I’ve heard a lot about how Android apps on the Chrome OS are a major issue, but when you’re in the Google Play Store for the first time on a dual-purpose device, it can be hard to know where to start.
Chromebooks were already quite capable without Android apps in the equation, after all, and many of the most popular titles on the Play Store are also available in web app equivalents. Sure, you can install Google Docs for Android or Twitter for Android on a Chromebook. , but you will get better and more complete experiences using the web counterpart of any of the services. So why bother?
The trick is to find out which Android apps are actually improving your Chrome operating system. in a significant way, whether it’s filling a gap in the platform or adding something new and practical to the experience. But in a sea of overlapping titles and utilities specific to mobile devices, identifying such a selection is not always easy.
That’s why I’m here to help you. I’ve spent countless hours living with Chromebooks and using them as tools for productivity and entertainment. We explored the options available for the Android app and identified programs that extend the capabilities of a Chromebook to significant extent. I even made business trips with nothing but a Chromebook enabled for the Android app for all my work and procrastination needs (ahem).
Start with the titles below – all for free, unless otherwise noted – and watch your Chromebook turn from a cloud-centric laptop into a platform-challenging multifunctional device.
(By the way, when you’re done here, don’t forget to consider a few Linux applications for your Chromebook. These can further expand your computer’s productivity powers in a few different but equally interesting ways.)
Documents, spreadsheets and other file-oriented works
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint
Let’s start with the most obvious bunch: if Google Docs isn’t enough for you and the Microsoft Office Online offer is just as inadequate, the Android versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are exactly what you need. They are fully functional and fantastically familiar, as long as you have an Office 365 or Microsoft 365 subscription and fill an impossible gap left by Microsoft’s free web options.
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Microsoft Office apps for Android are a great way to get a more capable word processing experience on a Chromebook. (Click on the image to enlarge it).
Need a free-of-charge desktop office suite? MobiSystems OfficeSuite Pro is the best alternative to the Microsoft standard. The app costs $ 20, plus an additional $ 10 for a font package you probably want. (And remember: once purchased, you can use the app on any Android device as well.)
Xodo PDF reader and editor
Xodo does one thing and does it well: it makes it easier to write, highlight and annotate PDF files. If you need to fill out forms manually or bookmark a document on your Chromebook, this free and easy-to-use app is also my recommendation for the best PDF handler for Android devices. , is the right one for you.
The native file application for the Chrome operating system is fine, but you can get more file management features with Solid Explorer, an Android file management application optimized for Chrome operating system compatibility. Solid Explorer lets you use a two-panel view to easily drag and drop files between multiple locations, including your regular on-premises storage, Android application storage, and cloud storage from a variety of vendors bear. It can also connect to your personal or company FTP or WebDav server and allow you to add additional layers of encryption to files in any of these locations.
Among other advanced features, Solid Explorer offers two panels to easily drag and drop between locations. (Click on the image to enlarge it).
OneNote users take note: The Android version of OneNote – My choice for the best full Android note-taking app, in particular, outperforms its web-based counterpart by providing offline access to your notes, along with improved writing support. hand. If you’re using OneNote with a Chromebook, it’s worth having.
Google’s note-taking service has a fully functional web version, but the Keep app for Android offers some notable benefits. First, as with OneNote, the Android version of Keep allows you to view and work with notes even when you’re offline, which could be a useful option, at least in a future theoretical world where we are all. traveling again.
Beyond that, the Keep app for Android is especially suitable for scribbling on the screen with a stylus, finger or any attachment you prefer, thanks to its built-in tools and settings to control the color and thickness of the «ink». You can even add a variety of paper-like grid lines to notes to make them feel like a more natural writing environment.
Speaking of handwritten notes, this $ 12 note-taking utility is a must for anyone using a Chromebook with a stylus. Nebo gives you a powerful set of tools to write and draw directly on your device screen and then convert your words to plain text, ready to copy and paste. You can even compose diagrams and ask the app to translate all your work into plain text, HTML, or a fully formatted Word document that is ready to be shared with your team.
Nebo translates all the scribbles into pencil into plain text. (Click on the image to enlarge it).
Squid is less about converting handwritten notes into text and more about providing a solid canvas to scribble information and leave it in the form created in pencil. It is specially optimized for low latency with a stylus and is also completely vector-based, so you can create high-quality, fully scalable images. And everything you do in the app can be exported as a JPG, PDF or PNG file or even sent to a Chromecast compatible display for an on-the-go presentation.
The basics of the app are free, while some advanced features (the ability to import PDF files, for example, along with options to use the marker and form tools for editing) are available as part of an optional fee. $ 1 per month or $ 10 per month. annual premium subscription.
Communication and organization
Are you stuck living in the Microsoft email universe? Leave the dull web version of Outlook behind and enjoy using the Android app. It provides offline access to your email and is visible faster than its browser-based sibling.
If you rely on the Facebook Messenger system for any kind of professional communication, using the standalone Android app is infinitely better than keeping the entire Facebook site open all day (or picking up your phone every time a new message arrives). These are Facebook messages without the rest of Facebook, in essence. What else do you need to know?
The Google Calendar web interface may seem familiar, but the Android version of the service has a more contemporary interface, easier to reach, and works offline, which, surprisingly, the web version still doesn’t. Especially if you’re used to using Calendar on your phone, you’ll appreciate having the app available on your Chromebook, even if it’s only for occasional use.
Trello lovers, listen: You’ll definitely want to have the Trello Android app on your Chromebook for any touch-oriented organizational activity. It will make you feel like you’re working on a tablet instead of clumsily trying to navigate a website with your finger, and it will allow you to access your data when you’re offline.
The Trello application for Android offers some unique advantages over its more traditional forms, especially when it comes to touch input. (Click on the image to enlarge it).
Google Tasks isn’t the most powerful task manager in existence, but if you want to use it, the Tasks app for Android will be a smart addition to your Chromebook setup. It allows you to treat Tasks as its own standalone program, for example, rather than being bundled with Gmail, as it is usually on the desktop and is able to work offline.
Overall productivity and safety
Two-factor authentication is an important way to protect your most important accounts, and Authy is one of the best options available. to generate and manage 2FA codes. If you want to be able to access your Chromebook codes in addition to your phone, the Authy app for Android is the way to do this.
There’s no shortage of commendable VPN services that will run directly in Chrome, but if you’re already paying for Google’s Google One subscription service, which gives you extra storage on all Google services for just $ 2 a month, automatically access your own Google VPN to encrypt all data transfers. And while Google isn’t actively promoting this, you can install the Google One Android app on your Chromebook and enable this feature.
The Maps web interface isn’t far behind, but the Android app gives you a number of time-saving, as well as extra-useful touch gestures such as traffic alert notifications. And, yes, you guessed it, it can work offline, as needed.
Google Maps is a must-have for both touch and offline access on a Chromebook. (Click on the image to enlarge it).
You may be using your Chromebook with a Windows or Mac computer. In this case, Duet Display is the tool for you. Install the app on your Chrome OS and then install the add-on on the other computer, and your Chromebook can become a second wireless display for Mac or PC. Hey, no need to choose, you can have the best of both worlds!
Firefox or Opera
Speaking of having the best of both worlds, if you like the Chrome OS environment, but sometimes you need to see the universe through an alternative lens, remember that you can install secondary browsers by connecting their Android versions. (If you’re looking for the full desktop browsing experience, then you’ll need Linux versions.)