Skip to content

What Can A Chromebook Do and Not Do?


Are you thinking about buying a laptop? Are you considering a ChromeBook but just aren’t sure if it is the right option for you? If so, I hope that I can help you to get a clear picture of what a ChromeBook is and what it can and can’t do. The first step is understanding how you use your computer. Once you can define that you just need to know the capabilities of the device you are buying.

What is a ChromeBook?

Let’s start by defining what a ChromeBook is. ChromeBooks are laptops that are produced by multiple manufactures that run ChromeOS as the operating system and adhere to a set of standards defined by Google and receive updates directly from Google. OK, that was a lot so let’s unpack that.

First, ChromeBooks are made by Google, Dell, Acer, etc. This allows you some flexibility in the design and build quality while keeping the major features the same across the board. They all have roughly the same keyboard, similar ports and layout. Although most ChromeBooks today are basic clamshell laptops there is a growing number of tablet style devices. The reason they are able to present a common appearance and feature set across all of the available manufactures and models is because of the required standards and the OS updates provided by Google.

Chrome OS chromebook

Next, the ChromeOS operating system is essentially the Chrome web browser. This is technically over simplifying it but for the intent of this article we will leave it at that. This is really the blessing and curse of ChromeOS for most people. It is incredibly simple, fast and secure but it also has a lot of limitations when compared the capabilities of a Windows or Mac PC. I don’t want last statement to scare you away. I just want you to consider your needs. Check out this how to link from google to see how to address many of these issues.

Can It Run Real Programs?

Well, what is a real program today? Usually people want to know if a laptop they are planning to buy can run Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) or Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. There are other programs to consider but these are probably the most popular. You can just fill in your favorite software that you can’t live without. These are valid concerns for a lot of people that are purchasing laptops and there are those that can work without these programs and those that can not. If you are someone that truly needs these programs you probably know who you are. It’s mostly the people that don’t actually need the software that aren’t sure.

Photographers probably need the Adobe software. However, everyday users would be fine with Google Photos or some other web based app. If you are a professional writer you may need Microsoft Office but, if you need to update your resume you could use Google Docs.

Professional users may not be good candidates for a Chromebook. You should know enough about the software you use to decide whether or not you need more than a web browser to get your job done. Everyone else, if you have a $2000 Macbook and never use anything but Safari, Mail and Calendar you may be a great candidate for making the swap to a ChromeBook.

What Is So Great About ChromeBooks?

OK, so maybe I should have gotten to this sooner but, what is the big deal? If ChromeBooks are basically Laptops that just have a web browser and can’t run traditional software why would I want one? The answer is actually pretty simple. They can be inexpensive, they are fast (and they stay fast over the years), secure, and your data is saved to the cloud.

I know, for some people it’s not that simple. You may not have reliable internet access, you may not trust the cloud with your data, and you may just really like another OS. Whatever your reasons you have to make the decision and I hope that I have provided a little helpful information.

My point is that there are pretty good alternatives to most things that users have done with Windows and Mac computers over the years. Often, for non-professional users the only thing keeping them from switching to a ChromeBook is the fear of change. The truth is that so much of what we do today is done in a web browser its a pretty natural transition. That said, it only takes the absence of one critical application to cripple a workflow. If your workflow consists of Facebook, Youtube and email you might as well give it a shot.