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All about Google Chrome & Google Chrome OS
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14 Dec 12 New Chrome Extension Lets You Save Web Content to Google Drive


Google has launched a new extension for Chrome called “Save to Drive,” enabling users to save web content to their Google Drive.

After installing the extension, users will get an additional icon in Chrome, letting them save an image, an entire page or an image of the visible page to your Drive.

Users can also save the HTML source code of a webpage or a complete webpage in web archive (.mht) format. Finally, they can simply right click on web content to save it directly to Drive.

save to drive

The extension offers several options to manage saved web content: Users can immediately open the file in Drive, rename it or view it in their Drive list, which provides additional options, such as sharing the file or placing it in a folder.

Google has also added new options for managing the images users store in Drive, including zoom by scrolling, new “fit to page” and “100%” buttons, as well as the ability to comment on a specific part of an image.

Have you tried the new Save to Drive Chrome extension? What do you think of it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Article source: http://mashable.com/2012/12/12/chrome-extension-google-drive/

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18 Jun 12 Google polishes Chrome OS, but is it enough to entice buyers?


Google launched the Chrome OS in late 2010 and has continued to update it despite lukewarm reception by the public toward the platform’s model: a browser-centered OS running on a lightweight, minimally-spec’d notebook meant to be used with an always-on Internet connection.

Samsung just released a new top-of-the-line Chromebook, the Series 5 550 and the first so-called “Chromebox,” the Series 3. The Chromebox is a mini-PC in a case that’s similar in size to the Mac mini. You connect your own keyboard and mouse to it, and separate monitor, but otherwise it has most of the same specifications as the Series 5 550: both Chrome computers have Celeron CPUs, 4GB RAM, 16GB on-board flash memory storage, and come installed with Chrome OS, V.19.)

We’ve been running the original Chromebook, the Cr-48, so we were familiar with the product line when he tested the new models.

Because the hardware and software are closely wedded together in a Chrome computer, you really can’t evaluate the hardware without first examining Chrome OS itself.

A more traditional look-and-feel OS

Previous iterations were essentially the Chrome browser running atop a Linux kernel. Aside from having a file manager, image viewer, and media player, it was no different than a web browser. But in this case, you were locked into full-screen mode, and there was no familiar desktop user interface to exit to. Though it could be argued that there were advantages to the extreme simplicity of this design, it probably felt constraining to most users accustomed to a more traditional OS.

In the latest version, Google has added standard OS UI elements, including a desktop (with changeable wallpaper), resizable browser windows, and a taskbar along the bottom of the screen, dubbed Launcher. The Launcher and desktop do help give Chrome OS a more “open” feel when you interact with it. In actuality, these are superficial re-arrangements of app icons and shortcuts, but they do prove themselves to be handy for quickly accessing your often-used web apps.

The Launcher

Clicking the Chrome icon on the Launcher bar opens a browser window, as you’d expect. Clicking this icon again will open a blank tab in the browser. Other icons on the Launcher include those for Gmail and Google Docs (now referred to as Google Drive), each of which will open a browser tab to these web services when clicked. (An icon for Google search will launch a separate browser window that for some reason doesn’t support the ability to open tabs within it.)

In prior versions of Chrome OS, a blank tab displayed icons for web apps installed on the OS. Starting with Version 19, you access your installed apps by clicking the Apps icon (an image of a 3-by-3 grid) on the Launcher. This takes you to the desktop where shortcut icons for the apps installed on your Chrome OS computer are presented in a grid layout for you to click to launch.

I don’t feel that clicking the Apps icon on the Launcher bar is as convenient and fast as opening a blank tab that in prior Chrome OS versions listed your installed apps, but this might just be my personal preference. (The number of clicks for either way is the same.) So this change may be subtle to most users.

You can remove (un-pin) most of the icons on the Launcher by right-clicking. You add (pin) new icons by going to the Apps desktop screen and then right-clicking the icon for the web app you want pinned onto the Launcher bar.

Moveable and resizable browser windows

The functionality that truly is new to the Chrome OS user experience is the ability to minimize, resize and tile browser windows. Clicking the icon of the image of a square that’s set to the upper-right of a browser window expands the browser to fill the entire screen (and over the Launcher). Clicking it again will resize the browser window back to smaller dimensions and reveal the Launcher.

To minimize, you either click and hold the square icon and pull down, or click the browser window’s icon on the launcher. Clicking, holding and sweeping this icon to the left or right will size down the browser window and tile it in that direction. A browser window can also be resized by clicking and dragging the edges of its frame (horizontal, vertical or corners). Thus, you can have multiple browser windows open, and can resize and rearrange them as needed.

View documents in tabs

The Chrome OS file manager (which runs within a browser tab) supports PDF and Microsoft Office documents — meaning, when you double-click on any such formatted file, it will be displayed in a browser tab for you to read. This convenient feature worked with all the Office files I tested on it. It supports DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS and XLSX documents.

Image viewer and editor

Double-clicking an image file in the file manager opens a slideshow viewer within a browser tab, and from this application you can perform basic editing to the picture (including auto-adjust its levels, crop, rotate). However, the slideshow viewer lacks a magnifying tool for you to zoom in on your image, or view it in its actual size. It scales a large image down so it can be seen in its entirety within the display screen.

Media playback

In the file manager, clicking audio files will launch a player that pops up over the lower-right corner of the screen. This application looks slightly more sophisticated compared to older versions of Chrome OS, but remains sparse with a minimal feature-set. Nonetheless, it does what it’s supposed to well, and launches quickly. It supports audio files in M4A and MP3 format.

Clicking a video file will open a tab inside which it will play. The Chrome OS browser supports AVI and MOV video formats. Like the audio player, the available controls for video are minimal (it’s just “play” and “pause” with a slider and time marker you can click on and drag along a timeline, full-screen mode, and volume). Playback quality depends on the processor speed of the Chrome computer’s CPU, naturally.

Copying files still a challenge

A big issue with the file manager of Chrome OS remains unchanged in the latest builds: it still isn’t possible to easily copy files from a Chrome computer’s built-in flash drive to an external/attached memory storage medium, and vice versa through the file manager. It is doable but in an in-elegant manner — you right-click on the file, choose Copy, then click the drive you want to transfer a copy of the file to, right-click and choose Paste. The Chrome OS developers should finally implement a more intuitive means, such as a drag-and-drop interface, to do this.

Google Drive is baked into Chrome OS’ file manager (at least in the Version 20 beta). Your Google Drive account appears as a folder icon in the left pane of the file manager, but you can only delete and open files stored in it. Again, you have to use the awkward copy-and-paste method to move a file individually in your Google Drive folder to your Chrome computer. Frankly, you’re better off just using the Chrome browser, because the Google Drive site gives you easier, direct ways to transfer files from your account to your computer and vice versa.

Performance

Despite the additions to its UI, the overall performance of the new Chrome OS feels fast. I didn’t experience much in the way of noticeable slowdowns while using the Series 5 550. This Chromebook handled my clicks, drags, moves and resizes throughout the OS smoothly and quickly. I would have a dozen or more tabs open at once in a browser window — as music played from my Google Music account in one — and there was rarely a problem in performance.

A major factor in this is probably because of the processor that’s used in the Series 5 550 (it runs on a 1.3 GHz Celeron CPU, while previous Chromebooks came with less-speedy Atom CPUs). But the Version 20 beta that I installed on my trusty Cr-48 ran surprisingly well — snappily even. (A 1.66 GHz Atom powers the Cr-48.) In fact, the latest Chrome OS build I tested on this old-model Chromebook seems to run faster than Version 18.

Some slowing happened when playing high-definition video on YouTube: starting with Version 19, Chrome OS supports 1080p video playback (previous versions blocked themselves from playing higher than 720p). YouTube videos of a few minutes in this resolution played decently set at full-screen, but longer running clips generally resulted in dropped frame rates and choppier motion.

A few thoughts on the Series 5 550 Chromebook’s design

The size of the Series 5 550 Chromebook falls between that of a lightweight notebook and Macbook Air or Ultrabook. Now it’s certainly not bulky. Yet considering that its technical specifications are bare bones, you’d think it’d be as small, or as thin, as the latter form factors.

The resistance of this Chromebook’s individual keys might feel too rigid for some people — my fingers felt a little tired during long and intense durations of typing. I preferred the “looser” key resistance of my old Cr-48′s keyboard. (Or, maybe my fingers had become used to the Cr-48 keyboard over a span of 18 months of use, and would also similarly adjust to the Series 5 550 keyboard over time of frequent use.)

Google’s experiment

The recent changes to Chrome OS bring it closer to a more familiar OS experience for the user, but most of these additions are cosmetic. What matters about Version 19 is the ability to move and resize windows, and, more importantly, how the OS’ performance has noticeably improved.

A more pressing issue is that Chromebooks still cost more than other low-end notebooks (which have better technical specs, and run Windows). Chromebooks are on sale at five Web sites, including Amazon and Best Buy. On Amazon, the Series 5 550 is selling for $450 for the Wi-Fi version and $550 for the 3G-equipped model. The Series 3 Chromebox is selling for $330, which could be considered price-challenged for a bare-bones mini-PC running what many would think of as an outdated CPU (Celeron, even if it’s a 1.9 GHz in the Series 3).

Google and the few remaining makers of Chrome computers really have to find ways to reduce the prices. (Google has recently said in public that it may seek ways to subsidize the costs of Chrome computers through Internet providers and the carriers of mobile data.)

As it nears its second-year anniversary, Chrome OS remains a curious experiment. It’s definitely a usable solution for cloud computing, and Google appears committed to it, improving it on a frequent basis. This OS is still worth keeping an eye on as it evolves — but at what price users are willing to pay for a computer running Chrome OS remains its greatest challenge.

Wen is a freelance writer. He can be reached at howardwen@gmail.com.

Read more about anti-malware in Network World’s Anti-malware section.

Article source: http://www.cio.com.au/article/427897/google_polishes_chrome_os_it_enough_entice_buyers_/?utm_medium=rss&utm_source=sectionfeed

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17 Jun 12 new, more robust Chrome hardware



A year after unveiling Chromebooks to the world, Google and Samsung today are announcing two new devices, including the first “Chromebox” desktop PC. Google is also rolling out several major software improvements, including a new window manager for Chrome OS, better trackpad support, upgrades to a remote desktop access tool, and offline editing for Google Docs.

The new Chromebook has a slicker, more attractive design than previous models, and both the new laptop and desktop take a big step forward in memory and CPU. Instead of Intel Atom processors, Samsung’s latest Chrome computers use Sandy Bridge-based Intel Celeron CPUs, and double the RAM to 4GB. Both devices will be on sale online today and in Best Buy stores soon.

The Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 has a 12.1″ display with resolution of 1280×800, starts up in about 7 seconds, weighs 3.3 pounds, is rated for six hours of battery life, and costs $449 for a WiFi-only edition and $549 for one with WiFi and 3G cellular access. Google says it’s about 2.5 times faster than last year’s models, while the Samsung Chromebox Series 3 will be 3.5 times faster. The Chromebox, which costs $329 and has roughly the same size and shape as an Apple Mac Mini, runs faster because with battery life not being a concern, it can use a higher-wattage version of the Intel Celeron processors.

The new Samsung Chromebook runs a dual-core Intel Celeron Processor 867 at 1.3GHz, compared to last year’s Chromebook which ran a dual-core Intel Atom N570 at 1.66GHz. The Celeron architecture is more advanced, and the laptop certainly seems zippy in our limited testing so far. We’ll have more to say on performance in an upcoming article, which will include some benchmarking. The Chromebox has an Intel Celeron B840 running at 1.9GHz.

The Chromebox has a good number of ports, including six USB 2.0 ports and two DisplayPort++ slots that are compatible with HDMI, DVI, and VGA. Chrome OS is optimized for screens up to 30 inches and can support multiple monitors, Sengupta said.


Oddly, the Chromebox has no SD card reader, but USB devices that can read SD cards are common anyway. The new Chromebook has two USB 2.0 ports, DisplayPort++ output, and an SD card reader. Both the laptop and desktop have a Gigabit Ethernet port. Because the laptop is quite thin, the Ethernet port opens up and juts out a bit to fit the cable.

While the computers are cheaper than any Mac and many Windows PCs, we still think they’re a bit pricey for devices designed to run just one application: the Chrome Web browser. But Chrome devices are fast, and extraordinarily easy to use. Google and its hardware partners haven’t revealed sales figures, and significant market share doesn’t seem to be forthcoming any time soon. However, Google is offering support packages to businesses and education customers ($150 for businesses, $30 for schools, in addition to the device cost) and says the Chromebooks are proving quite popular in educational settings.

Acer and Samsung both released Chromebooks a year ago, but Samsung is the only hardware maker doing so this time around. However, Chrome OS Director Caesar Sengupta says Google is working closely with Intel and expects to have “a few more OEMs shipping later this year.”

Samsung has done well in delivering strong hardware, with a very responsive trackpad. But ultimately, software improvements are needed to give Google any shot at gaining significant market share from Windows and Mac OS X. New features being rolled out today and over the new few weeks provide a good start.

Offline Google Docs editing at last, Google Drive integration

Google used to allow offline editing of Google Docs through a Google Gears extension, but killed the project with the promise of delivering offline functionality natively through the browser. Offline viewing capabilities were brought back last September and editing is coming sometime in June, Sengupta told Ars. Any changes made while offline will sync with the Google server once a user gains an Internet connection.

“Offline viewing has existed for a while, but the Docs team is readying the release of offline editing,” Sengupta said. “We are using this internally at Google right now and we are going to gradually migrate users over the next several weeks.”

Offline editing of Docs will be available in all versions of the Chrome browser, not just the one for Chrome OS devices. No other browsers are supported just yet, but Sengupta didn’t rule it out as long as competing browsers use similar HTML5 technology. Google is using IndexedDB to store files locally when an Internet connection is severed.

Two other additions help on the offline documents and storage fronts. New viewing capabilities allow opening of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files in a browser tab, online or offline. The files can be viewed without Google Docs, although editing requires Docs. Chrome OS is also being integrated with Google Drive, the new cloud storage service with 5GB of free storage. Drive integration is built into the Chrome OS development release, and will hit the stable channel in mid-to-late June, Sengupta said. Because Chromebooks contain 16GB solid-state disk capacity, a user’s Drive files will be cached locally.

Chrome OS, now with more windows

We recently posted an in-depth examination of Google’s new Aura interface for Chrome OS, a window manager that makes Chromebooks act a lot more like the Windows, Mac, and Linux computers people are used to. When Chromebooks first came out last year, they supported viewing of only one browser tab at a time so you couldn’t, for example, type in a Google Doc and view a separate webpage at the same time. Simultaneous viewing of multiple browser windows was added within a few months, and the more robust Aura interface hit the Chrome OS developer channel in April of this year.

Today, Aura becomes the standard interface for Chrome OS as part of an operating system update. For the first time, this provides Chrome OS a graphical user interface that exists outside of the browser, although it’s still very Web-centric. There’s an icon for a file manager, but for the most part the “applications” listed are links to websites. Users can still fill the whole screen with the Chrome browser simply by clicking a little box at the top right of the screen.

Although Aura is pleasing to the eye, it doesn’t change the fact that Chrome OS’s biggest limitation is still its limited usefulness when a user lacks an Internet connection.

Better trackpad software and remote desktop access

As mentioned earlier, the Samsung Chromebook has a very responsive trackpad, easily recognizing tap-to-click, scrolling, and the two-finger click. We give Samsung much of the credit for this as its trackpads are generally good regardless of which OS is running, but Google says it has improved trackpad support on the software side as well.

“Our trackpad last year was a bit fiddly,” Sengupta said. With many Googlers using the Chromebooks internally, Google set out to analyze the problems that can be caused by differences in people’s thumbs and fingers and how they click. Google even used robotic thumbs and fingers to duplicate unique digits.

“Some people have thumbs that have a waist in the middle. They’re used to resting it on the trackpad and so they click with that and it looks like two different points,” Sengupta said. “We now know more about thumbs than we ever cared to know. We realize human beings come in different shapes and sizes.”

Improvements to trackpad support made their way into the open source Chromium OS as a new component.

One last software improvement announced by Google today is an upgrade to Chrome Remote Desktop, which we tested out last October and provides a remote desktop connection between two computers running the Chrome browser. This would let a Chromebook user access any Windows, Mac, or Linux machine, but it required a person on each computer to type in an access code, limiting its use for truly “remote” scenarios. Google says it is now launching a persistent connection, allowing a user to set up the remote desktop tool only once and have it be accessible from then on.

Business and school adoption

According to Google, more than 500 schools have purchased Chromebooks and are using them in curriculum. Newly announced customers include Dillard’s, which will deploy hundreds of Chromeboxes to retail stores; California libraries, which will use 1,000 new Chromebooks for patron checkout purposes; Mollen Clinics, which will deploy 4,500 Chrome devices to mobile immunization clinics at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores; and Kaplan, which is using them in a New York City call center.

Google is hoping for a bigger push into businesses and schools with its $150 per-device support charge for businesses and $30 per-device for schools, which includes 24/7 phone support, a management console, and a hardware warranty. The support cost is in addition to the regular retail price of the devices. Google used to sell support to businesses and schools with a monthly subscription model. The new pricing is a one-time up-front cost with support for the lifetime of the device.

We don’t know many regular consumers buying Chromebooks, but Google has a compelling pitch for businesses with employees that use only Web applications, or are satisfied with accessing Windows programs through Citrix’s virtualization software. Call centers, back offices, retail stores, and other “non-mobile” scenarios are good for the Chromebook and Chromebox, said Rajen Sheth, Chrome for Business Group Product Manager.

Google has further optimized Chrome OS for businesses, allowing the devices to automatically configure applications, network settings, WiFi, VPN access, and organizational policies, Sheth said. Sheth believes businesses can take a Chromebook from a delivery truck and hand it directly to an end user without any IT involvement.

“To do that with a PC is almost impossible,” he said.

Article was updated to correct business and education pricing.

Article source: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/05/slick-new-chromebook-first-chromebox-desktop-out-from-samsung-today/

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16 Jun 12 Take quick notes on your Android tablet with Hovernote


Hovernote on the home screen of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET)

Android is great about multitasking in the sense that background applications will be suspended where you left them. That means you can go back and look at the previous app you were using, but it’s going to be in full-screen covering whatever you’re trying to look at now. This makes note-taking for research really difficult when you’re always having to tab back and forth and can only see one app at a time.

Hovernote seeks to remedy this issue by adding a floating notepad to your Android tablet screen. That way, you can read a Web site and take your notes at the same time.

Download a copy of Hovernote for your
Android device. Despite being optimal for
tablets, you can use this app on any Android device — though I’m not sure how useful it will be on a smaller screen.

Tap on the small h icon in the notification area. On your tablet, this will likely be the bottom right-hand corner. On a phone, it will be at the top in the notification shade.

Hovernote for Android before resizing the text window.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET)

You can start typing right away, but you can also make a couple of adjustments if you like. For starters, the window can be dragged around the screen by pressing and holding on the hovernote text at the bottom of the window. That way you can move it out of the way if what you’re reading is being covered. You can also change the size of the window by pressing and holding on the dots in the bottom right-hand corner. Luckily the window even allows copy and pasting functions, so you can clip quotes from the Web.

Hovernote for Android after resizing the text window.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET)

When you’re done taking notes, you can save them by sharing to Google Drive, Dropbox, Gmail, or several other services. And when you’re ready to close the app, just tap the menu button in the bottom left-hand corner and then the X. 

In the future, it would be really nice to see apps like Evernote or Google Drive (Docs) implement this floating window feature.

(Via AndroidPolice)

Article source: http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57454457-285/take-quick-notes-on-your-android-tablet-with-hovernote/

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16 Jun 12 50 essential Chrome tips


Behind its no-frills, stripped-down exterior, the Google Chrome browser hides a wealth of useful features and functions.

Read on to discover some tips and tricks you can make use of to unlock the power of Chrome. Oh, and chip in with your own in the comments at the bottom.


1. Pin tabs

Pinned tabs shuffle along to the left-hand side of the screen, take up less room and in some cases (e.g. Twitter), they glow if there’s an update to the page. They also keep their places whenever you start up Chrome in the future. Right-click on a tab title to access the pin tab option.

50 essential Chrome tips: pinned tabs


2. Log out with incognito mode

Like most browsers, Chrome has an incognito mode that disables history logging. Open up an incognito window whenever you want to quickly check how a site — such as your Facebook page or Google+ profile — looks to someone who isn’t signed in as you. If you’re using Windows, Control+Shift+N opens a new incognito window.


3. Browse files

Chrome offers a rudimentary file explorer — try typing ‘C:’ into the omnibox and hitting Enter to look around.


4. Search by site

All the usual Google operators apply in the Chrome omnibox. Type ‘site:’ followed by your keywords to restrict a search to a particular website, for example.


5. View background tasks

Chrome is powerful enough to have its own task manager. Hit Shift+Esc to see what’s running in the background (typically extensions and offline caching tools), alongside your open tabs, and how much CPU time and memory space each one is taking up.


6. Hide extensions

If you want to clean up the toolbar but don’t want to uninstall all your extensions, you can hide them instead (right-click, Hide button). This can come in very handy for extensions that work mainly in the background.


7. Change version

As well as the stable version, Chrome is available in three more versions, which get increasingly more cutting edge and less stable — Beta, Dev and Canary. Visit the Chrome Release Channels page to switch between them.


8. Use the keyboard

There’s a wealth of keyboard shortcuts that make Chrome easier and faster to use, but here we’ll just mention two of the most useful — Ctrl+click to open up a link in its own tab and Ctrl+W to close the current tab.


9. Add desktop shortcuts

Right-click on a web app on the New Tab page and choose ‘Create shortcut’ to add a link to it from the Start menu, desktop or taskbar.


10. Check memory usage

Enter ‘chrome://memory’ into the address bar to see where all of your RAM is going. Try ‘chrome://chrome-urls’ to see the other diagnostic shortcuts that are available.


11. Drag links

If you find clicking on links somewhat old hat, try dragging them to the omnibox or the tab bar.


12. Visualise bookmarks

Add bookmarks to the bookmarks bar, then remove their names in the Bookmarks Manager to be left with a row of compact favicon shortcuts.

50 essential Chrome tips: remove names from bookmarks


13. Edit most visited sites

If there’s a thumbnail on the ‘Most visited sites’ page you no longer want to see, click the cross in the top right-hand corner of the image to replace it with the next most visited site in Chrome’s list.


14. Rearrange apps

Click and drag an app on the Apps page to change its position — drag to the far right to create a new page of apps.


15. Go full screen

See more of the web in full-screen mode — F11 toggles it on and off.


16. Change History

Head to chrome://chrome/history and you can remove specific pages from your browsing record via the check boxes and the ‘Remove selected items’ button.


17. Enlarge text

If your eyesight is poor or you’re using a huge monitor, you can increase the default text size via Settings Web content Font size.


18. Forget everything

Clear everything in Chrome’s memory by hitting Ctrl+Shift+Del, ticking all of the boxes (from history to cookies), selecting ‘the beginning of time’ as the timespan and clicking ‘Clear browsing data’.


19. Change the theme

Like Gmail, Chrome comes with a range of official and unofficial themes — click ‘Get themes’ on the Settings page to browse the selection.


20. Go further back

Click and hold on the back button to see a list of recently visited pages for the current tab.


21. Jump tabs

Hit Ctrl+ to jump to that tab in Chrome — Ctrl+2, for example, will open the second tab from the left.


22. Go offline

Keep emailing even when your online connection is down with Offline Gmail from the Chrome Web Store. Google promises more offline apps are on the way.

50 essential Chrome tips: offline Gmail


23. Analyse pages

Right-click on a web page and choose ‘Inspect element’ to see the HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other resources it’s made up from.


24. Import data

Chrome can import bookmarks, browsing history and more from Internet Explorer and Firefox via the Import bookmarks and settings option on the Bookmarks menu.


25. Remote desktop

There’s a beta Chrome Remote Desktop app in the Chrome Web Store that lets you access your other machines that have Chrome running. Follow the on-screen instructions to set it up.


26. Pick up where you left off

Rather than opening a set URL or the New Tab screen when you start Chrome, you can opt to relaunch the same tabs that were open when you shut it down — visit the Settings page under ‘On start-up’.


27. Send to phone

The Chrome to Phone extension available in the Chrome Web Store is developed by Google and can send links and other information straight to your Android device. You’ll need to install the mobile app too.


28. Stay in sync

Sync some, all or none of the following by signing into Chrome with your Google account: apps, bookmarks, extensions, auto-fill data, passwords, open tabs, omnibox history, themes and settings.


29. Do your sums

Type a calculation into the omnibox to see the result in the suggestions without even hitting Enter.


30. Search elsewhere

On the Settings page under Search, you can set the omnibox search to query sites such as Facebook, Last.fm or Wikipedia by default.


31. Make more room

Drag out the edges of any text input box to give yourself more room to express yourself.


32. Save to Google Drive

Chrome doesn’t have this option yet — in the meantime, set the default download location to a folder being synced by the Google Drive desktop client.

50 essential Chrome tips: Google Drive download location


33. Zoom

Use the Ctrl button in conjunction with your mouse’s scroll wheel to zoom in and out.


34. See more suggestions

Increase the number of suggestions offered below the omnibox with a command line switch. Create a shortcut to chrome.exe with the ‘-omnibox-popup-count=’ start-up switch afterwards.


35. Find in page

Hit Ctrl+F and type your text to find keywords in a page — matches are highlighted in yellow on the right-hand scrollbar.


36. Highlight to search

Highlight a word or phrase and on the right-click menu you’ll find an option to use the selection as a query for a Google search in a new tab.


37. Reopen a tab

If you’ve just closed a tab you didn’t mean to, right-click on the tab bar and choose Reopen closed tab to bring it back.


38. Switch between Google accounts

Use the ‘Add new user’ button on the Settings page to sign in using another Google Account. You can then quickly switch between them by clicking on the user icon in the top-left corner.


39. Experiment

Enter ‘about:flags’ in the omnibox to see some experimental Chrome features you can try out, covering everything from geolocation APIs to gamepad support.


40. Paste and go

With a link on the clipboard, right-click on the omnibox and choose ‘Paste and go’ to visit it. If a link isn’t detected, the option becomes Paste and search.


41. Find recent bookmarks

The Bookmark Manager creates an automatic list of recently bookmarked links if you can’t remember which folder you saved your new favourite YouTube video to.


42. Get nostalgic

Click the globe icon (or padlock icon) on the far left of the omnibox to check when you first visited the current site. A cache clear-out or browser reinstall will reset this data.

50 essential Chrome tips: how long you've been frequenting a site


43. Disable spellcheck

If you don’t like Chrome correcting you on your spelling, you can disable the feature under the Languages heading on the advanced settings screen.


44. Print from anywhere

Activate Google Cloud Print on your current PC with Chrome installed and you can access that computer’s printers from every other Chrome browser you sign into.


45. Pan around

Click the mouse scroll wheel on a blank part of a web page to then pan around the site by moving the mouse.


46. Send feedback

You can let the Google Chrome team know about a bug via the ‘Report an issue’ link on the Tools menu. A screenshot can be included automatically.


47. Manage handlers

Visit Content settings (under Privacy on the Settings page), then click ‘Manage handlers’ to change the applications used to handle email and calendar links inside Chrome.


48. Speak to type

On any text box marked with a microphone icon, click the icon to speak to type, assuming you have a working microphone attached.


49. Use the jump list

If you’re running Chrome on Windows 7, right-click on the taskbar icon to access its jump-list — from here you can open recently closed tabs and most visited sites.


50. Enjoy your music

Right-click on an MP3 file in Windows and choose Open With Google Chrome if you want to quickly hear a tune without the hassle of opening up iTunes or Windows Media Player.

Article source: http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/software-and-web-apps/50-essential-chrome-tips-review-50008273/

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13 Jun 12 Even With a Little Polish, Chrome OS Is Still a Bit Hazy


This year, Microsoft and Apple are both introducing new versions of their operating systems with important changes to their user interfaces, and with a flurry of publicity. A third major company is also overhauling its PC operating system, but you probably won’t hear much about it.

Google redesigned its PC operating system, Chrome OS. While Google is a major rival to Apple and Microsoft in things like search, smartphones and browsers, Chrome OS hasn’t dented the competition in the year since it emerged. It was meant to be radically different than Windows and the Macintosh operating system, a refreshing change for a new era. But it had serious limitations, principally that it ran only apps inside a browser on a handful of special, low-powered laptops called Chromebooks and could do almost nothing when it wasn’t online.

The new version, which I’ve been testing, aims to address some of those issues and it makes some progress. But I still can’t recommend it over a PC or Mac for average consumers who are looking for the greatest versatility in a laptop. I still find it more of an evolving project than a finished product.

Its fundamental limitations remain. Most importantly, you still can’t install your favorite programs, be they Microsoft Office or iTunes or Firefox—only a few thousand “Web apps” that run inside the Chrome browser. And it still only works on specific hardware: that laptop called the Chromebook or—new this year—a small desktop called a Chromebox. The only hardware maker producing the 2012 versions of these machines so far is Samsung, though Google says more are coming.

PTECHjp1

New Chrome OS allows for multiple windows and has a taskbar at the bottom like Windows.

Chrome OS does have some admirable qualities—especially its philosophy of simplicity and of being wedded to the cloud. For instance, because it’s designed to fetch your apps and documents from the Internet, you can replicate your entire computer by just logging in on any other Chrome OS PC. And, if you mainly use the Web and live in the cloud, it may be the ticket for you, especially as a second machine.

Last year’s inaugural version of Chrome OS was little more than a giant browser in which you ran only Web-based apps. The new redesign of Chrome OS, released late last month, represents something of a retreat from that dramatic strategy.

Now, Google is touting the new release for features that make it look and work more like a Windows PC or Mac—for instance, multiple, movable windows; a strip along the bottom that holds the icons of apps you use; a slightly greater emphasis on doing things offline; and greater focus on finding and launching apps. None of this is revolutionary for people used to traditional computers.

What Chrome OS is exactly can be confusing. While it looks and works a lot like the browser of the same name, Chrome OS is a full-blown operating system that, unlike the Chrome browser, can’t be installed on PCs and Macs. Also, Chrome OS is unrelated to Google’s best-known operating system, Android. The latter is meant to power smartphones, tablets and some other miscellaneous devices.

PTECHjp2

Chrome OS still only works on specific hardware: a laptop called the Chromebook or—new this year—a small desktop called a Chromebox.

I tested the redesigned Chrome OS on the new Samsung Chromebook, a model which Google claims has up to three times the performance of the original Chromebook. This laptop has a 12-inch screen, weighs 3.3 pounds and is about 0.8 of an inch thick. I didn’t run a formal battery test on it, but Samsung claims it gets up to six hours on a charge, less than the claims for the MacBook Air or the new Windows ultrabooks. In my tests, the battery easily lasted a full day in light to moderate use. The Chromebook is sold online and costs $450. A model that includes a slow, 3G cellular modem is $100 more. The Chromebox desktop is a small box that comes without a screen, mouse, or keyboard, and sells for $330.

Because it’s primarily meant as a portal to the Internet, the Chromebook has only about as much storage as a smartphone: 16 gigabytes, rather than the hundreds of gigabytes common in other laptops. And it has a wimpy processor, one of Intel’s entry-level Celeron models.

In my tests, the new Chromebook performed well and did everything it promised. Unlike in the first iteration, I was able to use multiple independent windows and to minimize them or resize them easily. I could store frequently used apps, which still run in browser pages, in the bottom strip, similar to the Windows taskbar or Mac dock—again, nothing new there, but a welcome addition.

I was also able to play music and videos, to view and edit photos, and to view (but not edit) Microsoft Office documents. These abilities are a good thing, but also have been long available on other operating systems.

In the next month or two, Google plans to automatically update Chrome with two important features: the integration of Google’s online file-storage locker, Google Drive, right into the Chromebook’s file system; and the ability to edit documents when offline. I was able to test pre-release versions of these features and they worked fine. Google Drive can already be installed and integrated into the Windows and Mac file systems.

In fact, all of the important features of the Chrome OS—which is still at heart just a big browser—are available in the Windows and Mac versions of the Chrome browser, including the ability to run Web apps, programs like Google’s office suite, or Web-based games. Google concedes this, but says that, by making the whole computer a browser, it has simplified the overall experience.

Google has big plans for the Chrome OS. It has built-in features it claims will work great with future touch-screen hardware.

But, overall, I’d say, if you only have the budget for one main computer, you’re better off with a Mac or a PC.

Write to Walt at walt.mossberg@wsj.com.

Article source: http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/even-little-polish-chrome-os-010910922.html

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13 Jun 12 Michael Gartenberg: Google polishes Chrome OS


Computerworld - A year ago, I wrote that the first Chromebooks felt more like a science project than a strategic product. They were interesting but of little practical value. A lot has changed since then, and while I wouldn’t say that Google has developed a truly compelling device, it has shown that the Chromebook and its underlying Chrome OS are evolving.

Chrome OS is Google’s attempt to create a new class of Web-based operating system, designed to work on special devices, the first of which were last year’s Chromebooks. Since then, Google has refreshed Chrome OS (the actual version number is 19) and with partner Samsung has introduced both a new Chromebook and a desktop device called Chromebox. After using both for the last few weeks, my impression is that Google did a nice job of polishing Chrome in ways that help it shine much better than it did a year ago.

The new Chromebook, called the Series 5, has a 12.1-inch display and 16GB of built-in flash storage. You can add a Verizon Wireless 3G radio, with 100MB free per month for two years. There’s a much-improved trackpad (the trackpad on the first Chromebooks was all but unusable), and the device is now powered by an Intel Celeron processor, which dramatically improves performance, especially for things like streaming high-definition video. Pricing is $449 for the Wi-Fi-only version and $549 for the 3G models.

The Chromebox Series 3 is a small, sleek box that takes some design cues from the Mac Mini. It has the same CPU and memory as the Chromebook. It doesn’t include a monitor, keyboard or mouse, but it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support for keyboards and mice, along with DVI and HDMI output. It costs $329.99.

Both devices are good-looking and solid pieces of hardware, though I’d argue that 3.3 pounds is too much weight for a laptop that isn’t really a laptop at all. I could give you more specs, but specs don’t have that much to do with what you’re buying here. What really matters is the updated Chrome OS experience, and the newest version shows just what a difference a year makes.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Chrome OS was that an offline Chromebook was pretty much a brick with a monitor. Google has worked to address that, adding offline access for Google Docs and Gmail. Both are a little rough around the edges, but they do work. Originally, Google eschewed the idea of a file system in its operating system, but it has now abandoned that stance. The current version of Chrome OS is integrated with Google Drive, giving users a convenient way to access, store and sync content across devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones and, of course, Chrome.

Opinions

Article source: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9227947/Michael_Gartenberg_Google_polishes_Chrome_OS

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08 Jun 12 Chrome OS review


The first version of Google’s Chrome OS wasn’t much more than a Chrome browser window with a few apps. It felt more like a statement – “Who needs local storage?” – than an operating system you could rely on.

A year and a half later, the latest version of the Chrome OS adds some of the features of a more traditional OS: a file manager (hooray!), a desktop and the ability to use storage connected through a USB port. Google’s Cloud Print system even makes it fairly easy to print.

The only thing that’s missing is the ability to keep writing, working on a spreadsheet or reading email when you’re offline. We used to have that capability through Google Gears, but since Google shut down that project last winter, services like GMail and Google Drive work only when you have a connection. (Google Senior Vice President of Chrome Apps Sundar Pichai reportedly told the audience at All Things D this week that Google Drive offline is coming in five weeks.)

The advantages of the Chrome OS remain the same. The new Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook I tested shuts down in less than 5 seconds and starts up again in less than 10. When you log in, there’s no waiting for programs to load. You go right back to the last browser window you were working in, with all the same tabs you had open before you shut down. Jumping from window to window (that’s right — now you can have more than one) is instantaneous. And while all new machines are fast, it’s hard to imagine what would slow down a Chromebook over time — there’s no registry to get junked up and no local software to leave debris on your hard drive. Battery life is great, too. I was able to work a full day on a single charge.

And, unlike previous incarnations, you now get a significant price break for buying a Chromebook: The machine I tried, with a 12.1-inch display, costs roughly £288 ($449). The Samsung Series 5 13.3-inch Windows model costs about £799.99.

Multiple windows in separate browsers

Chrome’s new file manager is rudimentary, but its very existence is a big deal. It comes up as a browser tab that shows the different storage devices on your machine. There’s Downloads, which sits on the 16GB SSD drive. You can also store files on a USB drive or a memory card. You can move files from one storage device to another, though you don’t have the drag-and-drop convenience of most operating systems – you have to copy and paste them.

Printing through Google Cloud Print was simple, even though I didn’t have access to an official Cloud printer. I set up cloud printing on my desktop at work (it’s a setting within the Chrome browser), then the Chromebook could use any printer my desktop could access, including printers on the PCWorld network.

Chrome OS now has a desktop, though you likely won’t spend much time there. There’s a taskbar, where you can put shortcuts to apps you use frequently, and a status area that reports things like Wi-Fi connection status and battery life. But I couldn’t find a way to put a shortcut to an app or file on the desktop itself – it’s really just a pretty picture.

You can now use multiple windows in Chrome, though they’re all just separate browser windows. Still, that can be helpful – you can jump from one window to another with Alt-Tab or with a special function button. Each window has something that looks like a Windows maximise button, but it operates four ways through gestures. If you click on it and drag down, the window minimises. Drag up and it goes full screen. Drag to the left or right and the window docks on either side, taking up half the screen. It’s a fun innovation.

Quirky keyboard still in place

The Chromebook still features its quirky keyboard. The biggest quirk is the lack of a Caps Lock key – that’s replaced with a pretty unnecessary search button. All the search button does is open a new tab, something that’s easily done with Ctrl-T. If you miss Caps Lock, you can restore it through the Chromebook’s settings. Other unconventional keyboard choices work better. I like the function button for switching between windows and one for toggling between full screen and normal mode. There are also dedicated forward, back and reload buttons, which make lots of sense for a notebook built for the web. Hit Ctrl and the Search button and you’ll go to an smartphone-like grid of shortcuts to your apps. And if you have a better memory than I do, you can learn the dozens of keyboard shortcuts– hit Ctrl+Alt+? for a full list.

As much as I liked the Chromebook I tested, it had one fatal flaw. I’ve left it to the end of this review because I hope that it’s just a failing of my particular test machine and not one that’s endemic to the Samsung Chromebooks. The problem: My Chromebook would regularly lose its connection to the web – kind of a big deal for a notebook built to work almost entirely online.

I noticed the problem both at work and at home. In both cases, I had other systems on the same Wi-Fi network at the same time and they never seemed to lose their connection. I tried using a mobile hotspot and experienced the same problems. In some cases when I had connection problems, the status area would report that it was trying to reconnect to my Wi-Fi network. In other instances, it would report it was firmly on my Wi-Fi network, even though the browser was unable to reach the web. When I tried surfing from my other system on the same network at the same time, I had no problem. A Samsung representative said she hadn’t heard about similar problems with other test machines. I’ll work with the company to troubleshoot the problem and update this story with what I find out.

Article source: http://review.techworld.com/operating-systems/3362524/chrome-os-review/?intcmp=ros-md-acc-rv

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07 Jun 12 Chrome OS in-depth: Cloud-centric simplicity, evolved


By (@jr_raphael) G+

Google Chrome OS

Using Chrome OS is an interesting experience: In a strange way, it’s both new and completely familiar at the same time.

Chrome OS, after all, is an operating system built around Google’s Chrome browser. Most of the apps you use are cloud-based services — things like Gmail and Google Docs. But taken out of the typical operating system context, all those elements take on a whole new feel.

I’ve been using Chrome OS for the bulk of my computing needs these past several days. It’s part of my two-week Chrome OS experiment; with the launch of Google’s new Chromebook and Chromebox, I wanted to go beyond the traditional review and really get to know what it’s like to live in Google’s evolved cloud environment.

And evolved it certainly is. Chrome OS has come a long way since its launch 17 months ago, transforming from a series of locked-down browser windows into a full-fledged operating system. With its latest Chrome OS refresh — along with the vastly improved new Chrome OS hardware — Google has finally realized its vision for a cloud-based computing platform. The potential we saw in the beginning has been transformed into something far more polished and complete.

Ladies and gentlemen, Chrome OS has arrived.

Getting to know Google’s Chrome OS

The beauty of Chrome OS lies in its simplicity: You power up your Chromebook or Chromebox, and within seconds, you’re ready to roll. Once you’ve typed in your Google credentials, all of your bookmarks, Chrome extensions, and Chrome settings are in front of you — even your most recent open tabs from your PC or Android device are there — just like they appear on any other system you use. There’s no complicated setup, no messy drivers to deal with, and no hassles to keep you from getting online and getting down to business.

The cloud-centric approach comes with some other nice benefits: You never have to worry about updates, as Google regularly pushes fresh software onto the system in a seamless manner (much like it does with its desktop Chrome browser). You don’t have to mess with antivirus software, as the nature of the Chrome OS system makes infections very improbable. Even if your system did somehow become compromised, it could be reset in a heartbeat; remember, all your stuff is stored in the cloud, including your apps and settings.

Chrome OS systems also don’t get bogged down and progressively slower over time, like most traditional computers tend to do. And you never have to deal with involved installations or program upgrades; with Chrome OS, it’s all streamlined and simple.

Chrome OS, as I mentioned, revolves around the browser — but as of this latest incarnation, the browser actually isn’t the entire operating system. Google has built a desktop-like OS around Chrome, allowing you to position multiple windows on-screen simultaneously. You can maximize, minimize, and resize windows, set a desktop background, and quickly switch between windows or load new programs using a launcher bar at the bottom of the screen.

Chrome OS Desktop

The launcher bar shows icons for all of your currently loaded windows and programs. You can also pin any app there to create a quick-launch shortcut; you can opt to have the app open in a regular tab or in a full-size program-like window. The right corner of the launcher bar shows the current time along with your battery and data-connection status; you can click that area to access settings and more detailed system information.

Chrome OS Menu

This revised setup makes the Chrome OS experience far more welcoming than it’s been in the past. In its early incarnations, Chrome OS felt a bit restrictive; the entire environment was nothing but a full-screen browser window, and while that offered some practical advantages, it was somewhat jarring to use. With the newly expanded environment, Chrome OS has come into its own and found its way as a platform.

Chrome OS and life in the cloud

When you talk about Chrome OS, words like “app” and “program” are all relative. Nearly every app opens in a browser window and is based in the cloud.

Two years ago, the idea of abandoning traditional local programs would have struck me as ludicrous. Today, I’m a lot closer to the cloud-centric way of life Google envisions: I use Gmail for my email, Google Calendar for schedule management, and Google Docs for document storage. (I tend to use Microsoft Word while at my normal Windows 7 workstation, but I keep all my documents synced with Google Docs/Drive for easy on-the-go access.)

The multidevice lifestyle — using a laptop in my office, an Android tablet in the house, and an Android phone pretty much everywhere — has moved my focal point away from the stationary desktop. Sure, I have stuff stored locally, but it’s all synced to the cloud in one place or another. My computing life has become more and more mobile over the past few years, so it only makes sense for my data to follow that same trend, too.

In that regard, Chrome OS makes more and more sense to me, particularly with the recently introduced improvements. Aside from the new desktop, Google has given Chrome OS a full-fledged file manager: You can actually store some data locally, if you want, which is helpful when dealing with images, attachments, and the likes. Plus, when you plug in a memory card or USB storage device, Chrome OS automatically pops up a window with its contents, allowing you to open or work with the files.

Chrome OS File Manager

Google says its Google Drive cloud storage service will be fully integrated into Chrome OS within the next several weeks as well. You can use Drive — or any other cloud storage service, for that matter — right now, but the added system integration should make it even easier to manage cloud-based files and upload or share local files as part of the core environment.

Chrome OS now has a pop-up media player, too — you can play songs and videos from a memory card, external drive, or the local drive while working on other tasks — and a limited image-editing tool with commands for cropping, rotating, and adjusting brightness.

Chrome OS Image Editor

Making Chrome OS do more

All of Chrome OS’s functions can be supplemented and expanded with services from the cloud — using, for example, Google Music or Pandora to stream songs or a more robust image editor like Aviary (free in the Chrome Web Store) to manipulate photos. Aviary isn’t as robust as Photoshop or Illustrator; if your computing needs regularly require those types of heavy-duty local programs, Chrome OS may not be the answer for you. But for the majority of day-to-day computer use, the cloud-centric setup is surprisingly easy to embrace.

And if you do need to get to traditional desktop programs from time to time, Google actually has a tool to make it happen. Chrome Remote Desktop, a free app, allows you to gain remote access to any Windows, Mac, or Linux system; all you have to do is install the extension on the computer’s Chrome browser, set up a PIN and enable remote access, and you’re good to go. Once you establish a connection, you have the remote computer’s desktop in a live window on your Chrome OS system; you can run programs, open files, and input text as if you were sitting right there.

Chrome OS Remote Desktop 

I used the Remote Desktop app to connect to my Windows 7 laptop from a Chromebook, and I found the experience to be quite good: With a solid data connection on each end, lag was minimal and it basically felt like I was using the Windows 7 system. The setup is still in beta and consequently has some limitations — you can’t currently see secondary monitors on a remote system, for example, and you can’t hear audio remotely — but all in all, it was very smooth and impressive.

Chrome OS has built-in support for VPN connections, too, and advanced users can find third-party apps for things like terminal emulation and SSH connectivity.

The Chrome OS caveats

For all its positives, Chrome OS isn’t without its drawbacks. First and foremost, if you aren’t comfortable living in the cloud, Chrome OS isn’t going to be for you. By its very nature, Chrome OS revolves around cloud-based applications and data; if you’re set on the idea of running programs locally and storing your information on a hard drive in your home, you’re going to find Chrome OS frustrating.

Then there’s the issue of offline access. Despite the fact that Chrome OS is focused on the Web, Google has made massive progress in making the system more suitable for use without an active Internet connection. There are, however, still some limitations. In the next chapter of my Chrome OS experiment, I’ll take a close look at the realities of using Chrome OS offline.

Offline access aside, some of the Chrome OS apps simply aren’t up to par with their desktop-based equivalents. Go sign into Google Docs (technically now part of Google Drive) and you’ll see what I mean. Using Docs isn’t a terrible experience, by any means, but it’s generally not as good or as complete of an experience as what you get by using a traditional desktop office suite. Depending on your needs and priorities, this may or may not be a problem for you. Personally, I tend to live in my word processor during the day; I’m still more comfortable in Word, with its fuller functionality and familiar shortcuts, but for most tasks, I’m finding it increasingly easy to work in Docs as I get more accustomed to it.

Similarly, I work faster in Photoshop — where I manipulate images and create graphics for stories — and have more options and tools there than I do in any Chrome OS-based application. If I’m working on something complex, it’s still easier for me to jump into Photoshop than to try to get it done in a Chrome OS application.

Finally, while Chrome OS offers support for multiple monitors (and both the new Samsung Chromebook and Chromebox have the ports to make it happen), the software currently only allows you to duplicate your desktop on the second monitor. I’m used to working in an extended-desktop scenario, so losing that capability is a bit of a downer for me. Google tells me extended-desktop functionality is in the works for Chrome OS, but it’s not there now — and at this point, there’s no firm timeline for when it’ll arrive.

All in all, it’s a tradeoff: Chrome OS gives you fast, simple, hassle-free computing that’s fully portable and not tied to any single machine. It gives you seamless ongoing system improvements and lets you say so long to many of the annoyances that accompany regular computer use. But it also lacks some of the functionality and power you find in a traditional computing environment. The question is ultimately whether the tradeoff makes sense for you.

Android Power TwitterI’ll explore the issue more in the final few chapters of my Chrome OS experiment. Later this week, I’ll take that deep-dive into the Chrome OS offline experience. After that, I’ll share my impressions of Samsung’s Chromebox desktop computer and will then bring it all together with some final thoughts and conclusions.

In the meantime, if you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, you can find them in the box below.    

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on , Twitter, or Facebook.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://blogs.computerworld.com/20274/chrome_os_cloud_centric_simplicity

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02 Jun 12 Chrome OS Grows Up


The first version of Google’s Chrome OS wasn’t much more than a Chrome browser window with a few apps. It felt more like a statement — “Who needs local storage?” — than an operating system you could rely on.

A year and a half later, the latest version of the Chrome OS adds some of the features of a more traditional OS: a file manager (hooray!), a desktop and the ability to use storage connected through a USB port. Google’s Cloud Print system even makes it fairly easy to print.

The only thing that’s missing is the ability to keep writing, working on a spreadsheet or reading email when you’re offline. We used to have that capability through Google Gears, but since Google shut down that project last winter, services like GMail and Google Drive work only when you have a connection. (Google Senior Vice President of Chrome Apps Sundar Pichai reportedly told the audience at All Things D this week that Google Drive offline is coming in five weeks.)

The advantages of the Chrome OS remain the same. The new Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook I tested shuts down in less than 5 seconds and starts up again in less than 10. When you log in, there’s no waiting for programs to load. You go right back to the last browser window you were working in, with all the same tabs you had open before you shut down. Jumping from window to window (that’s right — now you can have more than one) is instantaneous. And while all new machines are fast, it’s hard to imagine what would slow down a Chromebook over time — there’s no registry to get junked up and no local software to leave debris on your hard drive. Battery life is great, too. I was able to work a full day on a single charge.

And, unlike previous incarnations, you now get a significant price break for buying a Chromebook: The machine I tried, with a 12.1-inch display, costs $449. The Samsung Series 5 13.3-inch Windows model costs about $400 more.

Chrome’s new file manager is rudimentary, but its very existence is a big deal. It comes up as a browser tab that shows the different storage devices on your machine. There’s Downloads, which sits on the 16GB SSD drive. You can also store files on a USB drive or a memory card. You can move files from one storage device to another, though you don’t have the drag-and-drop convenience of most operating systems — you have to copy and paste them.

Chrome OS Grows UpThe very basic file manager in Chrome OS.

Printing through Google Cloud Print was simple, even though I didn’t have access to an official Cloud printer. I set up cloud printing on my desktop at work (it’s a setting within the Chrome browser), then the Chromebook could use any printer my desktop could access, including printers on the PCWorld network.

Chrome OS now has a desktop, though you likely won’t spend much time there. There’s a taskbar, where you can put shortcuts to apps you use frequently, and a status area that reports things like Wi-Fi connection status and battery life. But I couldn’t find a way to put a shortcut to an app or file on the desktop itself — it’s really just a pretty picture.

Chrome OS Grows UpThe Chrome OS desktop looks pretty, but doesn’t do a lot.

You can now use multiple windows in Chrome, though they’re all just separate browser windows. Still, that can be helpful — you can jump from one window to another with Alt-Tab or with a special function button. Each window has something that looks like a Windows maximize button, but it operates four ways through gestures. If you click on it and drag down, the window minimizes. Drag up and it goes full screen. Drag to the left or right and the window docks on either side, taking up half the screen. It’s a fun innovation.

Chrome OS Grows UpYou can now work with multiple windows in Chrome OS.

The Chromebook still features its quirky keyboard. The biggest quirk is the lack of a Caps Lock key — that’s replaced with a pretty unnecessary search button. All the search button does is open a new tab, something that’s easily done with Ctrl-T. If you miss Caps Lock, you can restore it through the Chromebook’s settings. Other unconventional keyboard choices work better. I like the function button for switching between windows and one for toggling between full screen and normal mode. There are also dedicated forward, back and reload buttons, which make lots of sense for a notebook built for the web. Hit Ctrl and the Search button and you’ll go to an smartphone-like grid of shortcuts to your apps. And if you have a better memory than I do, you can learn the dozens of keyboard shortcuts — hit Ctrl+Alt+? for a full list.

Chrome OS Grows UpHit a keyboard shortcut and you see links to your apps in a smartphone-like grid.

As much as I liked the Chromebook I tested, it had one fatal flaw. I’ve left it to the end of this review because I hope that it’s just a failing of my particular test machine and not one that’s endemic to the Samsung Chromebooks. The problem: My Chromebook would regularly lose its connection to the web — kind of a big deal for a notebook built to work almost entirely online.

I noticed the problem both at work and at home. In both cases, I had other systems on the same Wi-Fi network at the same time and they never seemed to lose their connection. I tried using a mobile hotspot and experienced the same problems. In some cases when I had connection problems, the status area would report that it was trying to reconnect to my Wi-Fi network. In other instances, it would report it was firmly on my Wi-Fi network, even though the browser was unable to reach the web. When I tried surfing from my other system on the same network at the same time, I had no problem. A Samsung representative said she hadn’t heard about similar problems with other test machines. I’ll work with the company to troubleshoot the problem and update this story with what I find out.

All in all, the Chrome OS and Chromebooks seem to have made vast strides forward. It’ll never be a good solution for people who are often away from a web connection (though it does have a built-in Verizon wireless broadband connection — you get 100MB per month free and can pay for more) or depend on sophisticated desktop software. Or for those who don’t want to have their whole life wrapped up in the Google solar system of Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, etc.

But if much of what you do happens in the cloud anyway, a Chromebook has a lot of advantages — it’s cheaper, fast, simple to operate and gets great battery life. Google’s other OS has grown up a lot in the past year and a half. Chromebooks are already a good option for many people. If Google can add the ability to do significant work offline, all laptop buyers should give them serious consideration.

Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/256684/chrome_os_grows_up.html

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