Thinking of buying a Chromebook but worried that it needs to be online all the time? Here's our guide to what you can do with these increasingly versatile devices when there's no wi-fi
Chromebooks are designed to be used primarily 'online only'. But you're likely to drift away from wi-fi now and then, so it's worth knowing what you can and can't do with a Chromebook that's offline.
Google's Chromebooks have very little storage space. They don't run 'regular' programs, the way a Windows laptop does - instead, you use Google web apps, which largely expect you to access them over the internet in the Chrome browser.
But, if you're offline, you're not stuck. We explain some common questions about the way Chromebooks function.
Will a Chromebook work offline?
Yes - A number of popular apps such as Gmail and Google Drive have offline modes built-in. If you're editing a Google Doc on your Chromebook while offline, it will save locally to the laptop itself. It will then sync with your online account the next time your Chromebook is connected to the internet.
Keep in mind that you might not be able to delve through all the files you have stored in Google Drive while you're offline. If you know you have a document to edit, and will need to do so while offline (on a train journey, for instance), then be sure to open it beforehand, while you're still on wi-fi.
Other apps like Kindle Cloud Player and even games like Angry Birds are all available to use offline – just be sure to enable offline use in their settings first.
Want some more advice about Chromebooks? Our friendly tech team can help you with one-to-one support on a range of tech issues. Find out more here.
Can I save files to a Chromebook?
Yes - Chromebooks have a smaller amount of local storage, compared to Windows and Mac laptops. A Chromebook might come with just 32GB of storage space, some of which is immediately lost to the Chrome operating system itself.
But you can still store and save hundreds of photos or files to the computer itself. Generally speaking, though, you're not expected to - instead, you're expected to store files in Google Drive cloud storage.
Can I use Microsoft Office on a Chromebook?
Yes - There are two ways you can do this. You can use Microsoft Office apps for free in the browser via office.com (you'll need to create a free Microsoft account), although you can only save the documents you create in the cloud, not directly to your Chromebook.
If you have a paid Microsoft 365 account you can also install the Microsoft Office Android apps on to your Chromebook via the Google Play Store. While some Android apps don't work very well on the bigger screen of a Chromebook or a tablet, the Office apps are well optimised for the format.
Can I edit photos using my Chromebook?
Yes - There’s an in-built photo-editor in Chrome’s operating system. If this proves unsatisfactory, web-based photo-editing alternatives such as Pixlr are available.
This isn't the same as running a program on your Chromebook, of course. You won't be able to install Photoshop, for instance - although you can install Adobe's Android apps such as Photoshop Mix, Photoshop Express and Lightroom.
Can I run iTunes on a Chromebook?
No - Apple hasn’t created an iTunes app for Google’s Chrome OS and – due to the two companies’ ongoing rivalry – something unlikely to end any time soon. If you're an iPhone or iPad user, you won't be able to manage your device using a Chromebook, plugging it in to sync files or change settings.
If you're thinking of buying a Chromebook, check out our advice and reviews here.