Google may shuttered Chrome apps on desktop versions of its browser, but Chrome apps remain an essential part of the separate Chromebook and Chrome OS ecosystem, with an ever-expanding library of apps that add tons of functionality to the browser-based OS. Users of some of the latest Chromebooks can even get Android apps from the Google Play Store and install them to their Chrome OS device. From cloud programming tools to image editors, from note-taking software to music tools, here are the 30 best Chrome apps right now.
Code Weavers' CrossOver is a popular tool for running Windows software on a Mac, and now, there's also a Chrome OS app in public beta that allows you to run Windows software and games on Intel-based Chromebooks without needing to dual-boot or run a virtual machine. Users can download the CrossOver app from the Google Play Store, and CrossOver boasts compatibility with a wide array of apps, from Quicken and Microsoft Office to Steam. (Download CrossOver on Chrome OS)
Open-source media player VLC is a one-stop shop for all of your media playing needs, opening just about any file format you throw at it, from the ubiquitous MP3 and AVI to more esoteric types such as MKV, FLAC, as well as DVD ISOs and network streams. Handy, easy to use, and packed with tons of audio and video settings, subtitle support and media library management features, VLC is a fantastic addition to your Chromebook's app library. (Download VLC for ChromeOS)
Polarr brings a powerful, full-featured offline photo editing app straight to your Chromebook, with no web connection necessary. Preset filters let you easily apply quick effects, but Polarr also offers more robust editing tools for tweaking exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows and color temperature, as well as the ability to tweak the entire photo or through more limited radial, gradient and brush-based edits. The app keeps track of your edit history, allowing you to roll back changes and quickly compare with the original image. A great extra is the fact that Polarr also supports RAW file formats. (Download Polarr)
Sketchpad is less about high-powered photo editing and more about quickly being able to sketch, color, add text, or apply simple manipulations to an image. Users can start with a fresh background or drag and drop images into Sketchpad. Fom there, you quickly add layers, rotate, scale, apply filters, and more. It's a souped-up version of Paint rather than a slimmed-down Photoshop, but it's a solid tool to work with for quick edits and mockups. (Download Sketchpad)
Of course, you don't even need a full-featured photo editor if you're just looking to take and annotate screenshots. Nimbus Screenshot is a Chrome browser extension that works offline and online to capture your browser window or the whole webpage with a single key press. In addition to screenshots, you can record screencasts, edit and annotate screenshots, and save them online or locally on your device. (Download Nimbus Screenshot)
Clipchamp is a compact video utility app that lives within Chrome and ChromeOS, allowing you to record webcam videos, convert and compress video files, and upload or share them to a variety of sources. Handy optimization features let you convert and compress for a variety of purposes, whether it's for sharing to a site like YouTube or Vimeo, optimizing a video for mobile devices, creating a GIF, or saving the file to your device. Clipchamp is free for personal use, with watermarks and a limit of 5-minute webcam recordings. Paid subscriptions remove the watermarks and increase the webcam recording limit to 30 minute videos. (Download Clipchamp)
While Chrome OS handles office documents just fine through Google Docs, formatting artifacts can still pop up when converting documents to and from Google's native document formats. If you really need maximum compatibility, then Microsoft's free Office Online app lets you create, open and edit MS Office documents, with support for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, and Sway. Users can fire up locally stored files, or work collaboratively through the cloud with OneDrive support, while working with the familiar Office interface and without having to worry about compatibility issues with other MS Office users. The great weakness though is that Office Online requires a net connection. (Download Office Online)