Can I use my Chromebook offline & other questions [updated]

Thanks to HP’s Chromebook 11 & 14-inch models and Google’s Chromebook Pixel, Chromebooks are beginning to click with consumers who like to be constantly connected to the internet. But what if you can’t or don’t want to be online all the time?

Can I use my Chromebook offline? Is it compatible with Microsoft Office? Can I print with it? These are just some of the common question asked by would-be Chromebook owners. Read on for the all the answers.

How to buy the best laptop – our expert guide

1) Can I use my Chromebook offline?

YES: A number of popular apps such as Gmail and Google Drive have offline modes built-in. These will then sync with your online accounts the next time your Chromebook is connected. Other apps like Kindle Cloud Player and even games like Angry Birds are all available to use offline – just be sure to enable offline use in their settings first.

2) Is my Chromebook compatible with Microsoft Office documents?

YES: Though it’s not possible to install Microsoft Office on your Chromebook, apps like Google Drive will convert Word and Excel files into Google Docs that you can then edit. If you’re signed up to Microsoft Office 365 service, you can also create and edit Office documents via Microsoft Office Online. All you’ll need to access it is a valid Windows Live Account (free to set-up) and a wi-fi connection (Microsoft hasn’t provided offline support as yet).

3) Can I edit photos using my Chromebook?

YES: There’s an in-built photo-editor in Chrome’s operating system. If this proves unsatisfactory, web-based photo-editing alternatives like Pixlr are available.

4) Can I play DVDs on my Chromebook?

NO: Chromebooks don’t feature disc drives. If you want to watch a DVD on your Chromebook, you’ll have to convert its video to an MP4 file. Similarly, if you want to play a CD on your Chromebook, you’ll need to convert its music into MP3 files. You’ll need an additional PC with a DVD drive to complete these tasks, so don’t bin your older computer just yet.

5) Can I store movies and other large files on my Chromebook?

YES: The internal storage capacity of a Chromebook is limited and it varies from product to product. For example, the HP Chromebook 14 has a 16GB hard drive, but the more expensive Chromebook Pixel has a 64GB drive included. Plus, with each new Chromebook purchase, you receive 100GB free cloud storage. A 100GB is roughly equivalent to 21 DVD movies or 20,000 mp3 files.

6) Can I use iTunes with my Chromebook?

NO: Apple hasn’t created an iTunes app for Google’s Chrome OS and – due to the two companies’ ongoing rivalry – something unlikely to end any time soon. However, you can import your existing iTunes library directly into Google Play Music (here’s a step-by-step guide). Additionally, you can also pop-in a memory card or USB flash drive and play local music through Chrome OS’s integrated media player.

7) Can I install Windows on my Chromebook?

NO: It’s not possible to install Windows on your Chromebook but, if you really need to access a Microsoft-powered PC, you can use an app like Chrome Remote Desktop to get the job done.

8) Can I play PC games on my Chromebook?

NO: As we’ve mentioned, Chromebooks can’t run Windows so you won’t be able to install PC games on them. Casual app-based games like Angry Birds, Cut The Rope, and Plants vs Zombies are available to download through the Chrome Web Store.

9) Can I use Skype on my Chromebook?

NO: A Skype app isn’t currently available through the Chrome Web Store, although a web browser-based version of the VoIP program is reportedly in development. In the meantime, Google Hangouts is a free alternative for video calling.

10) Do I need anti-virus software for my Chromebook?

NO: Because you can’t install local applications on a Chromebook, the need for antivirus software is somewhat negated. However, you’ll still need to stay vigilant online for scams and the apps you share your personal data with.

11) Can I print using my Chromebook?

YES: Printing with a Chromebook isn’t as simple as just connecting via a USB cable. You need to enable Google’s Cloud Print service, which works over wi-fi and allows you to print from a host of mobile devices.

Any more questions?

Those are all the Chromebook-related queries we could think of but if there’s anything you want to know about Google’s OS, get in touch via the comments below and we’ll do our best to reply.

More on this

Best cheap laptops – for under £500
Laptop Best Buys – the best reviewed models from our test lab
How to buy the best laptop – we explain what to look out for

Categories: Laptops

Tagged as:

62 replies

  1. 1) can you use netflix/blinkbox via chromebook? because they use microsoft silverlight to run on my current laptop?

    2a) as there is no disc drive in the chromebook, would it be possible to use an external one that plugs in thriugh USB port.

    2b) the article mentions converting DVD file into mp4. does that mean I’d require another computer/laptop to do this?

    1. I know this question is old, but in case someone stumbles upon this, here is the answer.

      1) Netflix works fine. Can’t speak to Blinkbox because I have no clue what it is.
      2a) I haven’t specifically tried to load an external disc drive via USB. My guess is no; they typically require some kind of driver software on the computer to recognize it, which would not be available for ChromeOS. However, you can load external hard drives and SD cards, etc.
      2b) Yes, that would have to happen on another computer. Or, ahem, acquire Mp4 files utilizing OTHER methods…

    2. Thank you!
      I ended up buying the HP chrome book few months back. Great device for every day tasks.
      Considering buying a wireless mouse for gaming and creative work. Do you think it will be compatible

    3. Wireless mice tend to be fine. If they have a lot of extra buttons it might not work with all of them, e.g. if it needs extra software on Windows it might not be 100% compatible, but the vast majority will be fine.

    1. Generally speaking the only hard ware that can be used is the ones that don’t require installing a program. Examples that I have tried and worked

      :
      Wireless mouse via usb/bluetooth
      Monitor via hdmi
      My external hard drive but only as storage
      Speakers via the mic/speaker port
      Cloud ready printer

      External Webcam didn’t work as it requires installation.

      That’s all I’ve tried out so far.

  2. canu put microsoft outlook email on chromebook and if u can can u edit emails such as right clicking and drag and drop with youre mouse
    cheers

    1. Jonas,

      Thanks for your query.

      In a traditional sense, you can’t install Outlook software because most Chromebooks don’t feature a hard drive. However, you can install Outlook as an app, via the Chrome Web Store (http://goo.gl/iioOor).

  3. Out now, the July 2014 edition of Linux Format magazine has an article on how to use a Google ChromeOS program called Crouton to install a full version of Linux alongside ChromOS. I’ve not tried this myself, but it seems it should allow access to a wide range of normal Linux applications.

    1. I’ve used Crouton to install XFCE on my Acer C720 and it works a treat. Very easy and reversible. I use it with Skype, Steam and TeamViewer. I haven’t tried WINE yet to see if I could run MS Office applications.

    2. can someone please help me with this i am having trouble opening and using Crouton on my acer 720, is there a really,really easy way of doing this or step by step guide.

    1. Their local hard drives include a folder called “Downloads”, so you should be able to download files there, e.g. so you can hold local copies for access while off-line.

  4. can I watch a dvd film by using an external hard drive? I am not to computer literate, but I just connected via my old laptop and the film would start automatically in windows media player. can anyone advise please? thanks

  5. when i 1st started my new e mail w/ g mail, it allowed my past e mails to be accessed. but now there is a failure message every time i try to retrieve my mail from my live mail acct pls tell me how to access my e mail from my old acct to my g mail .is it the pop up blocker? how do i suspend it- turn it off temporarily while retrieving mail?

    1. Confirmed; you can watch movies/TV shows through an external hard drive or USB thumb drive. Or if you’re running out of storage space, you can upload files to the cloud via Google Drive.

      Unfortunately, you cannot install Lightroom for editing photos, or any other software as you would on a regular laptop. However, there are other image editing apps, such as Pixlr Editor, available for Chrome OS. All compatible software can be found via the Chrome Web store.

    1. M Whitlock – probably not. I haven’t heard of a laptop yet which can receive an HDMI input, they usually only output via HDMI to an external screen. However, you could possibly use Chrome Remote Desktop (free from the Chrome app store) to share the live contents. If it is simply the same websites you want to share, you could just install Chrome on the ACER and sign in with the same user ID on both machines – they can share history and favourites.

  6. Thinking of getting this as a present for my dad who lives in France and has *never* used a computer. My question: will the free 3G deal work over there (please note that there is no equivalent deal from HP available in France I far as I know) and what happens AFTER the 2 years are over?

  7. Im plang to buy hp chrome book,can i play d movies,videos ,photos stored in my external hard disk(thoshiba), what all formats it supports,can i watch movies frm my hard disk offline without internet,becoz im a sailor, im hardly get internet onboard,my purpose is only tl watch movies is it possible ?

  8. Everytime i turn on my chromebook i now have to sign into google mail which i didnt have to do before so i can no longer access things offline, how can i stop this?

  9. I appreciate Chromebook uses Google Docs but I have been using Open Office for years. Will I be able to view/work on Open Office documents stored on a home network using wifi?

    1. You can use skydrive. You have to be online but you have full function of Microsoft office. You just have to sign up for a free account.

  10. Mapson – when you say on the network, what is hosting the files? If it is a windows pc or a Mac, you could use the Google Drive app to sync the documents, which would make them available on the chromebook. It is worth uploading some sample docs to Google drive and see if you can edit them in Google docs.

  11. Steer clear of Chromebooks if you want to take one on holiday and use it off line. You cannot download movies despite what the hype says. These machines are pure rubbish gimmicks, get an iPad instead.

    The telephone help desk is no help at all and when they realise they cannot help you, simply hang up on you.

    Really wishing I hadn’t wasted my money now.

    1. I had the same problem. I only found this after I got to my holiday destination! What I (you) should have done is set it up for use offline whilst you are still somewhere where you can be online.

  12. Hi,
    Thanks for the helpful information.
    I am traveling for the next few months and a Chromebook looks like a good computer to bring, as opposed to my MacBook Pro.
    However, I intend to build and update a website from scratch during this time.
    Any thoughts on website development and the Chromebook?

    Best regards,

    J

  13. After editing a school word doc via Google convert app offline, does it need to be converted back to word b4 sending by WiFi back to school ie homework receive in word, send back to school in word.. ( for 11yrold )

  14. hi – i use my acer chromebook 720 for gmail on & offline & office 365 online.

    is it possible to use office 365 offline (like gmail offline which then enables you to write emails offline that send when connected) ?

    many thanks

    1. Aren’t you supposed to use “Google Docs” (or whatever its called?) for that? (I assume you’d only be able to use hem while online though…)

Create account

You can leave a reply without having a WordPress account, but if you do register you can upload an avatar. A WordPress account is not connected to your Which? login and cannot be used to login to which.co.uk or any other Which? services.

Sign up