After Google and HP announced HP Chromebook 11, I was curious to know more about Google Chrome OS and use it. I liked the User Interface in the screenshots on the Chromebook 11 page so I decided to install it. And products by Google are pretty standard and have high functionality and integration with other Google apps.
Google has brought some amazing features like App launcher and new camera app in Chrome OS in the recent weeks. Finally, when I got bored with Mac and Windows, I thought to install Chrome OS on my laptop before Apple release OS X Mavericks. I knew that I will not be using it primarily because I find OS X better than any other Operating System out there.
I am just waiting for Apple to release OS X Mavericks, which is on 22nd of October where Apple will also be announcing new iPad and new Macbook. Till then, I will be testing Chrome OS.
Installing Chrome OS
In the beginning, I thought that I just need to download the image file, write the file on flash drive and install it just like any other OS. I quick Google searched and found this site. The site contains links to image files and instructions on how can you use Chromium OS builds on Windows, Mac and Linux.
Vanilla builds are bleeding edge. They give you the opportunity to see and use the latest and greatest that Chromium OS has to offer. Requires only a 4GB USB drive (download size is around 250MB)
I chose the USB file and downloaded the ZIP file. You can also download files for running it on VMWare or VirtualBox. It's just 330MB file and I wrote the Images files on Flash drive using Image Writer application for Windows. A 4GB flash drive will be enough. Once done, you can use the USB to boot into Chrome OS.
You actually don't need to install it on your Hard drive. When you will boot using the your flash drive, it will boot into the Operating System, without any option to actually install it on your hard drive. So, you have actually installed Chrome OS on your flash drive.
Now, you just need to choose your Country, Language and Network Connection (Ethernet or Wi-Fi) to get started. It will setup updates automatically and then will ask for your Google Account credentials. After you enter the details, you will be redirected to the main desktop.
You're done setting up Chrome OS now.
One thing to notice that if you eject the flash drive while using the OS, it will probably stop the OS. You have to keep the flash drive plugged in to make OS work. Also, if you shut the OS down and boot into OS again, it will resume with the account you used at the time of install along with the files and data.
So, how's Google's OS ?
I have been using Chrome OS since 5 hours now and I pretty much liked it so far. Installing it easy and using it is super easy. If you're familiar with Windows, it will be very easy for you to use Chrome OS too.
The Desktop or Main screen is just like in Windows 8 where we have a task-bar containing apps in the bottom left and some more details and options in the bottom right. There's also an App launcher in the task-bar which contains all the extensions you installed via Chrome Web Store. All the extensions you will pin will appear in the bottom left in the list of extensions.
The default apps includes Google Chrome, Store and Files app which allows you to browse through your files. You can access and edit files from your Google Drive as well as files on your Hard disk. The Files app also lists the files Shared With You on Google Drive, and will also display the if any external drive or CD/DVD drive is inserted.
All the Networking Options along with the link to Settings are located in the taskbar itself. You just need to click on your profile picture and it will list options including the list of Connected Networks(Wi-fi, Bluetooth etc), volume control, battery indicator and options to Shutdown or Log off.
There are not much personalization options, you can just "Set Wallpaper" and Enable or Disable "Autohide Launcher". You can choose wallpapers from your hard disk drive to set as wallpaper.
All the Settings is located in the Chrome Settings page. The page displays the Internet status for Wi-fi and Ethernet. You can Add Connection and you can also use proxies for Shared Networks. You can control the track-pad and mouse speed and also assign new Keyboard shortcuts on the same page. Other settings are the same settings we get with Google Chrome browser.
In terms of performance, Chrome OS is pretty fast. It's actually faster than Windows and Mac. The app opens with the blink of the eyes and processing is fast too. Some basic shortcuts of Windows works on Chrome OS too.
The OS contains Picasa like Image Viewer. You can use it to view photos stored in the hard disk. The photos app gives you some basic editing options like Auto-Correct, Rotate, Crop and control Brightness.
Chrome OS is good for students. It is not for those who heavily use their laptop, it is for those who use their laptop for music, making and editing documents, surfing the web.
When I switched from Windows to Mac, I noticed the font rendering on Mac very well as compared to that in Windows. As a web designer, I am disappointed with the font rendering in Chrome OS. Some fonts like Helvetica Neue appear good, but most of the fonts appear very thin. The font Georgia doesn't even look like its Georgia. So, it's a bad point about Chrome OS.
Apart from this, other disadvantage of using Chrome OS is that it doesn't give you most basic Settings. There are not much apps for Chrome and you have to use it through Google Chrome only.