Ever since it came out several years ago, Chromebooks have been an appealing option for many writers. With its focus on portability, speed, and affordability, a Chromebook could be the perfect machine for you as a writer.
But are they any good?
We all know writers and other creatives who swear by Mac products. They believe that you can’t write on anything other than an iPad or a MacBook Pro. And those products are very high quality. But as you know, they also come with a very high price tag.
Surely a cheap Chromebook can’t match what a MacBook can do, right?
Well, the answer isn’t so simple. It depends on what you use the machine for. And if you are a writer, a MacBook Pro might just be overkill for you.
That’s it. I can just close up shop and be done after that sentence. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer. And if you want to write, all you need is a way to put words into a document. A Chromebook can do just that.
A writer isn’t messing around with graphic design, generally speaking. We aren’t recording and editing videos. Sure, writers might engage in some of these things for their own promotions. But by and large, writers simply need to get words on the page.
With a Chromebook, you can do that in seconds. Chromebooks are optimized to be used with Google Docs. If you want to use Google Docs to do your writing, you can have a cheap and effective solution for writing your novel. It will automatically be saved and synced to all your devices.
But even if you don’t want to use Google Docs, there are plenty of other apps that can be used. Most Chromebooks today support Linux apps as well as Android apps. Both of those operating systems have plenty of writing apps available for you, and most of them are free.
Don’t get lost in the weeds. If you’re a writer, all you need to do is have the ability to put words on the page. That’s it.
There are some unique advantages to a Chromebook that many writers can’t enjoy with other systems, particularly Apple products.
The first, of course, is cost. There are Chromebooks that can cost a pretty penny. Some of them cost upwards of $1,000. But those are the exceptions.
While your cheapest MacBook is already going to be in that range, you can get a Chromebook that works well for writers for just a few hundred bucks. And you don’t have to make any sacrifices on them, either. In fact, the more expensive Chromebooks are often criticized as being overpriced.
Chromebooks are also focused on portability. Do you want to be able to grab-and-go whenever possible? As some laptops have gotten large, heavy, and chunky, Chromebooks have just gotten lighter and easier to tote around. Any writer can grab their Chromebook quickly, throw it in a bag, and take it to the coffee shop to knock out a few pages of writing on their novel.
And let’s not forget about speed. The knock against Chromebooks is that they aren’t as sophisticated as other machines are. And that is true. There are definitely limitations to a Chromebook. But the best part is, Chrome OS is built in a way that uses those limitations to its advantage.
Speed is a huge advantage. There just aren’t any other machines on the market that are as fast as Chromebooks are. When you want to write, you want to sit down and begin writing. With a Chromebook, all you have to do is open your laptop and your computer is instantly on. In seconds, you can have a document open and be writing away. There’s no time waiting around for a system to boot up.
That speed also applies to updates. With Windows and Apple machines, you may find yourself stuck in an update process that can take almost an hour to complete, or even longer.
Chromebooks are different. They update in the background while you work, and then you get a notification that an update is ready to be applied. All you have to do is restart your machine. On other machines, this is a trap. This is where they lock you into the update process for 30 to 60 minutes as it finishes.
Chromebooks do not do this. The time it takes to reboot a Chromebook for an update versus rebooting a Chromebook for any other reason, is exactly the same. Your updates take just seconds rather than hours.
How about battery life? Again, what you lack in performance you make up for in battery life. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down to get some work done and realizing that your battery is dying. Because Chromebooks are limited in what they can do, the trade-off is you get much better battery life. How many Chromebooks can have battery life of up to 12 hours? This is fantastic for anyone who wants to work away from their desks.
We keep talking about limitations, and let’s be real about them. You’re not going to be able to use any writing app you want on a Chromebook. If you like Scrivener, you’re not going to be able to use it here. Many people like to use that app, but the operating system just doesn’t support it. Fortunately, there are many other apps available that mimic a lot of Scrivener’s main features, and they can be used on a Chromebook.
Cloud storage is also something to consider. With other machines, you have to set up your own cloud storage. This might not be that big of a deal for you, but for others, this is important. Rather than installing and setting up Dropbox or another service, Chromebooks use Google Docs automatically. That means that whatever you write on a Chromebook, when connected to the internet, is backed up in the cloud. You no longer have to worry about suddenly losing all of your writing in a hard drive crash. Your work is backed up immediately, and it can be accessed and restored anywhere.
There are many Chromebooks to choose from, which is another advantage. You are free to choose a machine that works well for your own workflow. Some are very writer-focused, offering some of the best keyboards that money can buy today. Others are focused purely on portability, and they are light as a feather and small enough to be taken anywhere. The good news is, you are able to make that choice for yourself. With so many to offer, you can pick exactly what you want for your needs. This is in stark contrast to something like a MacBook Pro, which only comes in one or two models.
I can’t answer that for you. Only you know your needs and your preferences. And your preferences are not invalid. Even if you don’t necessarily need a MacBook, for example, if it is going to be a pleasurable writing experience for you, you are going to write more often. And that’s exactly what you want. You want a system you’re actually going to use.
If the limitations of a Chromebook are going to be too much for you, then don’t worry about it. Work with what makes you comfortable.
If you aren’t sure, you can try it out for yourself. Fortunately, you can try out Chrome on any device you wish. All you have to do is install the Chrome web browser and try to work completely within that. It’s not a perfect comparison, as you won’t have Linux or Android apps, but if you just want to get a feel for the advantages, speed, and limitations of a Chromebook, try working within just a web browser for a week. See how it feels.
You might be surprised at how much you can get done, however.