Tag: chromebook

Writing with the Google Chromebook

I am currently away on an Internet Vacation. I’ll be back online on March 31. I have written one new post for each day of my Vacation so that folks don’t miss me too much while I am gone. But keep in mind, these posts have been scheduled ahead of time. Feel free to comment, as always, but note that since I am not checking email, I will likely not be replying to comments until I am back from my Vacation on March 31. With that said, enjoy!


A few months back I got a Google Chromebook. I wrote up some initial thoughts on my Chromebook, and now I wanted to talk about how the Chromebook works for me as a writing tool–which was, after all, the main reason I got it.

Physical attributes

The Chromebook is very light-weight. To me it doesn’t feel much heavier than my iPad 2. This is great because I can toss it into my messenger bag without fear of leaning to one side when I walk, the way it seems I do when I put my work laptop–a high-end Dell of some kind or other–in said bag.

The keyboard feels natural enough to me. At least, I can type as fast on the Chromebook keyboard as I can on any of the other keyboards that I use (we’re talking at the rate of 75-85 words per minute) and I don’t seem to make any more mistakes.

Perhaps the one drawback is the “litter box” scratch pad for the mouse. Just about every laptop has them these days, but they are not my first choice in mouse manipulation.

I think the battery life is around 6 hours or so, but I’ve only run the battery down once, and it was an accident on my part. (I thought I’d plugged in my Chromebook to charge overnight and I hadn’t.)

Finally, the screen. Until I got my Chromebook, I had been doing writing away from my home office on my iPad using an external BlueTooth keyboard. One of the reasons I wanted a laptop was because the iPad screen was a little too small for me. I prefer to setup my writing screen with larger, readable fonts and when I did that on the iPad, there wasn’t much screen real estate left over. The Chromebook is better. The screen is much larger and when I am in full-screen mode, I have just what I need to get my writing done.

Writing software

One sacrifice I made, switching to the Chromebook was to give up my beloved Scrivener for first and second drafts. I still use Scrivener, but now I use it for my third, polishing draft, from which I compile the manuscript that will be delivered to my editors.

After some floundering around with various simple, text-based editors, I eventually settled back on Google Docs. I was hesitant about this at first, but I soon realized that by writing some Google App Scripts, I could highly tailor Google Docs to my own needs. I could automate a lot of stuff that I’d done manually. Indeed, for the first time¬†ever I am now able to capture what I write each day in Evernote and actually see what changed from the previous day. This is done entirely through automated Google App Scripts that I’ve written. I have an advantage here over people who don’t write code, but it is, after all, what I do for a living when I am not writing stories.

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Initial Thoughts on My New Google Chromebook

A few weeks back, I got a Google Chromebook. I got the machine so that I could have an easier time writing while away from my home office. I had previously been doing my writing on my iPad 2, using an external BlueTooth keyboard, and that worked out fine, but the screen size was a little too small for my needs. I needed something more comfortable, and the price of a Chromebook made it worth checking out. I’ve had my Chromebook for a few weeks now, so here are some of my initial thoughts on it. These are by no means comprehensive. I ended up getting the Samsung $249 model:

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This model is extremely lightweight. And it boots up faster than any computer I’ve ever had, from cold shutdown to fully ready to go in well under 20 seconds. It also fits nicely in my messenger bag without adding a whole lot of weight, which is convenient.

The basic OS takes a little getting used to because it is essentially all browser-based. The upshot of this is that the browser in question is Chrome, which is what I used on all of my other devices and platforms anyway. There is plenty of local storage for my needs, but the idea is that this is mostly a thin client. Google Docs is ready to use and available offline, which is convenient, and one of the “goodies” that comes with the Chromebook is an additional 200 GB of storage on Google Drive, so I have plenty of space for documents.

But I generally don’t use Google Docs for my writing. I was looking for something cleaner and simpler, something akin to iaWriter on my Mac and iPad. The best product I’ve found is called WordFlow made by AwesomeSource and available through the Chrome Extension store. This gives me a full-screen editor that can handle markdown files (.md) just like iaWriter can. The files are available offline, and I can save them to my Google Drive so that I can work on them on other devices when I’m not using my Chromebook. The features are minimal, but the distractions are almost nil and the layout is perfect for the screen size. Here is a screen capture of WordFlow on my Chromebook, which should give a sense of how clean and simple it is:

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As far as web browser, email, social network and blogging goes, there is absolutely no difference between the Chromebook and my iMac, since I do all of these from within the Chrome browser. That’s a nice little benefit to have. I try to avoid it on the Chromebook, because my whole purpose in getting it was not to distract myself with social media, but to focus on writing when I’m away from my desk1.

One of the most unexpected, and coolest features I’ve uncovered is the “Chrome Remote Desktop” application. With a little configuration, this allows you to access any machine over the Internet for which you have setup remote access. It has proven useful on several occasions so far, to be able to access my iMac while I am at work, or in another room of the house. You are prompted for which machine you want to connect to, and a special password to authenticate:

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  1. At the moment, I am writing this blog post on the Chromebook because I’m upstairs with my little boy, who is home sick today.