I recently published an article (at https://wp.me/p5Z3-76Q) about an inexpensive Chromebook computer that is on sale right now. I have also published numerous articles in the past about Chromebooks. Every time I publish an article about Chromebooks, several people write and ask, “Will a Chromebook computer run genealogy programs?” I decided to answer in the newsletter so that everyone can read my reply.
So, the question is: Will a Chromebook Computer Run Genealogy Programs?
The short answer is: a Chromebook will run some genealogy programs but not all of them.
Here is a longer answer:
A Chromebook will run programs written for the Chrome operating system plus almost all the genealogy programs designed to run in a Web browser, including: MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding© (“TNG”), WebTrees, and more.
Here is an even longer and even more detailed answer that perhaps will clarify things:
A Windows computer will run all the programs written for Windows plus all the programs designed to run in a Web browser.
A Macintosh computer will run all the programs written for Macintosh plus all the programs designed to run in a Web browser.
A Linux computer will run all the programs written for Linux plus all the programs designed to run in a Web browser.
An iPad tablet will run all the programs written for the iPad plus all the programs designed to run in a Web browser.
An Android computer will run all the programs written for Android plus all the programs designed to run in a Web browser.
A Chromebook computer will run all the programs written for Chrome plus all the programs designed to run in a Web browser plus some Chromebook computers will also run programs designed for Android computers.
Windows and Macintosh programs do not run on a Chromebook.
Programs designed to run in a Web browser include hundreds of word processors, spreadsheet programs, presentation programs (similar to PowerPoint), games, email programs, photo editing programs, social media programs (Facebook and others), Skype, VPNs, online shopping, street maps, financial management programs, and much, much more.
Chromebooks will even play movies and television programs. See https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/1266222?hl=en and https://help.netflix.com/en/node/296 for the details.
In short, Chromebooks will perform all the tasks that the majority of computer owners need. However, they will not run programs written for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, or iPads.
Chromebooks also will not run any “heavy duty” programs that require a lot of processing power, such as most engineering programs, CAD/CAM programs, video editing programs, or the graphics-intensive games. If you need to run programs that require a lot of computing power, you need to spend $1,000 or more for a powerful Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer.
I suspect very few computer owners actually need that much computing power.
For a list of the Chrome apps available, go to https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions. You will note that almost all of the Chrome programs are available free of charge although there are a very few exceptions. Chromebook users can run any of the programs listed at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions plus all the programs designed to run in a Web browser.
Downloading and installing a Chrome program is almost trivial: find a program on the list at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions, click on ADD TO CHROME, then wait a few seconds as the program is downloaded and installed automatically. That’s it!
Chromebooks are more secure than Windows, Macintosh, iPad, Android, and even more secure than Linux. I normally use a Chromebook to access my bank’s web site and other financial web sites simply because I know that a Chromebook is more secure than a Windows or Macintosh computer.
Chromebooks never get viruses, never need backups (because files are stored in the highly-reliable cloud and are backed up daily by computer professionals who know what they are doing), never need software updates (because updates are installed automatically in the background in a manner that is invisible to users), have batteries that last all day, and are simple to use.
So here is the real question: Is a Chromebook suitable for use by everyone?
My answer: A Chromebook is NOT suitable for use by everyone but it is an excellent choice for MOST people. It will perform all the tasks that most computer owners need. For genealogists, a Chromebook will also allow you to keep all your genealogy information in “the cloud,” including on MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, and other genealogy sites. Because of its simplicity, a Chromebook is especially suitable for use by anyone who is not a technology expert, including the elderly, adolescents, and anyone else who doesn’t want to be bothered with the complexity of Windows computers.
This is a computer your grandmother can use.
A Chromebook is also an excellent choice for anyone, including computer experts, who wants an inexpensive second computer for use while traveling so they can read and write email, surf the web, play a few games, and perhaps watch a movie. In my case, I also own an (expensive) MacBook Pro laptop. However, I worry about theft when I am traveling. Thousands of laptops get stolen every year in airports, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, airline luggage, libraries, and elsewhere. While I would hate to have any computer stolen, I’d rather lose an inexpensive Chromebook instead of an expensive Windows or Macintosh laptop!
However, if you really NEED a high-powered (and expensive) computer for some reason, you need to look elsewhere.