How I use Workflowy

Workflowy is one of my favourite online apps and one I could not do without. As soon as I open my Chromebook to work I open three web apps, Gmail, Workflowy, and Paydirt. By the way, when I open those three I keep them pinned so I always shave them on the top right of Chrome and I keep the rest of the space for the tabs I’m working on

Workflowy is kind of hard to sell because it’s so simple. I imagine that when I describe it, you go “that’s all it does?”.

At its core, Workflowy is a neverending page of bullets. That’s what it is, a bulleted list that goes on forever. Their tag line is “Organise your brain”.

What can you do with that?

You can structure it however you need it to work but the basic functions are as follows:

  • Every line is a bullet
  • Bullets can have sub-bullets or indents
  • When you click on a bullet it opens in its own page
    • This is useful for focusing on one task or project
  • You can mark a bullet as complete like on any to do application
    • Hover on a bullet and you’ll get a menu, one item being to mark it as complete. You can choose whether or not you want to show completed items
  • You can tag bullets
    • A tag is something like this “@Work” or “#todo”
    • A tag is anything following the @ or #. Tags can then be used to search or organise your bullets. When you click on a particular tag, Workflowy hides everything except for bullets marked with that tag. So, if I only wanted to see tags marked #todo, I could click on any #todo tag and I’d see the complete list.
    • Similarly, if I enter the search bar and type @ or # Workflowy will show me a list of all tags beginning with those symbols to search from
    • Search is really fast in Workflow – instantaneous. It’s amazing. Type something in the search bar and you immediately have a list of things only containing that search term
  • You can move bullets by dragging them up and down the list or indenting them under other bullets
  • You can share bullets

How I use Workflowy

I find Workflowy very useful for any kind of online research. You know when you’re researching and you end up with a bunch of tabs open and you don’t know what to do with them. I put each link into Workflowy under the heading of what I’m searching for. There’s a Chrome Extension called Clip to Workflowy that I use for this and it’s very useful

I use it for quick access to client work. I have a bullet heading for each client and within that each client project. Within that, I keep a list of any research or anything I need to remember related to the project. Also, I use Clip to Workflow to keep links to any Google Drive documents (or other web apps such as WordPress) I’m working on for that project. I can link to the documents or spreadsheets in Google Drive or just the Client folder within Google drive. This makes it very easy to jump to the client folder when I’m working. I have everything in the one place, my files, my links and my todo list. All in a neatly organised system of bullets.

I use Workflowy for keeping links that I find and that I want to come back to, like useful online apps or things I want to read. If I’m doing research on something I want to buy or something a client wants to order I’ll keep the links in Workflowy.

You can be as much or as little organised as you like in Workflowy. Sometimes I get very organised with it and others I just dump things in as I come across them. Either way works (although my mind doesn’t like it when it’s messy). They both work because of the tagging and searching system that works so well.

I recommend giving it a go and having a read online about it. There are lots of stories of how people have used Workflowy and lots of online tutorials. It’s free so it’ll cost nothing to give it a go. I’m paying the monthly fee for it because I use it so much and want to support them. I like to support web apps that I use in the hope that they’ll continue to develop and also that they’ll stick around in the future.

Thanks for reading.

How I’m learning to focus

I’m discovering more and more that learning to focus is one of the more important skills I can develop. My default state tends to be one of a mind overwhelmed and jumping between thoughts constantly, and a body carrying some kind of stress pain. I find it difficult to organise myself. Despite trying several organisational systems (to do lists, etc) since forever (right back to my school days), nothing works. At least not long term. Trying new things is exciting at first, then just another item on my overwhelmed mind. At the end of my days, I feel like I’ve been dragged through it. The whole day feels wasted and meaningless and not worthwhile.

Every now and then I realise or remember that when I slow down, everything is better. When I can do one thing everything is better. That’s easy to forget because even when I think I’m doing one thing I find my mind wondering and worrying. I read a lot on focus and often find that people say it’s a skill that needs practice. The thing is, how do I practice.

I’ve found something lately that takes some work (and ironically some focus) but it’s working for me. When I practice it, I feel much less stressed and more in control. Also, I have a much stronger sense of being present. That sense of being present then seems to lessen the sense of the wasted day and being dragged through it.

The skill I’m practising is this: Keep drawing my mind back to my current activity, no matter how simple the activity.

That might seem like it’s oversimplifying, but part of the key is it needs to be simple. So no matter what I’m doing, as soon as I find my mind wandering and my focus leaving, I remind myself what I’m doing.

What I think will happen is this. I’ll practice that so much that eventually, I’ll start doing it without realising it. Then I’ll have the skill of focusing. I’m sure I’ll fall out of practice. Then I’ll have to remind myself to practice again.

While I’m typing this blog post, my mind keeps wandering. As I realise that I mentally say “I’m typing this blog post.”

That seems to be enough. It draws my mind back to the present and relaxes me into what I’m doing. When I don’t do that, here’s what happens to me:

  • I think about other things
  • I think about what I need to be doing
  • I feel like no matter what I’m doing I should be doing something else
  • I feel stressed at that thought
  • I become overwhelmed at not being able to decide on one thing
  • I become frustrated and unable to properly do what I’m trying to do

The technique I described helps me avoid those feelings. I end up being present in what I’m doing. As a result of that, I’m much less stressed. I also enjoy it a lot more. At the end of my day, I have more of a sense of being present in my activities. That makes the day feel better spent and more worthwhile.

As I’ve mentioned above, I’m sure I’ll forget this technique and fall out of practice. I’ve learned that in life that happens. These things don’t magically change you. They only work when you practice them and remember you have them.

Photopea – The Online Graphics and Photo Editor

Photopea logo

I was recently looking for a better photo editor that would work on my Chromebook. Chromebooks do work offline but they were built to work online and online photo editing was always one of the ones that seemed impossible. I found Photopea recently and so far I’m very impressed. So impressed actually that I paid for the ad removal. Even though the app can be used free.

Photopea was built as a simple online version as Photoshop. It’s a pared down alternative. I don’t know if it would meet the needs of a professional Photoshop user. For me though, on my Chromebook, it’s great. It’s very fast. You just go to photopea.com and start using it. Once you open the page in your browser you can go offline and it still works. It’s amazing that such a thing works so well and another testament to the future of web apps.

I tried the Gimp on my Chromebook (running it as a Linux app). It worked but I found it a bit big and unwieldy for my needs. Like all such apps, it’s slow to load. I’ve also tried a few other online and Android apps on my Chromebook. In many cases, they are more akin to photo editing on Instagram than Photoshop. They don’t give you much control. Every function tends to be in the form of a filter or wizard.

Photopea is great in that it is built to be like Photoshop. I can go in and use it the way I want. Mostly I use it to edit website graphics or something for other things like editing a photo or graphic for a presentation. I can have it open in an instant and it works well on even a low powered Chromebook.

I love the fact that it’s online so I don’t have to install or update it. If I switch to a different Chromebook or a windows device I can use Photopea just as easily without having to set it up or transfer my work. And because I’m using Google Drive, everything is available to me no matter what device I’m working from.

If you’re looking for a photo editing app, and especially if you’re on a Chromebook, definitely try it out. If you like it and use it a lot then consider paying for it and I’m sure it’ll get even better. I believe web apps are the future, but we have to support them in order to make that future real.

A post about writing drafts

I wish I’d learned earlier in life that my first draft or attempt at anything is probably going to bad. It almost certainly has to be. I tend to get mentally overwhelmed a lot. If I have something to do I feel a kind of blockage in my mind to get it perfect. My mind gets so blocked that I find it hard to get started.

I follow a lot of writers on Twitter. Recently I’ve noticed them pointing out that your first draft is going to be bad so you might as well get it out of the way fast. Write it bad and get it over with. Lots of bloggers have also commented that there’s no point obsessing over your first few blog posts because they’re going to be bad. If they’re going to be bad any way then you might as well just write them and move on from them as fast as you can.

I tend to stress so much over getting things right that I can’t get started. Whether writing an email, an article a blog post a novel, or even any piece of work I’m doing. If I decide from the start that it will be crap, then I might as well jump into it. That’s really liberating.

Deciding that lets me start. It lets me get it out of my system and also lets me have a framework in front of me. When the crap is down I can rearrange it and edit it and mould it. Until then though I’ve got nothing except what’s in my head. It’d very difficult to be creative and also to mould your idea while everything is still in your head.

I now try to apply this approach to everything if it fits.

In the past, if I had a blog post to write I’d spend ages thinking about it. I would probably plan it out and usually end up with nothing. It would take so long that the initial idea that excited me would have faded away. The clarity of it and my passion for it would be gone.

I want to write long-form novels but I had the same problem. I would spend so long planning and thinking and never starting. Now I just write 500 words every day. I don’t worry if they’re bad I’ll fix them after. At least though I’ll have something to fix after

If I have an important email to write, I just blurt it out. When it’s out I can fix it and then move on. Before that, I needed time to get it right so I kept putting it off. I did need time to get it right, but I could only use that time after I had the draft.

In any scenario now I try to take that approach, especially if I’m creating something new (no matter how small). Get the draft down fast. Get it out of my head quick while the idea is clear and I have a passion for it. Then fix it.

When it comes to working I always get stuck at the start of a job or project. The work is important and I can’t mess it up. It has stakes. So I end up doing nothing until the pressure builds so much that I have to. By allowing it to be bad and realising I can fix it after I can start faster. I can also have a lot more fun in my work and it’s much less stressful.

A Thought On How We Value Time

My partner always puts cushions on the bed to decorate it when she leaves the bedroom. So, she sees the cushions on the bed for a brief moment in the morning before she leaves the room and a brief moment at night when she comes back to the room and removes them from the bed.

I often joke about the pointlessness of that. It’s a running joke with comedians too. The cliche of the girlfriend putting the cushions on the bed only to remove them and no one ever to see them.

I’ve realised something important about that though. They are seen, twice in the day, for only a brief moment, probably not even a minute.

The judgement is that all that time in between is wasted. The cushions sit there decorating the bed all day long and nobody sees them. The intent is lost, and the time wasted.

That point is only relevant if the intent of the exercise is time. It isn’t.

The intent is that instant before you leave the room and it looks nice, and that instant when you return to the room and it looks nice. All that time in between is relevant. It’s the feeling achieved in those two instants.

It makes me wonder how many other instances we devalue something based on a time cost rather than looking at the benefit independent of time.

Chrome OS and USB-C Adaptors

The main focus of this post is on my testing of Chrome OS with USB-C Adaptors

I mentioned before that because my new Asus Chromebook Flip only has USB-C ports I need to use adapters. In fairness, I like the idea of using only the USB-C ports. This Chromebook uses them for everything (there’s a headphone socket but USB-C would do this also). They also make it very aesthetically pleasing. It’s very slim and they’ve put a USB-C on both sides so it looks the same on both sides. This makes charging very convenient also as I can charge it from either side.

The only awkwardness then is when I need to use devices without a USB-C port. It’s not that often but it’s a little bit of a pain and something I’d rather not have to do. In as much as I can be, I’m a minimalist. Having to carry around extra attachments don’t fit with that philosophy. Anyway, here’s my current list:

USB-C to USB-A adapter

I needed one of these just to use any plain old USB device with my Chromebook Flip. The first thing that might spring to mind is a USB thumb drive. I never find myself needing one of those on my Chromebook. There always seems to be a better way. It’s not that I avoid them, I just never need them.

I purchased my first one from a local store because I needed it in a hurry. It was the Apple one. Aside from the size of it, it was perfect for my needs. There are a few inches of cable between the USB-C and the USB-A part. It can be awkward when using the Chromebook on my lap.

Apple USB C to USB Adaptor
Apple USB C to USB Adaptor
Nonda USB-C to USB Adaptor
Nonda USB-C to USB Adaptor

I ordered a new one from Amazon, the Nonda USB-C adapter. It claims to be the world’s smallest USB-C adapter. It probably is, but still is a little big for my needs. I use a Logitech Wireless Trackball (MX Ergo) and it comes with its own mini USB-A receiver device. It’s tiny so I left it plugged in all the time.

Unfortunately, it, along with my Nonda adapter is still too big to be left plugged in. I’d worry that it would break off in my bag. (The MX Ergo does have a Bluetooth connection but I found that on occasion scrolling and moving the mouse would be jumpy via USB).

USB to Ethernet

I wasn’t sure if this would be possible at all. Chromebooks, as far as I’m aware all use Wifi. I don’t know of any with an ethernet port. Recently, I needed one for a job and so purchased the Apple one locally hoping it would work. I used it in conjunction with my Nonda USB-C to USB adapter. That’s a mess I don’t like but I had no choice. I now had Chromebook –> Nonda USB – C –> Apple USB to Ethernet –> Ethernet cable. It worked perfectly. The connection was instantaneous and I was able to do everything I needed to do with it.

Apple USB to Ethernet Adaptor
Apple USB to Ethernet Adaptor

USB-C to HDMI

I needed this because my Chromebook has no HDMI output. It doesn’t have VGA output either but most don’t. This sounds like I keep saying what it doesn’t have but again it is by design. These are all things I only need now and again. I use the HDMI output when connecting a second monitor for dual tasking or for presentations. Mostly I need it for providing remote support to clients. I open their display on my second monitor while using my Chromebook display for research and communication. I purchased the Benfei adaptor from Amazon and again it worked perfectly.

As I said above I don’t like messing around with adapters. The more connections you have the more trouble you’re bringing on yourself. On the other hand, when you need them you need them. Those I mentioned above are all small and handy to keep in my bag. At the times when I need them, I’d be lost without them. Chrome OS is relatively new in ways and so choosing adaptors for your device can be a risk. So far every USB – C adaptor I’ve tested with my device has worked and worked well.

Web Apps I use on my Chromebook

This is a post to show some of the web apps that I’ve tested on my Chromebook. I’ve mentioned before I like to try to push my Chromebook. Can I get it to do everything I need or will I be forced to another device? As time moves on this keeps getting easier to do. That is in part because of the continual development of the Chrome OS. It’s also because of the development of newer and better web apps. I expect that the recent arrival of progressive web apps (PWAs) is going to mean big changes. I intend to update and return to this post on a regular basis as I try things.

Gmail

This one was the obvious first one. I’m on a Chromebook. Of course I’m using Gmail. These days using Gmail for email is almost akin to using Google for search. It isn’t perfect. A lot of people have problems with it. For some, it’s a justified issue and for some, it’s a preference thing. Years ago I Switched to Gmail because I was fed up with the sluggishness of the desktop alternatives. Also because I wanted the convenience of accessing my email from anywhere and on any device. Someday I want to see how well I can do everything with alternative (to Google) apps.

Google Drive

Same answer as above for this one really. The continual development of these apps is a major selling point. I use Google Drive almost daily and aside from a few quirks now and again I’m very satisfied with it. I often tell a story of how I was once writing an urgent quote for a client and my laptop died (I just didn’t bother plugging it in). In Word that would have been a disaster. In Google Drive, I just took out my phone, connected a Bluetooth keyboard and finished the document and sent it.

Workflowy

I always have Workflowy open on my Chromebook. It’s my brain dump. We all have the experience of a call asking you to do something or giving you some information. What do we do with that information? I drop it into Workflowy. Emails with information I need to keep or tasks I need to follow up on get dropped in there. If I’m researching something and have lots of tabs open, I put them in there for later reference. I use the Clip to Workflowy extension for this and I find it fantastic. I’ll do a post or tutorial on Workflowy someday. It’s a fantastic app and I couldn’t be without it. There are lots of apps and services that do something similar. For me, though it’s hard to beat its speed and simplicity. Here’s my post on how I use Workflowy

Paydirt

Paydirt is one of my most important web apps because I’d be broke without it. It’s a time recording and invoicing application. I’ve always been terrible at both of those things and have tried many many methods and apps down through the years. I was always late with invoicing and I hated doing it. By the time I got around to invoicing, it had become a huge horrible job to do. My notes and time records were all over the place. I have to gather them all up, figure out what I was doing, then make an invoice and put a cost to it. I procrastinated over that until I was so broke I had to do it. Then I’d start the cycle again.

All that changed when I found Paydirt. There are lots of time recording apps out there. There are many that look better and have better integrations and mobile apps. For me though, Paydirt just worked (and continues to work). My process is to always have it open while I work. I start the clock when I start working (or arrive at a client’s place). I write a short note on what I’m going to do and then I get to it.

One great thing about Paydirt is that it reminds me when I forgot to stop the clock and helps me to go back and stop it. It sends me an email in which I can pick the time I want to stop the clock. Then when I’m ready to invoice I can pick a client and Paydirt has all the entries against that client in one place together. I can then make changes if necessary and send the invoice. I use Xero for my accounts. Xero has it’s own invoicing module and would make more sense to use. It doesn’t make sense for me to pay both Paydirt, and Xero. The thing is though, Paydirt has solved and continues to solve a major problem for me and it costs so little on a monthly basis to do that, it makes complete sense then.

Paydirt also makes it very easy to export my invoices and then import them to Xero. There are some things about it I have problems with, and somethings I’d like them to do. For example, it has a Chrome Extension that I don’t use because I’ve found it to be unreliable and slow to load. I just keep the Paydirt webpage open in a pinned tab and that works perfectly. I’d like if they had integrations with things like Xero etc (They integrate with Trello, Basecamp, Redbooth, and Zapier as of this writing). I tried sending my invoices from Paydirt to Xero using Zapier but I couldn’t see any way of doing that.

Those things in another app would cause me to change, and definitely not want to take it on, but Paydirt works so well for me and has solved such a big problem for me I’d find it very difficult to change now. My brother uses it in his accountancy business for recording his and his team’s time and I know it has made his life easier in terms of recording and billing for client time.

Photopea – Online Graphics and Photo Editing

I’ve discovered Photopea recently and it has become one of my indispensable web apps. Photopea was designed as an alternative to Photoshop for those of us that want something lighter and easily accessible. I love the idea that this fast and functional photo editor is available online. More on Photopea in my post here

Cloud vs on premise computing

The advent of high-speed internet and more powerful cloud services change how we can run our businesses. I’ve had this conversation with IT providers and most often the answer I get is something like “Cloud…I don’t know about that yet…what if your internet went down…”

The “What if your internet went down” argument is a big one. Here’s my thought on that. Even if you don’t use cloud computing, you’re probably so dependent on the internet that you’ll have problems either way. Internet going down can be one of the easier problems to solve, especially for a small to medium-sized business. It’s only going to be down temporarily. Either get a backup internet solution or go somewhere that there is a working internet service.

My overarching answer to the question of cloud vs on-premise is this. I think it depends on the size of your business. Your business probably needs an on-premise solution if you’re big enough to maintain it. Servers and large systems like that need to be constantly maintained and I don’t believe small businesses can afford that. I suspect that most small businesses that have servers aren’t looking after them properly. I just don’t see how they can. It costs too much and requires way too much redundancy to have in place for proper implementation.

For small to medium businesses I love the idea of cloud computing, not necessarily cloud servers, but cloud-based web apps to perform their business functions. Obviously, this isn’t workable in every scenario, but where it is, then I think it’s the way to go. If you use only web apps (e.g. GSuite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations etc, maybe Xero for accounts, Lucidpress for desktop publishing and so on), then you don’t need a server and you don’t need to worry about maintaining it at all.

You only need basic hardware because all of your operations are done on a more powerful server owned by Amazon or Google or someone. They have people full time looking after those servers so you don’t have to and you don’t have to worry about paying for it. Often in response to that, people say to me “but what if Google goes down”. My answer to that is “which is more likely, that your small business will close, or that Google or Amazon will?”

I grant that running your business through web apps is a different approach and requires different methods of working. I still recommend taking backups of your cloud data (even though your provider will be doing that anyway). For me, it’s the fact that you can go to any device and log in to your online software and access your data (I’m assuming here you’re implementing good security measures). If your computer goes down you just go to another one. You don’t need someone to repair your own computer urgently because you’ve lost nothing. That means you don’t incur the cost of emergency IT services and costly redundancy solutions.

In this age of internet computing, I don’t believe that small business owners should have to worry about hardware problems and machines going down etc. That stuff, while it will happen, should never become a huge problem for small business owners. As I said, it’s different for large businesses but they should have and be able to afford people to look after it anyway.

A thought on the software subscription model

I remember one time years ago, when a friend of mine needed Microsoft Office for his business. I said he should just get it and pay for it. Lots of people were pirating this at the time. I said he should just buy it and it would be legal and he’d have his own proper business copy. His brother disagreed. His brother genuinely thought it would be foolish to pay for the software when you could just borrow a copy from someone else. Also, he felt paying for software was a scam.

His brother wasn’t alone in that. I noticed a lot of people having similar attitudes to software down through the years but especially in the early days. I never liked that attitude. It made me feel uncomfortable. A lot of people also felt that the software companies were continually bringing out updates and charging you for the update just to scam you. To me it just made sense. Software changes all the time and companies need to keep it updated. But also if they didn’t improve and bring out new versions of their software then how could they make money. They’d sell their software once and then never hear from the customer again, or at least not for a long time. It was never a viable business model.

I really like the subscription model – if it’s for business, or for an individual using a piece of software that’s well supported and that they get good use out of.

I think that if you’re looking for a piece of software that you rarely use and only dip in and out of, and don’t depend on (i.e. you could easily use an alternative) then I think you should use a free version (I like the freemium model).

For my part, if it’s a piece of software I use now and again or am just trying out, I’ll go for the free or ad-supported version. But if I find myself coming back to it a lot and getting good use out of it then I’ll pay for it. To me, that’s just good practice and especially good business practice. Software is a tool, but it’s not a tool akin to a real-life physical tool, it’s an expense and if you’re in business you should treat it as such. Treat it like your phone or electricity bill. It’s something you’ll pay for while you’re in business and then when you stop doing business you can stop paying for it.

Here’s (in my opinion) some pros and cons for the subscription model

  • It keeps the software company in business. I know you look at that sentence and maybe say “so, what has that got to do with me?”. Well, these days there are a lot of small cool software businesses out there with some really good apps available. Sometimes it’s an app that just does one small thing but does it really well and in an innovative fashion. That company is too small to survive on sales. It will either disappear or be bought out by someone bigger and that cool app will be subsumed into something bigger (Wunderlist disappearing into Microsoft Outlook…). If you really like an app, then by subscribing you’re ensuring that the company that made it will stick around and be there to continue developing it and supporting it. To me that’s invaluable.
  • You are more important to the software company when you subscribe. If you pay for an app outright then the company doesn’t have to care about you any more. They have your money, it’s too time-consuming for them to look after you. They need to chase new customers. It’s a harsh but unfortunate truth of the business. On the other hand if you subscribe then you’re continually giving them money and as a result, they need to look after you or you’ll go elsewhere. By subscribing you’re enabling them to look after you. You’re giving them the freedom to be comfortable in looking after you and they’re less under pressure to get new customers and are able to focus on the ones they have and survive with a smaller customer base.
  • You get continual support and updates to the software. As I said above, software is, and should be, always changing, always in development. If you buy something outright then you’re immediately using an old piece of software. By subscribing you’re always working from the latest version and also always able to avail of support.
  • You never have to make a big outlay for software. If you’re buying some software packages outright then there’s a hefty cost to them, a cost most of us would find painful to meet. On the other hand with the subscription model, I believe that the cost should be low enough that you almost don’t notice it. I often ask my clients “Can you afford X per month” where X is usually some small figure. In most cases, they agree that it’s a small cost and then I always suggest the subscription model. I don’t like the idea of paying a high initial cost of something that’s going to be immediately out of date and with no or soon to be expiring support.

I said pros and cons above but I’m not sure what the cons are. Sure you can add up the cost of the software over its lifetime and argue that it’s costing you more. That’s not true though and it’s an accounting illusion in my opinion. It’s not true because you’re getting continual value out of the software (you’re producing something with it for your business, you’re getting continual updates, and you’re getting continual support). Also, If you pay €5 per month then I argue that it’s not costing you €60 per year because you never have to pay €60 for it. You only ever have to pay €5. If you’re in business then you’re balancing that €5 per month against your income in that month. You can’t do that with a once off payment because it doesn’t balance that way.

To me, fairly priced subscription models are the way to go in software development. Especially with the appearance of more and more powerful web apps, companies have an easily accessible global market and don’t need to charge so much to survive. If a company is providing a great product and good support to go along with it then I say definitely subscribe (especially if it’s a small company). That’s only true of course if they are providing both of those.

How I use the Crossover App to run Windows apps on my Chromebook

Codeweavers logo

It’s my preference to use web apps only on my Chromebook. Mostly that’s for two reasons:

  1. Because that’s what Chromebooks are really designed for.
  2. Because web apps are cross-platform and should work on every device. I’m big into the idea that our software now should be platform agnostic and we should be able to use the OS and hardware that we prefer (for cost reasons, for suitability reasons, or just because we like it) and not be tied to a particular app.

Having said that I know we’re not there yet with software and there are some apps we need that tie us to one system or another. With that in mind, I like to experiment on my Chromebook to see how far I can push it and what it can potentially do, and how much it can truly replace other systems.

Crossover is an Android app (which means straight away that you need a Chromebook that runs Android to use it – although that’s most of them these days). Its purpose is to run native Windows apps on Android. I’ve been testing it out with some windows apps on my own Chromebook to see what works and what doesn’t. Here’s my list of successes and failures so far:

  • Firefox – I couldn’t seem to get the latest version working but I have version 45 working and it works perfectly
  • Notepad++ – I’m currently running version 7.6.6 with no problems.
  • Gimp – I’m running Gimp 2 without problems. It’s a hefty app which Chromebooks aren’t really designed for but it does work for me.
  • Acrobat Reader – Version 11 is the latest version I could get to work but it does work fine. It’s especially useful with that latest update where only the Windows version of Reader seems to open some fillable PDFs. I have a client who is a solicitor and uses a Chromebook and the Google ecosystem exclusively but he does need to fill PDFs on occasion. Using Crossover with Reader 11 has solved this issue for him.
  • Filezilla – Version 3.41 is working perfectly for me.
  • Warcraft II – Of course, there have to be some games. I bought the version of this game from gog.com for a few euros and it works perfectly so far. It took a little experimentation with the graphics options on the opening dialogs but aside from that no problems.
  • Age of Empires I or II (Age of Kings) – Neither worked. I contacted CodeWeavers about it and despite being quick to respond they weren’t able to offer any help. Maybe in the future. I think it was a Direct X issue of some kind.
  • Internet Explorer – Version 8 installed and worked fine.
  • Microsoft Office – I tried version 2016 which is supposed to work but I had difficulty getting an installer. I then tried my old Office XP version. It installed and ran fine. For those people who say you can’t run Word or Excel on Chrome OS. You can and I have. I wouldn’t though unless you really needed it.

That’s my list so far that I can think of but I’ll add more to it as I try more or think of more. Like I said above I try to avoid needed to use Windows apps on the Chromebook but where it becomes necessary then I’ll have a go.