12 Apps Everybody Should Consider For Their Chromebook

Top Chromebook Apps DG AH 2020
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With start-up times at under 10-seconds on average and support for Linux, Android apps, and Web Apps, the Chromebook platform is ripe for those who want an easy-to-use computer. But getting started in a new ecosystem is never easy, especially with differences in software between any given computer platform.

Here, we're examining some of the best apps to download for those who want to make the transition a bit easier and see what a Chromebook is capable of.

Why are these apps the best for a Chromebook?

It bears pointing out that these apps, in particular, are not necessarily going to be the best for every user. There are plenty of more in-depth, comprehensive apps out there for professionals who need apps in any of these categories. Instead, this is a list of apps that could feasibly make the experience better for the non-professional, general userbase.

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Chromebook-ready games and productivity apps aren't going to be the primary focus here either.

In fact, I'm going to focus very little on productivity here since G Suite is installed right out-of-the-box. Chromebooks are, by and large, still meant to be web machines. So, even for those services that aren't included as part of the bundle, such as Gmail, it's going to be just as easy to go view those online. And many of those can be downloaded as a PWA. So they can be accessed to a certain extent offline.

Similarly, many of these apps are Google-built or made by one of Google's many subdivisions. That's because put plainly, Google apps are going to be some of the best available on a Chromebook.  And it goes without saying that there are going to be many apps that I've missed for this list. So users will want to explore the Chrome Web Store, Google Play Store, and elsewhere if these apps don't quite align with what they're looking for.

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CostWhere to download
SquooshFree to download/Free to useSquoosh.app
Photoshop ExpressFree to download/Free account required to useGoogle Play Store
Autodesk SketchBookFree to download/Free to useGoogle Play Store
PhotoStack 2Free to download/Free to usePhotoStack.app
MessagesFree to download/Free to useGoogle Play Store
TelegramFree to download/Free to useGoogle Play Store
ZoomFree to download/
Plans from Free to $20 per month for enterprise features
Chrome Web Store
Google DuoFree to download/Free to useGoogle Play Store
Google KeepFree to download/Free to useGoogle Play Store
Gmail OfflineFree to download/Free to useChrome Web Store
YouTube MusicFree to download/Free to use or
Individual – $11.99 per month/Family – $17.99 per month
Google Play Store
COG System Info ViewerFree to download/Free to useChrome Web Store
Google StadiaFree to download/
Start with a free trial – $9.99 per month
Stadia.Google.com

Photo editing & compressing apps on the Chromebook platform

One of the biggest drawbacks to any Chromebook is that even the best devices don't support full desktop photo editing apps. Of course, that doesn't mean anybody needs to forego the ability to edit, compress, or even watermark images. But it does mean that some of the functionality is going to be split across multiple apps.

On the other side of that, many Chromebooks either come with or have available a precision stylus. Especially now that universal stylus support is beginning to hit shelves. That means that some of the best art apps on the market can now be used with a wide number of Chromebook devices.

Here, we'll cover some of the best apps on offer in the category.

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SQUOOSH

01 top Chromebook apps Squoosh app screenshot

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Squoosh.app

When Google launched Squoosh back in 2018, it was billed as an experiment. The app is, in effect, a photo compressor and light editor built on a PWA platform. So it works in any instance of Chrome and, on a Chromebook, is also going to be one of the best compressor apps to download.

That's because image compression is still this app's best feature — easily taking multi-megabyte photos down to just kilobytes. And it does so with a real-time-updating, zoomable preview so that users can see exactly what they're going to download.

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Another great feature here is Squoosh's ability to perform minor edits. Those all center around compression and file-sizing, but this app does it all in a matter of mere moments. Changing compression and t0-scale-resizing methods is part of the package. As are deeper edits to smoothing, quantization, color channels, and quality.

Across each feature, Squoosh never slows down. And although it's a web-based PWA, updating periodically with new features and for a better experience, it's also completely usable entirely offline. Users simply need to navigate to the URL "squoosh.app" to get started from their Chrome browser.

Photoshop Express

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  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store

As its branding implies, Photoshop Express is Adobe's mobile version of its premier photo editing software. It isn't, by any means, as fully featured as the full desktop variant. But it will go quite a long way toward accomplishing the tasks most users would want to get done.

That's because Adobe has distilled its full software to something more manageable on the fly. So users can quickly select a photo or photos, add color effects, adjust filters or crop, skew, and adjust the tilt. Conversely, it also offers ready access to mobile Lightroom, as well as color corrections, tone splitting, blur, bokeh effects, and vignetting. And all of that stacks atop text adding, collage creation, frames, red-eye corrections, and pet eye corrections.

Put simply, this app is close enough to Photoshop that most users should see some benefit to having it installed. Especially, if they hope to use their Chromebook as their primary computer, Photoshop Express is going to be one of the best apps around for photo editing.

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Autodesk SketchBook

03 top Chromebook apps Autodesk Sketchbook app screenshot

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store

At first glance, Autodesk SketchBook doesn't seem like a complex tool. And it's free, so it may be difficult to believe its one of the best apps around for art on a Chromebook. But it is and it accomplishes that easily. That's because this app, in recent years, took a plethora of paid features previously reserved for premium account holders and made them free. For everybody.

Now, it's possible to use this app to draw or write in a straightforward pen-and-paper fashion. Or, users can access the sidebar, image import tools, layering system, and more to create a full-blown masterpiece. The app features dozens of brushes across a variety of categories for 'sketching' out everything from comic-style characters to landscape oil paintings. And it features hundreds of customization levels across each brush.

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That's setting aside mirroring, image selection tools, shape and line entry, perspective grids, rulers, timelapse creations, exporting, and a host of other features. Summarily, Autodesk SketchBook is a fully-featured art kit in digital form and it's absolutely free. So, whether with a stylus or a finger, users who love art — and those interested in getting started — are going to love this app.

PhotoStack 2

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store

PhotoStack 2 is, as its branding implies, a second-generation photo tool from the web. Like Squoosh, it's a PWA. But it comes somewhat more fully-featured than its Google-built counterpart. Or at least it does in terms of what it does beyond basic 1 to 100 image compression.

To begin with, it also offers image resizing with scale reductions or increases based on maintained ratio and a desired image width input. Users can also fine-tune the sharpness of images, so opening up Photoshop isn't really necessary just to accomplish that. Another feature not found in Photoshop Express is watermarking, making this one of the few PWAs or desktop-level applications for a Chromebook that can accomplish that task.

Otherwise, PhotoStack 2 is a fairly straightforward app. The tool offers the ability to add borders, remove EXIF data, and export in either .jpg, .png, or .webp formats. Users can download the tool by navigating to the "photostack.app" URL.

Communication apps can make or break the Chromebook experience

Communications via a Chromebook, work similarly to how Android does. Users can even link up the Google-built Messages app to send and receive texts and MMS via their Chrome OS gadgets. But we'll get to that in a moment.

Now, Google Meet and chat would be obvious go-to's here. But they're already built directly into Gmail. So, chances are, if you're using those, you'll already be accessing them there in the Chrome browser. The same can be said of social media, more often than not better accessed via the web interface, than an app and something most users will already be accessed via the Chrome browser. The web is generally just a better interface for those services.

But there are a couple of other communication apps that are well worth a look for those on a Chromebook. Including some that work for Chromebook and are already some of the best messaging apps on Android.

Messages

05 top Chromebook apps Messages app screenshot

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store

The Messages app is Google's text and picture-messaging app for Android. It's built on RCS, so chats work more in-line with web chats than with text messaging. And it should be built into most Chromebooks right out of the box. For others, it's a download away on the Google Play Store for free.

In that regard, it isn't necessarily something users will need to download and install but is something they may not be aware of. To use Messages, users simply need to open the app on both their phone and their Chromebooks. On their phone, in the three-dot overflow menu, users need to choose the "Messages for Web" option. Then they need to scan the QR code in the app on their Chromebook.

Afterward, users are able to use Messages on their Chromebook exactly as they would on their phone. That comes complete with gif, images, video, emoji, and sticker support. As well as integration with another app on this list, Google Duo, for video calls.

These are text messages, served up via the newly-linked phone. So one of the biggest benefits is that it provides an easy way to text while using a Chromebook via RCS chat without having to pick the phone up once the link is established.

Telegram

12 top Chromebook apps Telegram app screenshot

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store

For those who want to get a bit more from their messaging via one of the best, most secure web-based apps available anywhere, Telegram is going to be the obvious choice. Especially when it comes to self-destructing, encrypted messaging.

But Telegram isn't at all just about security. The app comes with custom theme options that should make just about any tech-savvy user happy. And there are interactive elements such as polling, video calls, bots, gifs, group chats, and more. Chats and groups can be sorted, file sharing is effectively unlimited in terms of size, and voice messages are included.

When it comes to stickers, Telegram has effectively rewritten the game. The app offers everything from cutesy, expressive animated stickers to serious ones. And the user-generated library of those grows every day, with additions from the pop-culture derived to NSFW entries for more private conversations.

Zoom

06 top Chromebook apps Zoom app screenshot

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: Up to $20 per month for plans with enterprise features
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store or Chrome Web Store

Zoom is an obvious choice for entry on this list because it's easily one of the most professional video group calling apps around. Designed chiefly as a means to host meetings, Zoom allows up to 100 participants at once. For free. And it's poured quite a lot of effort into ensuring those group meetings are well-organized, high-quality, and easy-to-use.

Additionally, the web app or Android app can readily be used for other purposes. For instance, for a virtual family get-together. And the experience comes complete with screen sharing, meeting protections, and instant messaging. As well as a variety of options for video backgrounds and more.

All of that equates to an easy tool for chatting with larger groups for business or for fun. And makes it easy to see why Zoom skyrocketed in popularity over the past several months.

Duo

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store

Google Duo, as noted above, is a very nearly little more than a pack-in feature for Messages. But it takes things significantly further than that too. While it won't support quite so many participants as Zoom, users are treated to a straightforward interface. That, in effect, allows Duo to work more like a phone-based video chatting service than a web-based one. With users given the ability, for free, to place video calls like normal calls, all from the Chromebook.

The extra features included here are nearly on-par with Zoom too. That includes security that's in place to keep Duo calls safe. But it also includes more fun features like backdrops, filters, animated stickers, and even video message sending. The latter can be sent with or without those other features in place.

The fact that it integrates so easily with Messages means it's likely going to be the best option in terms of video calling apps and a must-have for those using that Chromebook feature.

Entertainment apps and more for a Chromebook

Most apps users will likely utilize for entertainment and other purposes already have a heavy web presence. And the best of those are packed in as part of Google Drive, which is arguably going to be the primary storage place for those on Chromebooks. And if it isn't, it should be for a wide variety of reasons. Not least of all because Chromebooks automatically start clearing storage if it gets too full.

But there are a few extras that can help stay productive and entertained too. Some of the best of those apps, users may not have considered downloading or using on their Chromebook.

Google Keep

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store

Google Keep is not one of Google's most popular applications. But, examined more closely, it serves as one of the best cross-platform note-taking, list-making apps you can get on a Chromebook. Or on Android, iOS, desktop, and through Google Assistant or Chrome.

In effect, this app takes the best of what notes can be and moves them to everywhere.

It also has a few neat additional features from list indentations and voice or media notations to link-image creation and note sharing. Notes can then be labeled and categorized out for intuitive organization. And any update made on any platform to a note — or by another account on a shared note — is instantly applied everywhere too.

Better still, if there are conflicts in the cloud data for a note, Google Keep doesn't just keep the newest version. It asks which version to keep with a side-by-side comparison. So this app is going to make staying organized and on task, or keeping a grocery list or recipe list, or just about anything to do with notes easier.

YouTube Music

09 top Chromebook apps YouTube Music app screenshot

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: Individual Plan- $11.99 per month/Family Plan – $17.99 per month
  • Where to buy: Google Play Store

YouTube Music is Google's replacement for Google Play Music as part of a bid to move all media offerings under a single brand. In fact, with playlist creation across all of the music found on YouTube, song uploading, music streaming to speakers via Wi-Fi and Chromecast or Bluetooth, and more, it's one of the best apps for music on any Chromebook.

And those are just the free features.

Users can also go ad-free, download and save songs or videos for offline playback, play music in the background, and turn on audio-only mode for data savings. That costs just $11.99 per month for a single user. Or users can pull in a group of up to 5 other users with a $17.99 per month family plan.

Better still, if you're paying for a YouTube Music subscription, it may be a good idea to download the standard YouTube app too. Since that app's premium ad-free variant is included as part of the bundle. And all of that is accessible on the web, in the Android or iOS app, or on a Chromebook. With changes to an account, playlist, and more happening instantly across each platform installation.

COG System Info Viewer

  • Price: Free to download
  • In-app purchases: No
  • Where to buy: Google Web Store

COG System Info Viewer is exactly what its branding says, it's a system management tool. In fact, it could easily be one of the best web-apps available for a Chromebook for that purpose.

COG is straightforward, just for starters, providing a quick glance at how processors are performing, system temperatures, and storage. It also provides an easy way to see how much RAM is in use, battery life and time remaining, and other specs. Put simply, this tool allows an in-depth, easy-to-read readout of system-level specs. And aside from not showing exactly what is using which resources, it puts the built-in task manager to shame.

Any serious Chromebook user is going to want to install this free tool from the Chrome Web Store.

Google Stadia

10 top Chromebook apps Stadia app screenshot

  • Price: Free to access and play paid games
  • In-app purchases: $9.99 per month for a Pro subscription and free monthly titles
  • Where to buy: Stadia.Google.com

Google Stadia really needs no introduction at this point. Currently, it's on offer with a three-month free trial for a Pro subscription. And, in short, it's a video game streaming service.

But these games aren't streamed from just anywhere. These are triple-A titles streamed from top-tier Google hardware at up to 4K at 60fps over a dedicated network backbone. And it's accessible from anywhere Chrome is. That includes availability as a PWA on Chrome OS, making it undoubtedly one of the best apps for gaming on the platform.

On Chromebooks, users can pick up a Stadia controller, complete with a direct connection to the Stadia servers and a Google Assistant button. Or, conversely, any Bluetooth or wired controller than can plug into the USB or USB-C ports on a Chromebook should work. That includes official controllers from other consoles.