I use a Chromebook in my photography workflow, especially when I am travelling. Using a Chromebook for photo editing is different than for instance using a full-blown Photoshop installation. Using a Chromebook for photo editing means usually using a lightweight photo editor for Chromebook that allows you to make simple selections to kick start your workflow before you have arrived back home.
In this post I will explain the concepts behind Chromebooks and their history. I will go into detail on Chromebook for photo editing. Furthermore, I will explain the role of a Chromebook for photo editing in my photography workflow when I’m on the road. Will doing this, I’ll discuss various photo editors for Chromebook as well. I will conclude with a recommendation on Chromebooks that you can use in a photography workflow.
Concept of Chromebooks
A Chromebook is a computer that runs ChromeOS instead of Windows or MacOS as the operating system. And ChromeOS is basically the Google Chrome browser that runs your computer, with a number of added features, such as a desktop environment similar to what if offered by Windows and MacOS. Another nice one: Android apps that run on your phone will also run on your Chromebook. This will enable photo editing on a Chromebook using an app. More on that later.
The central idea behind Chromebooks is that we spend most of our time online when we are using our computers. We might browsing the internet, posting something on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or checking the balance of our bank account. This means your browser is the main tool you use when using a computer. Combine this with the more and more powerful capabilities of browser based apps, this means your browser is really the main tool on your computer. We can write documents in our browser, make drawings, watch videos etc. Or even do some photo editing on a Chromebook.
When you only run a browser on your computer, this means you are using a lightweight tool requiring not many resources from your computer. This means Chromebook don’t have to have extremely capable processors and extensive amounts of internal memory. So, Chromebooks can be less expensive than computers that run Windows or MacOS. Intentionally I say can, as Chromebooks have recently become available in more premium configurations as well, which are even better equipped to do photo editing on a Chromebook.
Another central concept to Chromebooks is security. Chromebooks contain a number of features that make it the most secure operating system currently in the market. Here’s what they do to achieve this.
Each time you start up your Chromebook, it automatically performs a verified boot. This means it checks whether the OS code is loaded in an unchanged form. If it has been modified somehow, it automatically enters recovery mode to correct the situation.
As Chrome is your main tool, each tab in the Chrome browser runs inside a sandbox. This means that the code that runs inside a tab cannot access other parts of the computer. If in some situation this is necessary, it needs to pass kind of checkpoint first.
In the rare case your Chromebook has issues, you can always give it a powerwash. With a powerwash you return the Chromebook to its factory settings. You can achieve this with a few mouse clicks and within minutes you have your Chromebook in a pristine state again.
Patching and updates for Chromebooks
ChromeOS is updated very frequently. In fact new ChromeOS updates are released every 6 weeks or so. Updating a Chromebook is a fully unattended process: the software update is downloaded automatically when it becomes avalailble and the Chromebook asks you to reboot once the update has been downloaded. Installing it is a matter of a few minutes, often less, and then you are good to go again.
Initially Chromebook were purely browser based. The Chrome browser was the only tool available on a Chromebook and only software that runs inside a browser was accessible. However, in 2018 Google made Android apps available to Chromebooks. Suddenly all apps in the Google Play Store available to your Android phone could run on your Chromebook as well. A whole world of apps is now available enabling you to use your favorite email client such as GMail, but also use photo editors such as Adobe Lightroom CC and Adobe Photoshop express. This enable you to do photo editing on a Chromebook.
And as a latest addition, Linux Apps are in beta in the stable channel for a while now. This means even further possibilities are opened up to run apps on your Chromebook.
Photo editors for Chromebook
A number of apps are available for photo editing on a Chromebook. I have been using a couple of them and will share my experiences briefly here, before we get to reviewing a couple of Chromebooks.
Adobe Lightroom CC is a lightweight photo editor for Chromebook that is available for Android, iOS as well as desktop systems. Though functional enough as a standalone photo editor, its unique selling point is the integration with Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Lightroom Classic. Photos added to Lightroom CC are synced with Lightroom Classic and as such also available for Adobe Portfolio. If you are interested in Adobe Portfolio, please read this article as well.
Pixlr is a powerful photo editor for Chromebook, both available as a full browser-based editor as well as an app on Android and iOS based mobile devices. There is a free version and a Pro version. The Pro version provides support for Photoshop PSD files and adds stock photos as well as premium fonts. Contrary to Lightroom CC, Pixlr does not support RAW files, which is a major disadvantage to me.
Snapseed is a free app by Google that provides a broad range of photo editing capabilities. This photo editor for Chromebook also offers the ability to open RAW files which is a bug plus. It is only available as an Android / iOS app and not as a browser-based app.
Google Pixelbook Go
When it comes to high-end Chromebooks, there can be no doubt that the Google Pixelbook Go is the top of the high-end range. Well built, great screen, great design and awesome specs make it the best Chromebook you can buy if money is not an issue. Processors ranging from Intel Core m3 to i7, this is a great clam shell Chromebook. If you are looking for a convertible style Chromebook, look down for the Asus Chromebook Flip C434. Have a look at the Google Store for more specs on this great Chromebook.
For photo editing on a Chromebook, no doubt the Google Pixelbook Go is more than capable. It will easily run a photo editor for Chromebook such as Adobe Lightroom CC.
Asus Chromebook Flip C434
As already indicated in an earlier version of this article, the Asus Chromebook C434 has been available for a couple of weeks now and it’s a very capable successor of the Flip C302. Please read the excellent review on Chrome Unboxed. You will not be surprised this is on my list of favourite Chromebooks to work with. You’ll get an Intel Core M3 processor with 4-8GB of RAM and a great IPS screen with very thin bezels.
Lenovo Chromebook C340
The Lenovo Chromebook C340 provides a dual core Pentium Gold processor, 4GB of RAM and an IPS screen combined with an all aluminum lid. For just over $400 you get a great budget Chromebook
This Chromebook will run a photo editor such as Adobe Lightroom CC, but you may have trouble when you have multiple tabs open or run multiple other apps as the same time.