What can you do if your Chromebook is offline?

Some like Chromebooks. Others do not. Regardless of how one feels about the devices, one thing is for certain – they’ve been selling like hot cakes.

One of my co-hosts for The *Nixed Report podcast is seriously considering obtaining one for most of the things they do, which involves web surfing, blogging, and e-mail. Google has found quite the niche, and I believe Chrome OS is on the verge of blasting off.

Revolutionary ideas are not without its critics however.

Some may complain about the lack of local storage. Never mind the fact that USB ports are available so that external storage such as flash drives and hard drives can be utilized.

Others may not like the idea of having most of their apps be web-based. The good news is that there are apps that run locally or as a browser extension.

The biggest gripe of all is that without access to the Internet, they are absolutely useless. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although Chromebooks utilize the Internet, the primary intention of Google, they are surprisingly versatile when it comes to offline use.


Keeping track of the date is easy with the Calendar utility.  There is also a Calculator packaged app that can be of assistance when it comes to number crunching.

Writing and Productivity

Caret text editor screen shot
Multiple tabs help users work with multiple files.

For plain text, there is always Caret, which operates offline, has a multi-tabbed interface, and can save files to local directories. Google Docs can also be edited offline assuming that offline mode is enabled.

Documents, presentations, and drawings can be created and edited in offline mode. Nearly a full suite is available for use, the only exception being the creation and editing of spreadsheets.


There are other limits to offline mode. Images can’t be inserted, and extra functionality involving scripts aren’t available. Not all files from cloud storage can be synced to the Chromebook.

Spell check and Research are also unavailable.

Despite these limits, it’s an excellent stop gap solution for those in between access points. Once access to the Internet is had again, the files created and edited in offline mode are synced to the cloud.


Pictures can be taken using the webcam. Basic photo editing is available in terms of brightness, contrast, and cropping. Various filters can be applied as well.

Final changes can be saved to internal or external storage.

Entertainment and Games

Chrome OS has built in audio and video playback capabilities. MP3’s can be opened all at once. If the video file is supported, it will play as well.

Any supported multimedia files will have a “listen” or “watch” button located in the lower right hand corner of the Files utility window.

Some of the limitations include the lack of playlist editing.  The Chromium OS Project has more information on supported codecs.

At the end of the day, one can still listen to music while editing documents.

If one wants to play a few games, there are a few options. Games like Angry Nanna are actually browser extensions, thus making them available offline. There are also standalone games such as Spelunky that are packaged apps and are therefore available regardless of whether one has Internet access.

One unorthodox solution is DOSBox, a DOS emulator that allows users to import an entire directory. At the very least, classic DOS games can be played. As an added bonus, the emulator can run most DOS apps, thus increasing potential productivity while bringing back nostalgic memories of personal computing’s past.


Chrome OS is primarily designed for cloud-based computing, but it’s more capable than critics realize. With the magic of HTML 5, it may soon be possible to package entire apps to run off of a USB thumb drive, thus give users the best of both cloud and non-cloud worlds.

So to those who are arguing that Chromebooks aren’t “real laptops,” they can think again!

About Thomas Holbrook II

Thomas first encountered FOSS while visiting the University of Central Missouri (then known as Central Missouri State University) during high school. Mandrake was the first distribution he ever attempted to run. He has had experience with SuSE, Red Hat, Fedora, Ubuntu, and other distros. He currently does a podcast each week and publishes a monthly digital magazine covering Unix and Overlooked Pop Culture at www.thenixedreport.com.

3 thoughts on “What can you do if your Chromebook is offline?

  1. I have to admit that I was a skeptic before trying a Chromebook for a week. That week extended to a second week and not a month on I am convinced of the viability and practicality of the Chrome OS to work in my mobile music teaching business and novel writing. My greatest worry was the many criticisms I heard that a Chromebook would be an “expensive paperweight” when I did not have internet connectivity. This article touches the tip of the iceberg debunking that nonsense, but there is a lot more. Anyone with a Chrome browser on a Mac or PC can have a look at the number of offline apps available. Also, many of them are of high quality. They are all fast. Being able to create business drawings, write documents and edit images offline was a surprise to me, but it works well. Also, I can read and create emails that will leave my inbox as soon as I regain connectivity. Oh, did I mention installing backup, file-synchronisation, anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-spam checkers … no I didn’t, I don’t need them. Oh, and apps that run outside the browser – remember what Microsoft said about light-weight metro apps … well Google has done it in much better style, reliability, and speed with HTML 5.

    1. Truth be told, I’m looking into getting a Chromebox and using that combined with the Samsung Chromebook as my main productivity systems. The environment is consistent enough and the productivity requirements are mostly met. If I could find a way to record a 30-45 minute podcast, I’d be doing that as well.

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