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Chromebooks beyond the cloud: Everything Chromebooks can do offline

Brad Chacos | July 18, 2014
The offline abilities of Chrome OS have skyrocketed since the first Googley laptops hit the streets, and now Chromebooks can tackle many of the most popular PC uses completely offline.

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Born as pure conduits to the web--showcases for Gmail, Drive, and other Google cloud services--Chromebooks have struggled to shake a bad reputation. The basic complaint is that Chromebooks become nothing more than dumb, worthless, keyboard-equipped pieces of glass when your Internet craps out.

While that may have been an accurate description of first-generation Chromebooks, nothing could be further from the truth today. The offline abilities of Chrome OS have skyrocketed since the first Googley laptops hit the streets, and now Chromebooks can tackle many of the most popular PC uses--from blasting out emails to working on spreadsheets to even just playing movies--completely offline.

Maybe that's why Microsoft suddenly seems so worried about them?

Further reading: Chromebook power tips
What Chromebooks don't do is enable that functionality by default, or even make their offline capabilities obvious. But we've got your back. Here's a guide to everything you can do offline with a Chromebook, complete with instructions on how to set it all up.

Back to basics
Let's start with the cornerstones of the Chromebook experience. Google's email and productivity solutions live and breathe on the web, but enabling their offline options lets you tinker with files and sift through your inbox away from the Internet. You can then sync all your changes when connectivity kicks back in.

Chrome OS's Gmail app doesn't include offline capabilities natively, but that's quickly fixed by downloading and activating Google's Gmail Offline app, which mimes the look of the mobile Gmail apps. It will locally synchronize your messages and actions, which you'll then be able to access while offline by opening the Gmail Offline app via an icon in Chrome's New Tab page, or by selecting Gmail Offline in the Chrome App Launcher.

Enabling offline productivity is just as easy. Simply open Google Drive, then click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and select Settings. Open the General tab and check the box next to "Sync your work to this computer so that you can edit offline." Presto!

The process is similar with Google Calendar. Open it in-browser, click the gear icon and select the Offline option, then click the Enable button in the pop-up that appears. Calendar's pretty much only good for viewing your schedule while offline, though--you can't create or edit events.

Things are even simpler if you use Keep-- Google's rival to Evernote and OneNote --to store your random musings. Keep automatically lets you peruse your stash and whip up new notes even when you're offline, as it's one of those newfangled Chrome packaged apps. (Much more on those later.)

 

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