In the last part of this series, I’d talked about the big picture about why Chromebooks are the way to go for most people who need to get online and work or communicate. At the same time, I know it’s difficult to part ways with some of the apps we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. In this installment, we’ll look at the Chrome OS way of handling email and word processing, and how switching could save you a lot of time and money.
I’m just going to say it: desktop mail apps are a silly waste of time. One reason we got used to desktop apps that pull in and locally store mail is that online storage used to come at a premium, while local storage was cheap – today, it’s the reverse. Counting on your local storage for email is just asking for headaches. Your local storage is going to fail. It’s going to get hacked, corrupted, or accidentally deleted. You have to buy external backup drives, and restoration is not always straightforward. Then when it comes time to move to a new machine – well, that’s just a mess I won’t get into because we’ve all been there and you know how troublesome it can be.
Another reason we used desktop email clients in the past is because online mail software lacked features for composing messages. But online mail has come a long way since Outlook Express and Thunderbird. The online mail composers tie in to your cloud storage for photos and documents you want to share – your desktop email client is a dumb clunker in comparison. And while some features probably will never be present in online mail apps, it’s for a good reason – they’re just not compatible with all delivery targets. So while an email you create in Gmail, for example, is sometimes less formatted, you know it will come across properly for all recipients, and that is increasingly important as your colleagues are checking email on a diverse array of devices, so it had better look right no matter what.
Between system infections, needing to upgrade email software in concert with operating system and computer changes, and migrating data from here to there – local email clients are a huge waste of time and are costing you way more than you think.
Word processing is important for many of us, and I’ve heard the argument that the cloud document solutions don’t have all the features necessary for business needs. I think this is just a perception more than anything.
For through and through Microsoft users, Office365 gives you a cloud version of Word. Things are arranged differently, but once you get used to it, there are very few features that weren’t ported from the desktop app.
For everyone else, Google Docs is a great solution for creating documents.
Again, when you consider all the time you spend on tasks related to word processing on a local app, the winner becomes clear:
- Power failure – did you save? Online apps usually save as you work.
- Where’s that file? Local file search is only as good as the computer it runs on. Searching online drives for documents is crazy fast.
- Version control – how do you go back to look at the document as it was 2 weeks ago? Cloud apps make this a snap.
- Collaboration – local app steps: save document, open email, write email, attach document, send, get revisions back, merge documents, repeat. Online: click share at any point, enter recipient and personal message, click share, collaborate.
Your Chromebook is for Online Life
If you can’t fathom getting away from Mac Mail or Microsoft Word, then maybe a Chromebook is not your dream laptop. Me – I couldn’t wait to get away from the desktop way of doing things. Installs, upgrades, virus prevention, constantly attaching new versions of documents I’d sent before, and then figuring out how to move everything to another computer – I’m glad to be done with all that (for the most part). As I said in my first article, I still need my mac for some things, but I’m glad to have the freedom to move around my house for 90% of my computer time. For me, it’s the perfect tool – more robust than a tablet but just as light and easy to carry.
Additionally, I love being able to use my mac though my chromebook — OOPS … looks like I’m giving away some bits from next week’s article!
The Chromebooks at Jimmy’s House
In case you’re shopping around, these are the Chromebooks I’ve bought:
Jimmy’s (bought this year)
Courtney’s (2014 Christmas)
Bradley & Evandra’s (2014 Christmas)
Jimmy’s Old One (bought in 2013, died when it got rained on at a camping trip)