Chrome OS has become the operating system that I use on a daily basis to do practically everything: almost all of my work here at Pocketables is completed using my Google Chromebook Pixel; during the semester, I do all of my lesson planning and create all of my classroom materials using Chrome OS; and when I relax on the couch at night, I use Chrome OS to browse Facebook and chat with friends.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some shortcomings, though. While Chrome OS is well on its way to becoming the only operating system that most people need, power users like me do have to change some old habits and learn how to adapt to a life that is lived almost completely in the cloud.
Given my experience living full time in Chrome OS over the past several months, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 most wanted features – although they’re not necessarily in any specific order. To be sure, I think most of these are on Google’s radar, and some are probably coming very soon. But still, at the same time, I’ve lived far too long without these features on Chrome OS, and these are the main reason why I still keep an old Windows laptop on standby, just in case I need to use it to complete a specific task.
So here you go – and be sure to let me know if you think I missed something, or if you have anything to add yourself!
1. A better offline photo editor.
A few months ago, I wrote an in-depth series looking at all of the different options available for editing your photos on Chrome OS. All but one of these options required the use of an online app that absolutely won’t work without an active internet connection, and I honestly found the built-in offline photo editor to be quite a bit lacking.
Sure, it’s gotten updates since then, but in all this time, the built-in photo editor in Chrome OS still only offers very basic features that just won’t cut it for someone like me, who is editing photos on a daily basis. I want Pixlr-like functionality in a built-in, packaged app. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
2. An offline audio and video editor.
While we’re at it, what about the same for audio and video editing? There are some great options online, but again, these require access to an internet connection. It’s also not very practical to upload extremely large unedited video files into an online video editor, and most of the free options have very restrictive length or file size requirements.
YouTube has a decent video editor, but again, you have to be online, and it lacks a lot of features that professional editors need. The Chromebook Pixel has the horsepower for some serious video editing, and I hope Google makes something available – even if it’s initially limited in functionality.
While we’re at it, what about the ability to record and save video using the webcam offline?
3. The ability to upload music files to Google Play Music.
I think literally everyone has been asking for this, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s coming soon. Still, I want it now.
4. The ability to encrypt and decrypt zips.
I take my personal security very seriously. While I have enabled two-factor authentication for my Google account, I am still cautious when it comes to storing sensitive information in Google Drive (or any cloud storage service). The recent news regarding PRISM and the NSA makes me even more leary.
That’s why I decided long ago to store all of my documents that contain sensitive, personal information in an encrypted password-protected zip before uploading them to Google Drive. So what’s the problem?
If I want to view these documents, I have to turn on my Windows machine and access them using a program like 7zip – I can’t view them at all on my Chromebook. That’s really inconvenient, and is probably the biggest reason why my Windows laptop is still around.
5. A torrent downloader that actually works.
I know that it’s technically possible to download torrents onto a Chromebook already, but the existing solutions I’ve found are so slow. I’d like a torrent downloader for Chrome OS that can download just as fast as µTorrent can on my Windows machine. Since JSTorrent is just too slow for my tastes, I usually download all my torrents on Windows instead.
Granted, I download maybe one torrent a month (or even less), but it’s still annoying to have to use a secondary OS to accomplish this seemingly easy task.
6. Packaged app versions of all of Google’s best services. And Skype.
I want Gmail, Calendar, Google Play Music, YouTube, Google Play Books, Google Play Magazines, and Google Play Movies & TV in packaged apps. I want the ability to sync my Google Play Music library to my Chromebook for offline playback, and the same with Magazines and Movies & TV.
I think it’s silly that there is a separate offline Gmail app, since it would be much more logical for Google to create a single Gmail packaged app that has offline capabilities (along with the ability to receive desktop notifications, even when the app is closed).
And while we’re at it, let’s get a packaged version of Skype going, with full video calling, screen sharing, and document sending and receiving. If Google can do this with Hangouts, Microsoft should be able to do this with Skype. Isn’t Microsoft losing out on a huge revenue stream here, since lots of people pay for premium Skype subscriptions, yet Skype isn’t available on one of the fastest growing OSes around?
7. The ability to remotely connect to a Chrome OS device.
This is also supposedly in the works, and it’s coming soon. As of now, however, the closest thing you can do would be to share your screen during a Hangout.
Google has been telling us to “stay tuned” for quite a while now, and I’m starting to get impatient.
8. More free mobile data each month.
If you’re lucky enough to have a 3G Chromebook, or the LTE Pixel, then you probably realize that 100MB can easily be eaten up in just a few minutes. Yes, I understand that Google doesn’t have to offer us anything for free, but if Google is going to give us something like this, why not do it right?
I had hoped that Google would announce an increase in free mobile data to, say, 1-2GB each month at Google I/O in May. That didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean Google can’t change it’s mind at some point in the near future. I know that even 1GB is still hardly anything, but it’s much more workable than 100MB.
I can keep on dreaming, can’t I?
9. Better connectivity with Android devices.
I want the ability to push files to and from my Android device when it’s plugged into my Chromebook. I want easier USB tethering, and I want my Android device to be able to use my Chromebook’s internet connection. I also want fully workable ADB connectivity built into Chrome OS, so I can easily unlock my phone’s bootloader and root the device.
This seems like a no-brainer, and I’m still perplexed as to why Google hasn’t made Chrome OS more compatible with Android, which is the most popular mobile OS on the planet.
Need I say more?
I want more than a document viewer – I want full offline Microsoft Office editing capabilities, which preserve complex formatting. Not everyone I work with has moved over to Google Docs, and this feature was supposed to be released by now (or so I thought). Tick, tock … tick, tock.
It might seem that I’m complaining a lot. But even with all the above, I find Chrome OS to perform better and to be a more enjoyable user experience than anything I’ve experienced with a Microsoft or Apple logo. For the most part, I’ve been able to successfully change my habits to minimize any potential disruptions to my workflow, and I’ve generally been pleased.
Nothing is perfect, though, which is the purpose of this article. However, I’m sure lots of you disagree with some or all of my assessments. So tell me – what did I get wrong, and or what would you add to the list?