Having a Chromebook is all about minimalist efficiency, so it’s no surprise that Chrome OS comes with a barely-there suite of default software. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of tools that will extend the functionality of your budget-friendly laptop beyond that of mere Web browsing, whether you need to edit your entire catalog of vacation photos or simply ditch the slideshow for your next meeting in favor of something more visually stimulating. After all, “budget-based” and Adobe’s premium packages are rarely whispered in the same breadth, even with the recent cloud editions.
Apps for presentations
Sometimes all you need to explain a abstract concept or process is a nice flowchart. Charts can be breathtaking and awe-inspiring, and you can make sure yours reach the proper level of excitement with Gliffy. The app’s snap-to-grid interface and export options render it easy to use, while the addition of hundreds of shapes and other neat features make improving your workflow diagrams and UI mockups a breeze.
Our presentations used to just be slides back in the old days, often accompanied with the sound of breaking glass as words came whizzing across the screen. However, even the worst presentation crafted using Prezi blows said slideshows out of the water. The non-linear presentation app lets you zoom in and out of objects grouped on an infinite canvas, which will no doubt impress viewers who’ve grown accustomed to conventional, slide-after-slide software.
Plotly lets you design graphs and diagrams that are a bit more data-oriented than the flowcharts in Gliffy. We’re talking line graphs, bar charts, heat maps, and histograms. The app easily handles spreadsheets and complex data sets culled from Dropbox or Google Drive, turning them into attractive graphs and charts. You can also plot data points across a specified range and include them in an email, or simply use the service to track all the extra work you’re doing at the office.
Apps for organization
Evernote is a note-taking app that takes things a bit further with the ability to synchronize content across all of your devices. Get a great idea on the bus? Punch it into Evernote on your smartphone and it will be waiting when you get to work. It doesn’t stop at text, though, as it lets you to stash photos, movies, and audio in one convenient location which you can then search using specific keywords. Organizational notebooks and to-do lists only add to the feature list.
Trello is an easy tool for managing projects across multiple parties. You drag project cards across status-based lists and instantly view who’s working on what at any given moment, giving you ample customization and organization features that are only second to the app’s sorting functions and color coordination. Hell, it’s so versatile, we use it daily at Digital Trends for editorial organization and communication.
If you’re looking to change up your work experience altogether, Tomatoes provides an easy way to keep track of your work using the Pomodoro technique — a routine involving 25-minute periods of work with a 5-minute break spliced between each. The app’s streamlined timer lets you know when its time to start and stop working, and moreover, keeps track of your productivity during each work period. Just try to overlook the many advertisements.
Apps for editing documents
They say writing is about making an agreement between your butt and the chair, and Writer wants to make sure once you’ve made said agreement, you stick to it. The simple, typewriter-like interface axes potential distractions, such as the ability to change fonts and italicize text, leaving you with nothing more than your own words. The app also automatically saves your content as you write and even works offline, with an option to export to PDF or text.
Caret is a plain text editor lined with plenty of options for entering tags and commands specific to coding, with ample settings pertaining to indenting and line wrapping. It also features tabbed editing, offline support, and a host of customizable font colors, the latter of which will ensure you have no trouble keeping your end tags in the right place.
Gingko turns your work on its head, but once you get used to it, you’ll never look back. Rather than use a linear thought process, the app breaks down your writing into columns housing your major ideas, which you can then build more specifically as you move to the right. It’s a terrific tool for constructing outlines, one that also allows for real-time collaboration and provides you with a selection of common templates to build upon.
Apps for editing and sharing media
Despite a distinct lack of Adobe’s ubiquitous Photoshop software for Chrome OS, there are a number of alternatives that most people will find work just as effectively. One of them is Pixlr, a Web-based image editor integrated with Google Drive for quick saving to the cloud. It handles everything from red-eye reduction and sharpening to cropping and contrast adjustments, with a healthy selection of Instagram-like filters for your viewing pleasure. It can even open PSD files for partial photoshop compatibility.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for producing and editing video files in Chrome OS. WeVideo is the best choice for chopping up the occasional snowboard video and setting it to the filthiest dubstep track you can find. Video performance may not be top-notch depending your model Chromebook, but the basic app manages to get the job done with options for trimming and adding text, effects, music, transitions, voice overs, and more.
While VLC remains one of the best methods for viewing pretty much any media on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux, it still doesn’t exist in a true form on Chrome OS. The easiest alternative is to set up a home media server with Plex, which will transcode and stream all of your content to any device running the app — even if you’re not home. You can also access a wide array of online channels, such as TED and TWiT, and queue videos from sites like YouTube.
Related: What is a Chromebook, anyway?