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Making the Switch

closeup view of chrome logo on laptop

The First Steps to Owning a Chromebook

By | Chromebook, How-To, Making the Switch

You Purchased a Chromebook – Now What?

Getting your Chromebook can be exciting, but overwhelming, because you may not know where to turn first! There are several things you should do when you first get your Chromebook, such as setting it up properly, learning how to customize it, and getting all the must-have apps and products to ensure you have a seamless experience.

Personalization

Change Your Theme 

You simply have to visit the Chrome Web Store and browse through themes. If you find one you like, just select Add to Chrome and the theme will be installed. If you access your account on another Chromebook, the theme will appear there as well, because it’s linked to your account and is synced across all devices you use.

Shelf 

There are several options for organizing your apps. First, the Shelf is the taskbar at the very bottom of your interface. You can pin your favorite apps to the taskbar for easy access by right-clicking on the app you want and choosing Pin to Shelf. And apps aren’t the only thing you can put there. If there’s a site you visit frequently, you can bookmark the Shelf by choosing the More option in your browser, then More Tools and Add to Shelf.

Organize Your Apps 

Start off organized and on the right foot. You can create App Folders the same way you create them on an Android phone: by dropping one app on top of another. Holding the folder for a longer time allows you to change its name. This will reduce clutter and group apps according to usage, making you more productive.

Set Up (Multiple) User Profiles

Chromebook is designed in such a way that you can set up fully separate profiles, with each profile having their own personal settings, apps, and controls. If you have children, it’s not a bad idea to set up restricted profiles via the Supervised Users option that acts as a parental control. Using to this option, you can limit which sites they have access to. What’s more, safe search can’t be disabled.

Use Guest Mode

By utilizing Guest Mode, you can safely give your Chromebook to someone else without allowing them access to any of your documents or data. Plus, your browsing history and bookmarks will also be safe. All data that was accessed in Guest Mode is wiped clean once done.

Set Up a VPN

A VPN keeps you safe online, which is particularly important on a Chromebook because of its various online functions. Connecting to public networks always comes with a risk, and thanks to a VPN that adds another layer of protection, your data will be hidden from any prying eyes. Some VPN providers have their own apps that you can download from the Chrome Web Store, so make sure to check that before choosing your provider.

Essential Apps

You will need some additional apps to make your Chromebook into a powerhouse. The volume of available apps is growing every day, but here’s a list to get you started:

Google Drive and G-Suite – With Docs, Slides, and Sheets, you have all the essentials of an office suite that works across all Chrome OS devices.

Gmail – A no-brainer, really. There’s no productivity if you don’t have email. You can choose between the web version or the Android app.

Microsoft Office – Microsoft Office is available in the form of Android apps for Chromebooks, so just download them from the Play Store and log in with your Microsoft account.

Keep – Keep your digital notes organized with Keep.

Slack or Skype – To keep in touch with colleagues, you can use Skype or Slack, as both have native Android apps readily available for use.

Google Calendar – Keep track of all your meetings and tasks with the web or app version.

Pixlr – Web-based image editor, free to use.

AdBlock – If ads are testing your patience, AdBlock will help you keep your sanity.

The Great Suspender – Each open tab eats away your resources. The Great Suspender makes sure to suspend the tab you aren’t using at the time. It’s still there, but it’s not hogging your resources until you need it. Simply reload the tab to use again.

Learn Your Shortcuts

Shortcuts were made in heaven. They make things much easier and faster, and in today’s fast-paced world, it’s no wonder why so many people use them. There’s a very extensive list of Chromebook shortcuts you can use, all readily available on Google’s support pages.

Once you have taken these steps, your Chromebook is all set up and ready to go!

 

The 10 Most Compelling Benefits of Chromebooks

By | Making the Switch | 4 Comments

Everyone has different requirements and expectations from their computers. However, if you are like me and have been searching for an inexpensive secondary computer that is portable enough for travel, yet powerful enough for work, you may want to consider these ten benefits of a Chromebook and decide if it’s right for you.

1) It’s Quick to Boot-up

We live in a modern age of distractions, shortened attention spans, and a profound shortage of time. Thanks to Google’s Coreboot technology you can press the power button and reach your home screen, fully booted, in less than 10 seconds. This is faster than most other tablets which can take as long as 45 seconds to power-on.

Coreboot is a firmware platform. Google and Linux developed it together to deliver lightning-fast, secure boot on Chromebooks. Because it is an Open Source project, it is continually perfected, improved upon and updated.

The system never becomes bloated with useless and resource consuming programs. So, you can rest assured it will continue to boot-up quickly no matter how long you have owned it and no matter how many apps you activate.

Top 2 benefits of a Chromebook - boot and setup speed

2) Ultrafast Setup

Google has made Chromebook as easy to set up as any smartphone. Setting up a new Chromebook is so much easier than setting up your PC, laptop, or other notebooks. For one thing, Chromebooks don’t need any major updates or time-consuming antivirus software.

To get started, you simply sign in with your Google account. Voila! All your browser content, Google Drive content, and other settings are active. Alternatively, you can create a new account, if you don’t have one already.

Chromebook comes loaded with the basic OS software and light firmware to ensure you have the fastest setup and user experience possible. Most users report that it takes less than five minutes from box to operation.

While it is true that Chromebook is web-based, there are many third-party apps and native Google apps that will increase Chromebook’s offline functionality. After setup, you may want to configure your device with a few of these.

3) Portable and Travel-Friendly

All laptops are portable, but Chromebook takes this to a new level. There are several reasons why Chromebooks are better than laptops when it comes to portability, travel, and day-to-day usage.

First, it’s much easier to drop a Chromebook in your backpack, keeping it with you as you travel or commute. A Mac or a Windows Ultrabook can be double or triple the size, weight and most importantly, cost.

The battery life is also an important point. With a Chromebook, you can feel safe knowing that you have over seven hours of battery life on a single charge. I frequently take my Chromebook with me for both day trips and weekenders because it simply lasts longer.

Lastly, you never have to worry about losing sensitive data. In the event my Chromebook is lost or stolen, I know that my valuable data is safe in the cloud. It’s not on the hard disk where it would be vulnerable and difficult to recover.

4) Not Tech Savvy? No Problem

One of the major benefits of a Chromebook is that it’s ideal for less technical users. Because it uses a simple OS, fewer bad things can happen. And if all else fails, the operating system is easily reset back to factory settings.

The fact that Chromebook is maintenance-free means there is one less thing you need to worry about with your busy life. There is no need to schedule updates or install anything, ever.

Since you manage everything from Google’s cloud, you only need to restart your Chromebook every few weeks to get in-sync with the latest updates.

5) It’s More Secure than a Laptop

Sure, there may be browser glitches from time to time, but you don’t have to worry about those annoyances signaling a greater problem. Chromebook is one of the most secure devices available. Because the Chromium OS is automatically updated with the latest security patches, it is almost impenetrable to viruses and many types of malware.

Of course, cybercriminals are persistent and develop their own cutting-edge technology daily. You can rest assured, however, that Chromium is designed with your security in mind. If the system detects changes to the core of the system, it immediately recovers the system.

#6 Benefit of a Chromebook - privacy

6) It Has the Safest Private Browsing

Chromebook offers several features that make browsing more secure and more private. You can browse in “incognito” mode which prevents plugins or website apps from running. It also prevents your browsing history being saved and viewed later.

You can also use “guest mode.” In this case, everything from your browsing session is deleted when you log out. Anything downloaded or changed is wiped out, too, even malicious extensions. That’s perfect for browsing untrusted sites.

7) Many Inexpensive Options

We expect the best technology to come with a hefty price tag. Thanks to Chromebook, you won’t be paying a fortune. Many Chromebooks are priced around $200, making them affordable for most any budget.

Windows and Mac can’t compete on a spec comparison that is based on the ratio of “performance to price.” A lower-end Windows laptop can’t give you the same smooth performance and user experience as Chromebook will and no Mac or Apple product can compete on price.

8) Free Apps from Chrome and Google Play

Another one of the benefits of a Chromebook that I like is that they’re created and optimized for Google’s apps, like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. Recently, Google has made its Play Store inventory available to Chromebook users.

There is also the Chrome Web Store – a marketplace especially for Chromebook users. With these two app markets, you will be able to find most of your favorite apps for free. If you worry about losing access to Photoshop or MS Office, you will be happy to learn that there are cloud-based platforms available for these programs and many others.

9) It’s Kid Friendly

Chromebook benefit #9 - kid friendlyFor those with children asking, “should I buy a Chromebook?” The answer is yes. It is a great choice. Chromebook, because of its ease of use, portability, cost, and security is excellent for kids. Chromebooks offer parental controls for safe and secure usage, and many models are available that withstand harsh usage and being dropped.

10) Comes with Cloud Storage

If you’re still wondering “why buy a Chromebook?” we also love the cloud environment. Chromebooks are cloud-based machines – they primarily use cloud servers to do their computing and data storage. Google manages these sophisticated computers, configuring them to do specific tasks as well as safely manage and store all your valuable data.

You can store your files in Google Drive, instead of on the computer. That way, your files go with you no matter which computer (or mobile device) you’re using at the moment.

Google Cloud Platform boasts a 99.95 uptime percentage, too. This means that your data, apps, and content is available whenever you need it, wherever you need it. Chromebooks are so seamlessly integrated into the Google ecosystem; you will never know how hard it is working on your behalf. However, you’re not limited only to Google’s offerings. You are free to use the cloud-based service of your choice.

how to choose a chromebook

What to Look for in a Chromebook

By | Making the Switch | No Comments

The choices can be overwhelming but if you’re looking for affordability coupled with great features look no further than a Chromebook. They come with a minimum of 2GB RAM, and usually 4GB, so they are a powerful replacement or starter computer. They are also easy to set-up so you won’t spend all day on the phone with tech support. Best of all, they won’t break the bank.

What to look for in a Chromebook

Chromebooks should have a good balance of price against features. That might be ultra-portable size, super-long battery life, or a touch screen. Here are the main things to consider.

Price

The cheapest Chromebooks on the market start as not much more than $100; on the upper end, you can spend well over $500. Obviously, each price point comes with its own set of technical parameters; you can get a fully featured, high quality Chromebook for under $300.

Ruggedness and Spill Protection

Just because you can easily replace a Chromebook doesn’t mean you necessarily want to. This is a good thing to consider for messy kids or careless teenagers. Rugged casings, keyboards, and touchpads will cost you a bit more. I recommend the Dell 11” Chromebook, which is the one I use right now.

App Store Compatibility

Google has brought the Android App Store to devices running Chrome OS.  This exponentially increases the number of apps available for each device, making Chromebook devotees even happier.

Weight

Some devices weigh as little as two pounds or less. A heavier laptop may be a concern for younger children, since it’s more likely to get dropped.

Battery Life

It doesn’t matter how portable the device is if you’re constantly hunting an open plug to charge it. Chromebooks generally run off a single Li-ion battery, and have excellent battery life, but there’s still a wide range from 8 hours at the bottom to more than 14 hours for top-shelf devices.

Screen Size

Chromebooks have screen sizes ranging from 11.6 inches to 15.6 inches. The smaller devices are perfect for quick internet access and tossing in a bag. For serious movie watching, a larger screen is going to be more satisfying.

 

Chromebooks for education changed everything

Chromebooks for Education Changed Everything

By | In the Classroom, Making the Switch | No Comments

In 2011, Google (being Google) disrupted the entire laptop and tablet marketplace with the debut of the first Chromebooks. The new devices operated on the same simple premise as all other Google products: things should be dead simple for the average consumer to use. It didn’t take long for the machines to find their way into the classroom once teachers realized they could leverage the low cost of Chromebooks for education.

Not every classroom has them yet, but Chromebooks are gaining popularity for use in the home to do homework. College students love them, too. Let’s look at why.

Why Chromebooks Are So Popular

Five years after their creation, the Chromebook experiment is officially a success. Chromebooks for education now account for more than half of all classroom devices. More than seven million devices were sold last year.

This trend is primarily driven by four factors. First they are tremendously affordable, with the average Chromebook costing less than $230.

Second, their design is simple, so anyone familiar with Google products can jump right in with no learning curve.

Third, they are super portable; not just the device itself, but the data. If a Chromebook dies, you just retrieve everything quickly and painlessly from the cloud.

And finally, they are easy to manage. Teachers and school tech officers can:

  • limit and monitor usage,
  • push apps to hundreds of devices with a single button, and
  • set up multiple user groups with varying levels of permissions.

Chromebooks for education

From a parental perspective, Chromebooks make it easier to help students out at home. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Windows person or an Apple person – everybody who’s conscious in America has at least a passing familiarity with the Google ecosystem. That knowledge bridges the tech gap between you and your child when they ask for help.

 

What to look for in a Chromebook for a student

Want to know how to pick the best Chromebook for school? Whether you’re a school IT worker responsible for hundreds of devices or a parent looking for a single Chromebook for your child to use at school, there are a few simple principles to remember as your shop.

Price: The cheapest Chromebooks on the market start as low as $149; on the upper end, you can spend well over $500 if you choose. Obviously, each price point comes with its own set of technical parameters; most purchases in the education space (IT managers and parents) spend under $300 per single device.

Ruggedness and Spill Protection: Just because you can easily replace a Chromebook doesn’t mean you necessarily want to. More expensive devices are obviously hardier pieces of equipment, with increasingly rugged casings, keyboards, and touchpads.

App Store Compatibility: A revolutionary announcement in the world of Chromebooks for education came just this month, as Google announced it would bring the Android App Store to devices running the Chrome OS. The first slate will include over forty different Chromebooks, with more to follow. This exponentially increases the number of apps available for each device, making Chromebook devotees even happier.

Weight: Some devices weigh as little as two pounds or less; the largest we reviewed was the Dell 3120, which came in at 2.75 pounds, nearly a full pound heavier than the closest competitor. This may be a particular concern for younger children, since you may want to minimize the amount of gear they have to haul around in their backpack each day.

battery

Battery Life: It doesn’t matter how portable the device is if you’re constantly hunting an open plug to charge it; Chromebooks generally run off a single Li-ion battery, and have excellent battery life, but there’s still a wide spread from 8 hours at the bottom to more than 14 hours for top-shelf devices.

Storage: This may not be a concern for most users, as the entire Chromebooks concept is built around the notion that everything will be saved to your Google account in the cloud; that’s what makes Chromebooks so portable. However, you may still want to store some documents on the actual computer, and of course you’ll need storage space for any apps you plan to install on the device.  Chromebooks come with storage ranging from 16-32 GB (not counting the possibility of external storage), so make sure you take that into consideration.

Screen Size: Chromebooks released in the past two years have screen sizes ranging from 11.6 inches to 15.6 inches. The smaller devices will serve most student well; however, students engaged in more visual pursuits, such as art or graphic design, may need the larger screens to adequately complete tasks.

Why Chromebooks Work So Well With Students

We’ve already covered some of that above, but there are a few more reasons. With a Chromebook, it is literally impossible for a student to lose an assignment. Even if they leave their computer at home, they can log in to their account from any other Chromebook and retrieve it within five minutes.

As a parent, you can feel secure about the time your child spends with the Chromebook because it has parental controls built in. There are also third party parental control apps that work on it.

And, as we mentioned above, they are so much more affordable. For the cost of an iPad, you can buy a Chromebook, accidentally destroy that Chromebook, and buy a completely new Chromebook. (This method is obviously not recommended – I’m just pointing out the drastic difference in price.)

chromebooks for kids

Kids forget things constantly, and Chromebooks are easy to borrow. A student who needs to complete an assignment on another computer simply logs into their Google account. Whatever work they complete on the new computer will be waiting on them when they get back to their machine. That means there’s no need for complicated hard-drive sharing software or annual fees.

Finally: Chromebooks have keyboards. This is perhaps the single greatest thing separating them from their Apple competitors. Anyone who types well knows that it is much more efficient than writing by hand, as it enables words to appear on screen as fast as you can think them. This is simply not possible using a touchscreen device. Further, since keyboards in the business world aren’t going away anytime soon, Chromebooks actually prepare students for a business environment more thoroughly than their touchscreen-only competitors.

The Best Chromebooks for Students Under $250

I arrived at this list by looking for the highest rated, most popular Chromebooks on Amazon. All of these models are current (please let me know in the comments if you notice that’s no longer true). I own and love the Dell 11.

Note: I have looked for the best price between Amazon and Best Buy at the time of publication. Please comparison shop your favorite retailers for the best current price. The product links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you purchase. It doesn’t affect the price you pay for the item.

  1. ASUS C201:  The C201 is an adequate option. However, its 1.8 Ghz processor is a slight step down from the best options available, and it has the smallest screen size as well (11.6 inches). With a 13-hour battery life, it comes in near the top of the stack on that front. It features one HDMI and two USB ports, which are pretty standard. This is the best middle-of-the-road option.
  2. Samsung Chromebook 3 XE500C13-K02US: This model starts around 200 bucks, making it slightly more affordable than its ASUS competitor above. At this price, you give up a little battery life (down to 11 hours); however, you pick up a spill-resistant design and a slightly improved 2.16 Ghz processor. In addition to the HDMI port, this model features 1 USB 2.0 port and 1 USB 3.0 port (which is designed for newer, faster connections). This is the best option for young children, in my opinion.
  3. Dell Chromebook 11: This is the most expensive model I reviewed, but it’s still a truly affordable laptop. It’s slightly heavier than some lower-end models. However, that additional weight comes from sturdier materials and a greatly improved casing. The spill-resistant keyboard may end up paying for itself, tool. This model’s keyboard is much more responsive than the others, and simply feels more solid. However, it’s possible your student may not care about–or even notice–that fact, particularly if they are very young and just learning to type.  The Dell has the standard HDMI and USB ports described above. It also has a port for a removable SD card, adding to the portability of files stored on the device. This is best for power users and older students.
  4. HP Chromebook 11 G4: This is the cheapest device reviewed, and it definitely feels cheaper to the touch when compared to the Dell reviewed above. It has the same number of USB and HDMI ports, but it only has 2GB of available RAM, which could lead to performance issues. In its favor, it also has the card media reader.  That being said, none of the negatives would matter to a young student, so this is the best option based solely on affordability.
  5. Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ: The second cheapest, the Acer also comes with only 2GB available RAM.  Added to that, it comes with a mere 2 USB ports (one 2.0, one 3.0) However, this model does have an HDMI port and a card reader, keeping it competitive. Battery life on this device is rated at 9 hours, but the charger is well-designed and minimal. The aluminum clamshell, however, simply doesn’t feel like it could stand up to the rigors imposed by a young child. I would skip this one.

You are going to love whatever Chromebook you buy

My job is to pick one, I know. The Dell is the best for adults and older students, while the Samsung is the best option for young children. The HP is the best option if money is the only criterion.

But in the end, I literally don’t know a single person who has given a Chromebook a shot and come away anything other than amazed at the simplicity of concept, minimal design, and magical experience. There’s simply something about logging in to a brand new computer for the first time, and having your entire Google account show up ten seconds later, that boggles the mind.

Five Best Online IDE’s – Making the switch to a Chromebook

By | Apps, Making the Switch | 58 Comments

Having the option to program online is not just essential in my ‘Making the switch to a Chromebook’ series of articles I’m writing simulating the Chromebook experience in a Chrome Browser. It’s equally essential to the entire premise that a Chromebook or cloud computing device has any validity in the foreseeable future, as the need for Google Docs is. It can’t do without.

As a blogger you mostly depend on your own skills to maintain your blog, maybe even to build it. At the very least you’ll want to tweak the code every now and again to keep your blog afloat. And if you’re anything like me you’ll do most of your writing and quick code editing away from your home office and trusted setup. In other words, if we’re gonna buy a Chromebook it’s going to be the machine doing most of the work, it should be able to handle that.

There are quite a lot of programming languages out there, so I will be specific in what I seek. I need to be able to work on my website’s CSS and create, edit and store PHP, C++ and maybe HTML5 files online. It would be nice if I could find some kind of sandbox or service that offers that option where you can trial run your code. Preferably in the same IDE (integrated development environment), and for free.
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Three Best Online Image Editors – Making the switch to a Chromebook

By | Apps, Making the Switch, Reviews | 18 Comments

A couple of years ago I could only find three online image editors that I deemed good enough to review for use on my Chromebook.

Today, one of three no longer exists and the other (Photoshop Express) was pulled off the market by Adobe. Obviously it’s time for a new review and my, my what a difference a couple of years makes.

Now there are dozens of online photo editing and layout web apps to choose from. If you weren’t convinced before that the world is moving away from installed apps toward everything cloud-based, this might change your mind.

The new apps have a wide range of capabilities – all the way from Photoshop-like completeness to toy apps for adding stickers to your selfies. A new class of online image editor has also come about. There are now several choices for designing blog covers and social images, complete with free stock photos.

Picking an Image Editor for Chrome

So, how did I go about researching and picking my favorites? Here are the questions that I wanted answered for my review.

  • Does the editor have a similar layout to Photoshop–the most popular and familiar editor of them all.
  • Can it retouch the millions of selfies that get posted every day including blemish removal, airbrush and rubber stamp?
  • Is it able to easily add text to images in order to make cover images and does it include banners or shapes? Bonus points if the editor includes ready-to-go stock images.
  • Can the app be used offline?
  • Does it handle RAW files? (I only found one that could, but there’s an online RAW file converter and viewer: https://raw.pics.io/.)

Online Image Editors for Chrome

If you’re looking for really basic cropping and resizing, keep it simple and use the native tool.

Photoshop Alternatives for Chrome

First let’s look at the real online Photoshop competitors. These powerful tools give photographers granular control of the photo editing process.

  1. Sumo Paint, of all the options I found, looks and acts the most like Photoshop. It has the same toolbar. You can add text. You can have more than one image open at a time. Now, all the tools are manual, so you need to know what you’re doing. You won’t find pushbuttons to fix specific problems with your image. But if you’re used to Photoshop, then this will feel very comfortable.
  2. screenshot of polarr online image editorPolarr runs offline in Chrome, which makes it perfect for taking with you on your Chromebook. Polarr has a more modern looking interface, but underneath are all the familiar controls for adjusting images. A tutorial greets you on launch. The Guide shows you what each of the controls do. One interesting feature is the history that lets you roll back any change, rather than just the last change. It’s built for the web, too. You can export directly to Facebook, Dropbox, or Google Drive. There are a decent number of filters for free, and there are more available for pay. One of the features I liked best was the before/after side-by-side view. I couldn’t find any text or other overlay tools for making designs. Polarr’s killer feature was that it was the only one that could open my ORF Olympus RAW file.

Hybrid Tools

Several options, some new and some that have been around for years, combine photo editing capabilities with design elements. These tools are a compromise between granular control and automatic tools. They also have design and sharing elements built for social media image creation.

  1. screenshot of fotor online photo editorFotor, like Polarr, has modern controls, but without the tutorial, it takes a bit longer to explore the options. Fotor runs online, and the free version is ad supported. Some good options are available free, without logging in, like filters and frames. Fotor is a hybrid tool that has both image editing and design options. It even has stickers. You can save your results locally or share directly to social. This product does a lot of things but is not specialized for any one purpose.
  2. PicMonkeyscreenshot of picmonkey online image editor tools is very similar to Fotor. It has photo effects, touch up, collage, and designs with text that you can share directly to social. Also like Fotor, some features are locked in the free version. The big differentiator for PicMonkey is the approachability of the controls. This is an all-purpose image editor and design tool for people who don’t have Photoshop experience.
  3. screenshot of ipiccy image editor for chromeiPiccy has been around since my last review of online photo editors. Back then, it didn’t give me the smooth and professional results I hoped for, and it had a child like feel to it. It’s basically the same now, but I didn’t throw it out because it has special effects that will appeal to people who work mostly on portraits. Along with its retouching tools, iPiccy has many visual effects like pencil sketch, and posterize (for reducing images to 2 or more colors for projects).
  4. screenshot of pixlr photo editor for chromePixlr web app takes the image editing capabilities of Photoshop and simplifies them. The big buttons makes it seem more approachable, and you don’t need as much knowledge to get started. It lets you do image retouching, design and collage. Pixlr has a good selection of basic adjustments, like crop, rotate, and straighten, plus image fixing and alteration options that are not obvious to the novice, like splash and heal. There are a few canned photo effects. You can add type to your image with 7 fonts. One weakness was the image size is limited to 8MB.

Design apps

While searching for Photoshop alternatives for Chrome, I came across a new class of online image editing apps specifically for creating designs. The focus is less on image editing and more on adding effects to stock photos and then putting text on them. If you want to create blog covers or social images, design apps are easier to use than the image editors above.

  1. screenshot of canva online design appCanva, as you can see from the screenshot, has many specialty designs (e.g. posters, business cards), not just social. Other than basics like cropping, Canva doesn’t do image editing. Canva offers a good choice of filters and fonts. It accepts both jpg and png images, or you can choose from their background photo options. It’s easy to find images by searching, and they are cheap, but they do cost $1. The downsides are that you have to create a login to get started, and it teases you with features that cost money. Canva is a good option for someone who needs to design a wide variety of formats and doesn’t have access to stock photography.
  2. screenshot of snappa.io online design appSnappa.io took a different approach with their freemium model. You don’t have to worry about the font you want costing money, but you only get 5 images a month. Like Canva, it requires login. The backgrounds are free though. Snappa has various sizes to get you started, and you can choose from social and blogging or ad templates. It has an excellent variety of fonts. Snappa’s other strong point is its video tutorials.

Conclusion to date

Not all tools that I evaluated made the list.The Photoshop alternatives are best at helping you edit photographs with tight control of every aspect of the process. The hybrid tools are better for those who don’t have Photoshop experience but need a combination of image editing and design creation. These tools are a compromise, and sometimes the more they try to do, the less well they do it. Finally, the design apps give you less control over the photo editing but add highly specialized features that are perfect for the amateur designer (or blog writer on a budget).

The Top 3 Image Editors

Last time, it was easy to pick only three because there were only a few options. Now there are a number of great choices that will work for most people.

Sumo Paint still does the closest rendition of the Photoshop layout. But, if you need to edit RAW files, you’ll have to go with Polarr. It’s also the best choice if you work offline a lot.

For portrait retouching, give PicMonkey a try first, and if you don’t like that, iPiccy might work better for you.

If you mainly need to make covers or social images, don’t mess with the hybrid apps. Instead go straight to either Canva or Snappa which are both great design apps. I couldn’t choose because it really depends on your situation. Personally I would go with Snappa because I only need to make a few images a month, and I can do that for free. If I had to do more, I would go with Canva because of the built-in stock photo purchasing.

What is your favorite online photo editor and why? Please share with us below.

Happy editing, and until next time,
Kain

 

Productivity Tools – Making the Switch to a Chromebook

By | Apps, Making the Switch | 9 Comments

In my attempt to simulate a Chromebook experience by doing everything in the Chrome browser I’ve learned a lot already. I’ve found amazing ways to enjoy music anywhere and everywhere and learned about great, high quality documentaries that moved me to my core. It’s a great ride so far, adding to the promise of a Chromebook.

This time we’re going a more practical route and talk about the basic productivity tools I’ve come to use over the past few weeks. There are a lot of tools and productivity sites out there, but only few of ‘m apply to us all on a daily basis. However, with tips and tools from lifehacker book, David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology and some good use of the Web we can gain some serious ground in personal efficiency and location independent working.

I myself work with, what I jokingly call my holy quartet: Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote and Gmail. Because these are all web-based services I have these four always close at hand. Google Docs to create and edit documents, Dropbox for safely storing all of my files online, Evernote for making quick notes and Gmail, you guessed it, for email. Read More

TV and Documentaries in the Cloud – Making the Switch to a Chromebook

By | Apps, Making the Switch | 5 Comments

Since I started writing the Making the switch to a Chromebook series, only two articles ago, I rolled from one amazing moment into the next. It’s really great to get introduced to this whole world of wonders the internet turns out to be. And yes, that did grow completely separate from the Chromebook and is also there for the avid IE user, for example. But, it does come to it’s complete fruition, it seems, when using a cloud computing device.

In this post I want to share with you what I’ve learned so far. What I’ll be talking about is just a selection of what I ran into, and liked, when testing out the wole watching stuff online thing. I do want to encourage you to go onto the Google and do some searching yourself though, there’s really a lot out there.

Just as in choosing a suitable replacement for my local music player with a cloud version, I drew up a simple wishlist. This time in advance. However, I did chuck that list eventually for the simple reason that my questions brought to light that I was hopelessly outdated and that they didn’t really apply.
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Music in the Cloud – Making the switch to a Chromebook

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WANT TO SEE THE LATEST ONLINE MUSIC PLAYERS FOR CHROMEBOOKS? There’s an updated article here.

 

In the first post on making the switch to a Chromebook I spoke of my desire to first find out if it’ll all works. It’s not nothing to go from doing everything local on your pc or laptop using our trusted applications to doing everything online using nothing but apps. Is there an app for everything? And does that mean added costs, or are those free? Time to find out.

Today I want to take a look at what the deal is with music, music in the cloud to be exact. If you’re anything like me you’ll probably have an extensive music collection containing hundreds of albums and thousands of songs which you don’t want to give up on. Many of these I bought years ago on CD and imported them later into iTunes. I really don’t want to lose them, and there’s no way I’m gonna pay for ‘m again moving into the cloud.

The search for an online equivalent to my own music collection was worth it however. Not only is it possible to find virtually any song or artist you’ll ever want to listen to, there are good services letting you listen to them for free!
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Two months of living in the Chrome browser – Making the switch to a Chromebook

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It sounds really good, the promise of all the things a Chromebook will enable us to do. Checking everything from e-mail and all the social networks to the news and our favorite blogs, when away from home and the office. Can’t say I’m against that. But the real question here for me is if that promise will turn out to be just as good when I purchase my own Chromebook.

Google’s philosophy has always been to have everything you do on your pc available on the web as an app – everything in the cloud. The Chromebook is an extension or product of that philosophy. They could just as well have called it their Webtop. Silly, I know, but it does describe what this device really is: the Internet. And that brings the story to me. Read More