Thoughts on Google Chromebooks

My previous article about Dropbox and MAMP was about hacking around ‘old-style’ thinking where MAMP stubbornly stores SQL databases in a single place, meaning that to work on multiple computers we have to use a third party tool to force our data into Dropbox.

With the announcement of Google Chromebooks, here is an approach that is the complete opposite. We don’t have to force local data on to the web because all our data lives on the web.

Personally I have been long advocating web apps and where possible I will work on the web instead of using a native app e.g. Why use Twitter App when you can just go to and get the same experience? They have built in keyboard shortcuts and I can get notifications via a Chrome extension like Twitter Notifier. If I get a new computer I don’t have to worry about downloading a native app and setting up my preferences again, the web app is exactly as I left it.

There are many advantages in working exclusively on the web, the key ones being:

  • I can work from anywhere, on any computer
  • I never have to worry about setting up my computer and preferences again
  • I never have to worry about backup
  • I get a consistent experience across different OS’

For the every day worker I am pretty sure they would have no problem switching to Chrome OS - the only habit they would need to change is using Google Docs rather than MS Office. However, for the web developer / designer it’s much more difficult to use Chrome OS. Here are the problems we face…

  1. We can’t develop locally when working on a Content Management System like WordPress. No MAMP
  2. Whilst we could use Firebug or Web Inspector there are no really good substitutes for a program like CSSEdit or a text editor like TextMate or Sublime Text
  3. How do we transfer our changes to a web server? No FTP?

I would love to make the switch to working 100% in web apps; I believe that in 10 years from now it’s inevitable that everything will be a web app, but at there moment there are too many things preventing me from pulling the trigger. I suspect the three above issues would be major show-stoppers preventing 99% web designers from even considering Chrome OS. Some people would start arguing about the Adobe suite, but personally I design more in the browser, and Aviary looks like a reasonable substitute for me.

What about you? Can you suggest any work-arounds for these issues? And what would you miss if you had to switch to Chrome OS?


  1.  Interesting post, but what happens if the internet goes down, which is does from time to time. More importantly, what if i’m on a plane or something? :s 

  2. author's avatar says:

    I guess Google are counting on the internet being everywhere… which to be fair is not far off. The Chromebooks have built in 3G so shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Plus more and more web apps cache things offline these days, and supposedly whilst you can’t currently access Google Docs offline, Google are adding offline support via HTML5 as we speak.

    Planes are starting to add wi-fi in-flight, and how often do you fly on a plan anyway, twice a year for a few hours? :-p

    Think these are non-issues really – the major problem is web design / developer tools that currently seem to be focused on the native app market.

  3. author's avatar says:

    Amazing. I think I’ll be getting rid of CSSEdit because of these new changes the Chrome Dev tools -

    Step 1 complete! Now to think about how to develop WordPress without desktop tools :-s

  4. author's avatar Brian Noah says:

    Check out Cloud 9 at Awesome online ide that has ftp ssh and git built into it. It runs off of node, runs ruby, and you can even install gems like compass to compile your SASS or SCSS files. Not only that, but since it stores your files for you, you can view pages as you work on them. it even has a terminal where you can run command line prompts.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published

Leave a comment