This past weekend, my wireless USB adapter was laid to rest (yes, my desktop is that old). So, rather than using the netbook until the new adapter arrives, I decided to use an old Windows machine. That meant a week of working from a machine which I'm unused to, and which doesn't have the apps I'm used to working with (I normally use a Linux machine).
The only app that I wanted to download and install was Google Chrome: it's my browser of choice, and I knew that, once I signed in via my Google account, I would be back in a familiar environment with all my settings, apps, extensions, and passwords.
It also presented an interesting opportunity: I've been thinking a good bit lately about Google's vision of the future of computing: Chrome OS. If you're unfamiliar, Chrome OS is an operating system based on Linux that is, essentially, nothing more than a web browser. Google figures that, since most of what we do with computers is online, why not get rid of all that extraneous stuff and get down to basics?
There are problems with the approach, of course. We can't do everything with a browser yet, and native apps tend to be much quicker. That said, the appeal is obvious: no updating, no blue screens of death, insanely fast boot time, automatic syncing of... well, everything... and most of all, simplicity and ease of use.
Because of the advantages, I've been thinking lately about the possibility of using Chrome OS as my only computing environment. This week gave me the perfect opportunity to find out whether that was a feasible option: I could spend the week inside a Chrome browser and see how I fare.
The first thing I needed was good way to write. I am, after all, a writer, and most of the work I do happens inside of a writing environment. Distraction-free writing apps have been all the rage for a couple of years now, and for good reason. There's something quite calming about looking at a blank page on your screen- and nothing else. No toolbars, no notifications, no tabs. Just writing.
A few of these apps exist for the web, but most of my work is already sitting in online storage- Dropbox and Google Drive. To work effectively, I needed access to previous articles and notes. I also needed the ability to save my work directly to those services.
Writebox does exactly what I need. It's a simple, no-frills writing app with just the right amount of customization.
The options seem just right: change the background or text color, the font, the line height. Open a new document, or connect your Google Drive or Dropbox account to open files directly from those services. Once you do open them, documents are autosaved as you work.
If you'd rather save locally, Writebox does that well, too. It even works offline, meaning that you can still work even when you don't have a connection. That's a pretty critical distinction for writers, since many of the places we go to find inspiration tend to be off the beaten path.
There are also options to hide or show the scrollbars and statistics (line, word, and character count).
I have a special place in my heart reserved for apps that not only do what they do well, but don't lock you into their ecosystem, either. With Writebox, you can use it in combination with other apps, use it exclusively, or use it only for specific platforms. If you use a browser other than Chrome, you're still covered: Writebox exists as a standalone web app and an iOS app, too (sorry, fellow Android users: it doesn't look like an Android app is in our future).
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