Working offline on your Chromebook

Need to work offline on a Chromebook? Then read on… It’s been a while since the main question regarding the Chrome OS was whether or not you could get any work done in it offline. Truth is, the OS has matured, has been tweaked and is a very good alternative as a functional, productive OS, to rival Apple’s OS environments as well as Windows.

Thus, for this article we took it upon ourselves to see what we could get done on a Chromebook if it were segregated from the online world. Did the OS face the challenge and emerge victorious? Well let’s find out!

Working in the Cloud

Chromebook OfflineJust before we get to the meat of this article, let’s just make a few things clear. Chrome OS was from the get-go intended to be 100 percent functional while having access to the cloud, connected to Google’s tools that store all data outside the physical bounds of the laptop/desktop itself. But, as we’ve all experienced before, there are down times that we all experience, and so, what are looking to uncover is how much can get done while your OS is not able to communicate with the cloud.

On the other hand, there is also a question of what does productivity means. If by being productive one means sending e-mails, sharing data on social networks and streaming video online, the lack of an internet connection would definitely make these operations impossible per se.

But, the preparing/production of all these contents is definitely done offline, and so, without becoming too philosophical about it – we will try to find out how much of a negative impact a lack of connectivity has, specifically given the very online nature of Chrome itself.

Offline Chromebooks for good!

One of the problems that may become apparent immediately after you’re segregated from the online environment is the fact that the file system implemented by the Chrome OS is somewhat more rudimentary than, say, that accessible to a Windows computer. But this should not be a problem. What may be a problem is the fact that most entry level laptops have relatively small storage capacity – most of them being in the area of 16 to 32 GB, while, indeed more expensive models can up the ante towards more than sufficient 320GB or more, local storage.

Thus, to increase operability while offline, you should teach yourself to only keep the production required data at the ready, while your photos, music and other entertainment mater4ials should always sit in the cloud, to be side loaded whenever you need them. Also, do not forget, as another preliminary, that SD cards and USB memory sticks have increased exponentially in size as of late, so, if you want a quick and inexpensive way of increasing your local storage capacity, a 16GB or even larger USB stick is no longer as expensive as it used to be.

Working offline to save bandwidth/avoid data caps

Another reason to auto segregate some of your work to the offline world has to do with the fact that for the most part, most data packages from most carriers (maybe with the exception of cable bound data packages) will have limitations. For instance, the 4G LTE versions of most Chromebooks will peak at about 100 MB per month. Yes, that’s right – 100 MB per month! That takes video editing out of the equation, at least when you’re on the go, and leaves small file uploading and even e-mail sending into a state where you’re always be asking yourself whether to attach that “bulky” 2 MB attach or not.

So, working on your Chromebook offline can definitely be a question of keeping operational costs down as much as possible.

Google Drive offline

We’ll let you in on a little secret that may end up saving a lot of bandwidth and a lot of hassle. Say, for instance, you have a very up and down internet connection. That happens when you’re on the road and the connection itself pings back and forth form one physical relay to another. SO here’s how you can make your Google Drive tools to be accessible even when the connection drops:

1. Visit your drive.google.com On the left, where the options are click Offline Docs

2. Click get the App. As expected, this will download the contents of the applications bound to the cloud locally.

3. You will now be redirected to the Chrome Web store. Select Add to Chrome and allow the application to be installed locally.

4. Again, you will be redirected to the Chrome page, after the app has been installed and from there you can return to Drive. Now, click your Google Drive icon

5. On the newly opened dialogue box – the Offline Docs page – click enable Offline

Now, you can choose to work offline and online as you please, and as your internet connection if off, you will still have access to the bulk of your basic productivity tools, word processing and the other usual apps.

The files you can have access to include spreadsheets, presentations, drawings. You can edit, open, create and save all of these.

In regards to other files you have stored in the cloud, files that you would like to have available offline as well, simply store these while you have an internet connect. Any modifications you’ve made to these will be synced when you have regained your online capabilities.

A word of warning

Evidently, any files you keep stored on your drive, USB sticks or micro SD cards will be prone to theft if your Chromebook machine is lost/stolen, etc. So always be considerate of what you store locally.

Applications that make offline work less of a hassle

As we showed you above, most text based productivity apps from Google work offline easily, so that is covered. But you might still find the need of some very specific apps to use offline. So here are a few general purpose ones, that can work offline by default or without workarounds:

As a word of advice, whenever you choose to use any applications from the Google store be weary of whether or not they can work offline or not. Most productivity applications will have an offline mode as well. From the store you will be generally directed to the official website of the developers and the application will be installable locally.

For instance, an app I use for more than just basic photo editing in Chrome – Pixlr displays the same behavior when trying to install it locally.

From the Google Play store front you get redirected to the official website of the developer where the app allows local installation.

To easily find other applications that can work offline without tweaks or workaround visit the Creative Tools Section of the Chrome Web Store.

Is Chrome as flexible as other OS environments?

Well, what the chrome OS does is it allows you work both offline as well as online, as you desire, but indeed, installation and managing of online and offline features of apps can be a little tricky or require a bit more thinking than, say, a utility that does not have built in cloud operability. But, in a few years the app developers, mainly those that produce offline only apps are bound to jump on the bandwagon, so, if you’ve made your peace with the sometimes more lackluster offering of Chromebook, things are only going to get better. So do persevere, as Chrome is definitely on the rising portion of the wave.

And, as always, let us know what your experiences have been like, working offline with Chrome and whether or not this article was useful to you.

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