerable time. They take very little effort to set up, but may prevent big problems later on.

Spend a few minutes every so often to review your security settings on Facebook and other websites, you know it makes sense.

See also: Spotting Hoaxes and Scams Online

Ad-Free Site

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There’s so much advertising on the Internet that, at times, it can become very distracting and intrusive. To reduce the amount that can overwhelm, I personally use an ad-blocker in my browser, so (for example) I don’t see any adverts on Facebook; it creates for me an ad-free experience – but that’s a whole new discussion for another post.

You may have seen the above logo (or similar) on my blog, it appears in the left-hand column a little way down. By using this icon on my website I’m stating that I’m opposed to the use of corporate advertising on blogs and that I feel the use of corporate advertising on blogs devalues the medium; Similarly, I don’t accept money (or goods in kind) in return for anything I publish.

You will never see advertising on this site because I’m opposed to widespread advertising impacting every aspect of our existence; therefore I’m drawing a line around this ‘personal’ space (deeming it inappropriate for advertising).

What I write is 100% my choice, and I will always seek to be as open and honest as I can. Be assured that my endorsement of anything (whether it’s a product, a book, a piece of art, an idea) comes directly from me and is not influenced by any outside person or organisation.

This is a helpful quote with which to conclude: If we, as a society, lose our voice completely, and corporations start doing all the talking, then we’ll be utterly lost. To some degree, this has already happened. Our ability to envision a future collectively has already been severely compromised. Kalle Lasn

Please note: adverts may appear within external embedded objects that are out of my control, such as videos and the like.