Turn Chrome OS into a powerhouse with the best Chromebook apps

best Chromebook apps
Chromebooks have won a well-deserved reputation as affordable, lightweight laptops designed around streaming and collaboration. This makes them popular among budget-conscious individuals, even if it’s the apps and extensions that can really make Chrome OS worthwhile. The best Chromebook apps further the operating system’s functionality, allowing you to quickly save content for offline viewing and diagram the small intricacies that make up photosynthesis, among a slew of other actions. So why not amp up your laptop with a few of our favorites? Check them out below.

If you’re looking to outfit your new machine with even more apps, we’ve written a comprehensive guide on how to install Android apps on a Chromebook.

VLC for Chrome

Best Chromebooks apps VLC

Many of us love VLC, but did you know there is a version readily available for Chromebook users? The free media player can handle a variety of media formats — including MP4, AVI, FLAC, MOV, and AAC, among others — and offers multi-track audio, subtitles, auto rotation, support for 360-degree videos, and a number of other features that can greatly improve the quality of your viewing experience. Keep in mind, however, that Chromebooks aren’t designed to hold many movies, so don’t store those files on your internal hard drive if you can help it. After all, you’ll need space for some of these other apps!

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Chrome Web Store

Evernote/Evernote Web Clipper

Best Chromebooks apps Evernote

Evernote is a versatile note-taking and content-saving app — if you know how to use it properly. The service allows you to save and share notes, lets you type up quick lists, allows you to save webpages or attach related images, and provides organization/search capabilities so you won’t lose what you were working on. Evernote also features excellent syncing capabilities, too, meaning you can easily save information when working on another device. If you don’t need a dedicated note taker, we suggest using the Evernote Web Clipper, which will allow you to save webpage information for future reference.

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Office Online

Best Chromebooks apps Office Online

Microsoft provides Office Online for those who want the basic Office suite — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Sway — in a simplified, web-based format. All your files will still be in the Office format, and you’ll be able to access all the familiar features you’ve grown accustomed to over the years. It won’t take up any room on your laptop, either, which a boon to Chromebook users already watching their storage space. This handy extension makes using the suite faster and more organic, rendering it ideal for students or workers who need to manage or create Windows-friendly when they aren’t on a Windows machine.

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Chrome Web Store

Polarr Photo Editor

Best Chromebooks apps Polarr

If you frequently work or play with photos, you need a lightweight but capable photo-editing app. Thankfully, Polarr is happy to help. This robust editor includes both “basic” capabilities like face detection and skin-tone editing, as well as more advanced tools for adjusting gradients, editing spots, and managing layers. It also supports RAW formatting for exports (you probably don’t want to save a RAW file on your Chromebook). The list goes on, and Polarr incorporates additional tools with most updates, so check out the editor and see if it has what you’re looking for.

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Enjoy Music Player

Best Chromebooks apps Enjoy Player

The Chrome Web Store has a ton of music players, but Enjoy stands out as one of the best, particularly when it comes to organizing and playing music both on a hard drive and in the cloud. Enjoy allows you to save music to either your computer or to Google Drive, and play it at will. The software’s minimalist layout includes a variety of categorization options, too, as well as an equalizer and mini mode. It’s rare to find a player so well tuned to the Google aesthetic and Chromebook use in particular.

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Chrome Web Store

Inbox by Gmail

Best Chromebooks apps Inbox

You’re probably already well-acquainted with Gmail, but if you use it frequently for work-related purposes, you should probably install Inbox by Gmail. This app adds a bunch of organizational features to Gmail, including the ability to bundle messages together that all need similar responses, review highlights of messages without opening them, “snooze” emails that you want to put off for a while, and more. It’s one of the best Chromebook apps for a busy Gmail inbox, though if you use email clients other than Gmail, you may want to opt for Newton Mail instead.

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Chrome Web Store

Kami

Best Chromebooks apps Kami

Kami is a notation and markup tool that allows you to collaborate on a number of documents, notably PDFs and images. If you’re receiving PDFs or other docs from sources outside Google Drive and still need a way to mark and discuss them, Kami is your best bet. If your markup and collaboration needs are school-related, then you’ll be happy to know Kami also works with Google Classroom.

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Save to Google Drive

Best Chromebooks apps Save to Google Drive

If you have a Chromebook, you’ll often be using Google Drive to save documents and other forms of content. This extension is particularly powerful in that regard, because it allows you to save web content and screenshots instantly to Drive. You can save an entire webpage, or right-click to save specific hyperlinks or media — there are also options for customizing how the save feature functions. This is one of the best Chromebook apps for those who use Google Drive when researching or brainstorming.

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Chrome Web Store

SimpleUndoClose

Best Chromebooks apps: SimpleUndoClose

Don’t let the weird name fool you, this app is simple but invaluable if you use a Chromebook. It adds a toolbar button that, when clicked, shows you all your recently-closed tabs and allows you to reopen any of them at will. It saves the day when you need to consult a recent website you’ve forgotten the name of, when you’ve accidentally closed a browser tab, and when Chrome crashes and you need to bring back your work. The settings menu allows you to customize how closed sites are shown and managed, too, so you can find the ideal layout for your work habits.

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Chrome Web Store

Paperpile

Best Chromebooks apps: Paperpile

Ideal for the student or researcher, Paperpile allows you to save article references, PDFs, and published papers to Google Drive and auto-cite them in Google Docs. The app currently integrates with publishing platforms such as Google Scholar, PubMed, and ArXiv, among others. It basically takes the grunt work out of research papers, allowing you to get back to the content you’re writing ASAP.

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Chrome Web Store

Ultidash

Best Chromebooks apps: Ultidash

Ultidash is a must-have for anyone looking to get things done. The app adds a dashboard chock-full of productivity tools, providing you with a to-do list, a chart that measures your computer activity, a site tracker that shows how you’re spending time online, a blocker to help avoid distractions, and icons that showcase everything from weather forecasts to unread emails. It’s like a dozen apps in one, and an invaluable tool for those who want to improve productivity and keep an eye on their tasks.

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Chrome Web Store

WeatherBug

Best Chromebooks apps: Weatherbug

Weather apps are a dime a dozen — you can visit any number of sites or download thousands of extensions to show you local weather data. WeatherBug is not you’re run-of-the-mill weather app, however, mostly because of the way it packages information. It doesn’t just compile forecast charts — it gives you up-to-date alerts and provides you with immediate access to all local weather cams, satellite imagery, and much more in a single window. It’s refreshing to find a weather app that’s actually worth regularly consulting.

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Chrome Web Store

Black Menu

Best Chromebooks apps: Black Menu

When Chrome OS first arrived, it had a handy drop-down menu that gave you access to a host of frequently-used tools. That particular menu was phased out in later iterations of the operating system (along with a host of common Chrome OS bugs), though you can still create a quickstart menu with this useful app. You can also drag and drop any services you want immediate access to, and quickly open all the tabs you want for your session without hunting through a slew of menus.

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Chrome Web Store

Lucidchart

Best Chromebooks apps: LucidChart

Lucidchart is a visualization app that lets you create diagrams and flowcharts for just about anything. If you’re explaining a complex process, Lucidchart is ready to help out, and it’s easy to connect to Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Slack, Atlassian, and many other work-oriented apps. That compatibility also means that you can share your charts with teammates or employees as you are working on them, and allows for collaborative editing when necessary. It also offers Visio importing as a bonus, for those making the switch from the older diagram software.

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Chrome Web Store

Video Speed Controller

Best Chromebooks apps: Video Speed Controller

Students, professionals, and DIY enthusiasts end up watching a lot of videos online these days. That can take up an annoying amount of time, but Video Speed Controller is here to help. This app allows you to accelerate a video by any speed you want, helping you save time while ensuring you still have access to the information. You can also jump back several seconds, if desired, and slow down or speed up playback while you work. If videos are a part of your regular routine, this is one of the best apps currently at your disposal.

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Chrome Web Store

Cloud9

Best Chromebooks apps: Cloud9

This app is made specifically for developers, who may feel like they don’t have a lot of great tools to build anything of substance on their Chromebook. Cloud9 provides an online code editor and Ubuntu workspace via the cloud, so you really can get things done — with support for more than 40 coding languages and all the flexibility that Ubuntu can deliver. If you want to turn your Chromebook into a real creator’s tool, start here.

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Chrome Web Store

Pocket

Best Chromebooks apps: Pocket

Chromebooks are internet-reliant laptops, which introduces a specific challenge: You won’t always have a reliable connection when you want to use them. Fortunately, Pocket helps alleviate that issue by allowing you to save articles, videos, webpages, and other pieces of content to a space where you can easily view them later, even if you’re offline.

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Chrome Web Store

Postman

Best Chromebooks apps: Postman

We already brought up Cloud9 as a coding tool, but Postman is a different sort of app. It’s essentially a full API development suite aimed at those looking to build an application from the ground up. It not only supports development but also provides automated testing, mock servers, detailed performance analytics, and everything else you need to make sure an app is ready to go to market.

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Chrome Web Store

JSTorrent

Best Chromebooks apps: JSTorrent

If you download or upload torrents, JSTorrent is a valuable tool for several reasons. First, it manages your torrent downloads automatically and has no problem handling even larger files. Second, it’s easy to customize and control your torrents with just a few clicks. Third, it’s built for lighter machines, so even if you have a low-end Chromebook. you can still run it just fine (warnings about low storage drive space still apply, however).

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Chrome Web Store

LastPass

Best Chromebooks apps: LastPass

Cap off your app adventures by making sure your information is private and secure. LastPass is one of the best password managers around, one that provides login management for all your sites, not to mention password generation and profile management. It syncs pretty well with other platforms, too, which means you don’t have to re-remember your passwords when switching to another device. If you haven’t tried a password manager yet, LastPass is a great place to begin.

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