Chromebooks keep getting better and are become the perfect travel companion for any web developer. I’ve had Chromebooks all the way back to the original CR-47 that showed up at my doorstep because I filled out a survey for Google. And since that time I’ve used Chromebooks as the companion device whenever I’ve been away from my desk. But first some points of order. Chromebooks may not be for everyone and yet they may fit you perfectly. Let’s look at a few underlying “workflow” issues that contribute to Chromebooks working perfectly for me (and you can see if that works for you as well).
- Almost all of my “work” is online. All my documents, writing, calendars, emails, code exists and resides online. Whether it is working on a document in Google Drive or customizing some presentation in Zoho or updating the code of one of my plugins on Bitbucket or sending out one of my newsletters using Sendy… everything is online.
- I live in an area where Wifi is EVERYWHERE and where it is not publicly available I have a hotspot waiting to get used. Now it’s also important to understand that even when I travel to parts of North Dakota where coverage will be a little bit spotty, as long as I plan ahead (syncing email, Google drive, and other apps), I have no problem keeping busing with work when not online.
- I have my desk/broadcast studio set just the way I like it and I would prefer not to “deconstruct” parts of the desk just to take my MacBook or some other tool with me to a coffee shop.
- Chromebooks are a fraction of the cost of my other computers and therefore the fear of damage and/or loss due to theft is not a high concern for me when traveling or just working at the library.
If you “fit” within these parameters then maybe a Chromebook is a smart choice for you and your business. Currently, I think the two best choices for Chromebooks are the Samsung Chromebook Plus (the Pro isn’t available yet so I can recommend it) and the Acer Chromebook Flip (C302A), otherwise known as the Flip 2. Though I will also say, all the Chromebooks that were released in the last 6-8 months are solid solutions. It just depends on what you need or want out of your device.
- Do you want a beautiful screen?
- Do you want a widescreen format or the 3:2 screen format?
- Do you need a touchscreen?
- Do you need a backlit keyboard?
- Do you need USB-TypeC ports?
- Do you want a flip/rotation/convertible device that can be both a traditional laptop as well as a tablet device?
And while it is a big decision just to choose a Chromebook… there are a ton of tools/extensions/apps that you should know about that will make your life easier as a web developer.
- ShiftEdit – https://shiftedit.net/ – This online IDE keeps getting better and better. I’m able to easily connect to my git repos as well as my servers I use for development and work straight in the browser. Another solid solution is CodeAnywhere.
- LastPass – https://lastpass.com – This password manage works quite well within the Chromebook environment. I just wish others like Dashlane works just as well since I really like Dashlane on my macs.
- Web Developer Extension – http://chrispederick.com/work/web-developer/ – This extension for Chrome is so useful for doing web development on Chrome.
- Caret – http://thomaswilburn.net/caret/ – This app for Chrome has the feel and experience of Sublime Text on my other devices and works as the perfect lightweight text editor.
- Slack – If your Chromebook has the ability to use the Android App Store (which most of the newer one will) then having the Android Slack app installed on the Chromebook is a great way to stay connected with your teams and community.
- Chrome Remote Desktop – Chrome Web App Link – Having the ability to remote into any of my other computers that are back on my desk makes my Chromebook that much more powerful.
- Secure Shell – Chrome Web App Link – If you need a terminal/SSH tool (and don’t want to switch over to the developer channel on your Chromebook, this addon will do the trick.
- Screenleap – http://www.screenleap.com/ – This is an excellent solution if you need to record your screen for a client/video or need to share your screen in a mini-training session.
- Polarr – Chrome Web App Link – An excellent photo and image editor for your Chromebook. But don’t forget that most of the newer Chromebooks also have a solid image editor built into the system.
- OneTab – Chrome Web App Link – For those “tab junkies”, you may need to utilize this extension for Chrome to keep your tabs more organized and not sucking all your resources into maintaining open tabs.
- PlutoTV – http://pluto.tv/watch – Its not ALL work and no play. Sometimes you need a free reprieve from work and Pluto has some of the best curated shows. Note: that you can also go to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, SlingTV, etc, etc, etc… either on the web or through an Android app.
And finally a few other “tips”:
- You can connect the Chromebook’s file manager directly to your Dropbox account to immediately access all your Dropbox items as part of your file system. You can also connect an SFTP account to the file manager as well.
- For people with a widescreen monitor, you may prefer to put the menu bar on the left rather than the bottom to maintain as much vertical screen space as possible. With the 3:2 screen size of the Chromebook Plus I no longer need to do that.
- While there are ton of keyboard shortcuts that over time will make your life much easier, and probably worth a different post, for now, you MUST know about Ctrl + Alt + ? By pressing those three keys you will get a screen overlay with all known keyboard shortcuts. When the screen overlay is active you can press the Ctrl, Alt, Shift, or other keys to see the shortcuts that change based on which keys are being pressed.
I hope this helps those of you who are either new to Chromebooks or beginning to consider a Chromebook. And if you have any questions, you can always leave a comment or find me on twitter at @benjaminbradley.