With the advent of remote/distanced learning, students all over the globe can utilize these apps to their benefit and boost their prodcutivity online.
The “new normal” is here. (I honestly hate that cliche, but it was fitting.)
Zoom meetings, Hangout groups, and Skype conferences. It’s not easy for every student to adapt.
Some just prefer the actual in-person environment and learn best in the traditional way.
Online classes lead to distractions, multitasking, and procrastination.
Thankfully, there are a few Chrome extensions that you can install to help you get the most out of your Chromebook to enhance your productivity, eliminate distractions, and ace that class.
Last updated: 1/7/21. This list of apps was updated for new releases and Chrome OS compatibility. Many students are still taking online courses this year, so it should prove to be handy.
What are the best apps for online classes?
Here are some handy apps for students that are learning remotely.
Most of these free apps for education are suitable for students in elementary, kindergarten, or even college– it completely depends on what classes you’re taking and what you need.
Maybe you bought your Chromebook specifically for school. Or you were provided with one and you have no idea about the Chrome OS ecosystem.
Regardless, check out these Chrome extensions and see which ones suit your course.
They’re some of the most useful apps for online classes on the Chrome Web Store that can help you get the most out of your Chromebook.
This list was generated from personal experience, online reviews, and a few hours of research to help you save time.
If you have any apps to add, drop me a comment below and I’ll check it out =].
So enough blabbering, let’s move on. Here’s a list of the best Chromebook apps for online classes in 2020.
You’ve probably heard of Grammarly.
Whether it’s their TV ads, radio ads, or just from other students, Grammarly rose to popularity as the number one spell checker for Chrome.
It does everything for fixing typos, correcting punctuation, and even makes your paragraphs more “to the point” by removing adverbs and such.
I personally use Grammarly as part of my spellcheck arsenal. I don’t use the premium version and have been fine with just the free version.
Grammarly does catch misspellings that other spell checkers miss, but sometimes it tries to do a little extra when not necessary.
Grammarly does suffer when you start to add in complex sentences and also has trouble recognizing words that should be two words.
It tries to combine two words into a single word when it shouldn’t.
For example, “run away” and “runaway” are two different words with different meanings. Grammarly has trouble deciding on the proper word to pick.
And if you just blindly listen to everything it suggests, you’ll be making typos. This is my biggest gripe with it.
But overall, it runs directly in the browser, and spell checks nearly everything you type online- email, docs, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.
Don’t rely on JUST this app.
But use it with other spell checkers and you’re set. (This page was run through Grammarly.
As you can see it’s far from perfect =].)
Google provides a free suite of productivity tools, specifically Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
These are the alternatives to Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
They work the same and even allow you to save in various formats used by Microsoft products, which makes me surprised that people still pay for a license nowadays considering everyone who has a Google Account can use these tools for free.
If you have a Chromebook, you have a Google Account. You can simply go to docs.google.com to get started.
Checker Plus for Gmail
Checker Plus allows you to read your emails without even opening Gmail in a new tab.
This is a HUGE timesaver if you deal with emails all day (remote work, anyone?).
You can see a pop-up notification at the corner of your screen that previews the email so you can decide if you want to reply or not.
Not only does it show a snippet of the email, but you can also even get it to read the emails for you. If you’re that strapped on time, think of it like a text-to-speech (TTS) for your emails.
Now that’s some serious efficiency. You’ll feel like a Twitch streamer.
Checker Plus also works between multiple Gmail accounts so you can manage and read all your emails with one extension.
Push notifications, voice notifications, and action buttons (read, archive, mark as read, reply, reply all, delete), and desktop/sound notifications are all supported.
The extension also works if Chrome is closed by running in the background so you can still see your emails show up when you’re working with another program (or enjoying some cat videos).
The customization offered by the extension is crazy. You can add your own custom sound notifications, label your emails, and even add voices.
The app requires only the minimal amount of user permissions compared to some other email checkers that I’ve seen and it has a gorgeous design.
The emails that popup shows all the contents you need (picture, contact photos, or assigned photos, etc.) and all the common functionalities you need at once.
This is seriously something that should be built-in to Chrome.
And it’s completely free to use with some pro features that are unlocked with ANY amount you donate.
With over 1M users, this extension is essential for those who need email management.
Check it out here.
Google Input Tools
Need to quickly change your input commands for different languages?
Use this extension to do it fast. Just click on the extension and choose your language tool then click on the text box on the page.
You’ll be able to use keyboards, IMEs, and handwriting tools with the trackpad or mouse.
This extension uses the power of Google’s language database and lets you quickly change inputs for a variety of languages rather than changing your keyboard’s language input.
See it here.
Email tracker for Gmail
This is a neat extension that appends “sent” and “read” checkmarks you’re familiar with (WhatsApp).
You can see whether or not the recipient that you’re sending the email to received your email and if they opened it to read it or not. It even tells you the number of times it was read.
This app is completely free to use and is the only email tracking for read receipts that doesn’t force you to upgrade for the core functionality.
So if you’re tired of bothering your classmates to see if they read your email, checking if your colleagues saw your latest revision, or just wondering if your significant other received your email about being late for dinner.
See it here.
Bump up your productivity and get mechanical tasks done faster with mouse gestures. This extension is for people who use an external USB mouse on their Chromebook.
It allows you to do everything you can with your fingers on the touchpad, and then some. If you don’t use these already on your Chromebook’s trackpad, you’re missing out on some CRUCIAL time-saving features.
USE YOUR CHROMEBOOK’S GESTURES.
It’ll save you a ton of time.
Using the keyboard/touchpad is much faster than trying to navigate over to a tiny button at the corner of your screen to close a tab. Learn keyboard shortcuts and gestures on the touchpad. And use them.
For mouse users, get this extension. It lets you perform common actions like:
- Go back
- Go forward
- Scroll to bottom
- Scroll top
- Close current tab
- Open new window
- Refresh page
- Scroll up/down one page
- Close current window
- Move between tabs
- Open URL in new tab
- Open URL in an unfocused background tab
- Copy text, URL, etc.
- Search in a new tab
These will take time to learn, but you can customize them and even build new mouse gesture macros. Get it and learn it.
You’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll have once you’re switching between tabs like a ninja.
Chrome Remote Desktop
This extension allows you to use your PC from your Chromebook, or Chromebook from your PC. CRD also works on Mac, Linux, and other Chromebooks. It’s the fastest way to remotely connect to other devices and use them from anywhere in the world.
Both devices must have the extension added to Chrome and be powered on.
The host computer gives you a key that you plug in to the remote computer.
You can use this for troubleshooting someone’s computer, accessing your home computer for files or programs that you can’t run on Chrome OS, or even connecting to a colleague or peer to help them out.
CRD lets you provide remote assistance or long-term access to your applications and files under a secure connection.
And it’s completely free to use and developed by Google.
You can check out this tutorial on setting up Chrome Remote Desktop.
And this one on troubleshooting remote connections if you get stuck.
Think of all the things you can do remotely:
- Access files on your PC that can’t be opened on Chrome OS
- Run Windows-native programs (assuming you don’t have Linux)
- Make music on your DAW of choice on Mac
- Code using your favorite text editor from your Chromebook
- You can even use it to play your favorite PC games when you’re bored
Session Buddy is a tab manager for Chrome (100% compatible with Chromebooks).
This thing has saved my work more times than I can count- especially when you’re in the danger zone and trying to rush through a project with 7% battery left on your device.
Session Buddy lets you save all tabs and windows you have opened on Chrome for easy access later.
You can assign the extension to save automatically every set interval, or you can use hotkey commands to save on demand.
You can even use it to multitask and save tabs as collections, and then easily restore them all later.
But the most awesome feature is the ability to recover your tabs quickly so you can get back to work.
This comes in handy for events like:
- Your Chromebook suddenly shutting down from battery depletion
- When you need to restart Chrome for an update
- When you’re on the go and don’t have time to bookmark a bunch of tabs
- When you’re researching and you don’t want dozens of tabs cluttering up your screen
- Easily saving multiple tabs without bookmarking each one
- Searching for tabs you have saved in your collection
Building a collection of tabs
The possibilities are endless.
Session Buddy comes with a bunch of feature settings and optimizations you can do to customize the experience. And it’s free to use.
The Great Suspender
TGS is an app that saves your Chromebook’s precious, limited resources by suspending tabs that are not active.
You know when you have a dozen tabs open to check out those latest posts?
But then they sit there because you get distracted when you realize you should be doing work? Those tabs hog up RAM.
And we all know Chrome is a HUGE RAM hog.
TGS will automatically suspend those tabs after a period to free up resources to allocate to other active tabs or apps you have running on your Chromebook.
You can suspend with a hotkey, stop sites from suspending or adjust the timeout.
TGS is worth having if you work with multiple tabs at any given time. It’ll help keep your Chromebook running smoothly (and also reduce the heat output which will make your battery last longer, amongst other benefits).
Think about it: That one second of lag and waiting time due to low RAM availability every time you switch tabs may not seem like much.
But what if you do this for just 2 hours a day, every day?
Your work style requires you to have multiple tabs open, which slows down your laptop’s performance overall.
A few seconds saved here and there ain’t much. But if your laptop strains itself noticeably every time you launch an app or switch tabs, that gets annoying. Fast.
Plus a faster overall “general” speed adds up.
Your Chromebook works faster with fewer tabs than more, and this can help speed it up significantly depending on your Chromebook specs. I’m talking about basic browsing features like scrolling down a page or rendering pictures and videos.
With so many tabs straining your RAM/CPU, it can lag, stutter, or just feel like it’s running like a dinosaur.
You may even feel like you have a whole new Chromebook just by eliminating those tabs!
And to prove this theory works, Chrome has added a new function that automatically does this. If you check your Chrome settings, there’s an option to automatically suspend tabs that are not active.
Whether you want to get TGS or use the native function, use it, and reap the benefits!
Awesome New Tab Page
ANTP is an extension that lets you completely build your “new tab” start page the way you want it.
A lot of people don’t care to do so (with me being one of them), but when you realize how many seconds it shaves off over time, you’ll start to wonder why you didn’t do this earlier.
Whenever you “CTRL + T” new tab page, you can change the look and functionality of it. This does more than making it look pretty- you can add various widgets that DO ACTIONS and save you time.
The shortcuts ANTP uses are dynamic, so they update data every time you launch a tab.
You can add, remove, and rearrange the shortcuts and bookmarks however you want. There’s also sizing options and built-in tiles that you’ll commonly find in dashboard extensions.
The key to getting the most out of this extension?
Choosing and building shortcuts that you commonly use and adding those “at a glance” dynamic widgets so that the details you need without having to search.
Or quickly see if you have new alerts or messages from popular sites without needing to visit them.
Or access all your bookmarks without having to comb through your bookmark tabs to find them.
See how this saves you time? It adds up.
You can check out more extensions to customize your new tab page.
With all this free time at home, it’s easy to get distracted.
Social media, games, Twitch, Netflix, and everything else you run in the background when you “multitask” hurts productivity.
The human mind works best when focused on a single task at a time, says science.
So when you need to stop screwing around and get stuff done, get this Chrome app. It lets you block time-wasting sites and prevents you from visiting them.
You can set focus timers to make sure you only use them for set periods. There’s also a work timer that uses the Pomodoro technique which breaks down your work into 25-minute sessions followed by a break, which then you can go do whatever you want.
Block Site also allows password protection to make accessing those time-wasting sites harder, and you can even set up daily schedules and routines scaled down to the specific day.
Even more awesome?
Block Site has built-in uninstall prevention so you can just disable it and waste time on Facebook. Now you have to stay productive on your Chromebook.
By now, you’ve heard of Zoom. They’ve taken the market after everyone started working from home and this blew them up into popularity.
Zoom is a free online conference service that connects you to your teacher or professor. You’ll likely already be required to use some kind of software similar to Zoom- whether it’s Google Hangouts, Google Suite, Skype, or something else.
Your school will likely choose the software and you’ll have no choice but to use it.
But what you can do to make it easier is to download the app extension so you join and host meetings quickly without having to navigate to the site each time.
All these do practically the same thing as visiting their page. That’s a waste of time.
If you need help setting up or choosing video conferencing software, check out this complete tutorial on video calling on your Chromebook.
This app does all the basics of PDF handling and lets you view, edit, annotate, sign, and send PDFs all through the browser.
Students in college will benefit from this- syllabi, agreement forms, release forms, and more can easily be done directly on your Chromebook.
No more printing out PDFs or switching to your PC/Mac to handle them.
Evernote is one of the best note-taking apps on the Chrome Web Store. It makes researching for projects a cinch because it lets you save ANYTHING you find online.
You can use Evernote to take notes, organize lists, cite resources, create plans, build to-do schedules, and more.
Evernote can clip text, pictures, videos, and most graphics you see on the web. You build up different folders to organize your stuff, and it can be kind of daunting to the newbie.
But over time, you’ll find that Evernote is as intuitive as it is functional.
I used to be a huge Evernote fan back in my college days and I’d have the app constantly open on my phone or laptop. It effectively replaced my fold-out planner, but I still did use paper for notes here and there.
But for any student, you’ll find that Evernote can be whatever you want the app to be- a planner, organizer, or virtual notepad.
Evernote is free and the free version does more than enough for my purposes.
There’s a paid version that unlocks more features, but it’s nothing that a casual student in elementary school or college would need.
It doesn’t spam you with upgrade messages and doesn’t annoy you with “unlock this feature” blocks.
For an easy to use, effective, and efficient online organizer, check out Evernote.
Google keep is a completely free alternative to Evernote.
It works similarly by letting you clip quotes, text, pictures, and more. It’s a Chrome extension that plays nicely directly through the browser and makes an option available in your right-click menu to clip anything and everything you see online- well, except for weird file formats.
Here are some of the things you can do with Google Keep:
- Take notes
- Organize your media
- Plan your day
- Save URLs, text, pictures, and more
- Add annotations to your saved files
- Label your notes
- Sync everything online across all your devices
Comparing Google Keep to Evernote brings up the point of feature bloat.
Evernote has a lot more robust features that make it versatile for a wide variety of usages. Google Keep is simple and basic. This then brings the thought of how many features do you actually use?
Don’t need a bunch of bloat or unnecessary functions and want to keep it simple?
Go with Google Keep.
Need to maximize your efficiency and organization for a variety of projects? Go with Evernote.
Or try out both and see which one you like best. They’re both free to use and make saving things on the web a lot faster.
This comes in handy for student research papers, assignments, and even everyday homework (citing sources, remembering helpful sites, etc.)
Another similar app worth checking out is Shelf. Think of it as web clipping for groups so you can collaborate as you push forward in that new school group research project, presentation, or sales pitch.
Save to Google Drive
This extension does exactly what it says on the tin. You can save web content directly to your Drive account in a single click.
The typical process for uploading docs to your Drive account is this:
- Save the file
- Open Chrome (if you haven’t already) and then a new tab
- Go to your Drive account
- Upload the file
With this extension, you can just click on it to save the current page you’re on directly to your Drive account.
You also get a right-click context menu item that lets you save URLs, pictures, documents, HTML5 audio, video, and more. You can save entire web pages to your Google Drive account for quick viewing later.
You can change the directory of where the file saves and the format of saved pages (HTML, MHTML, Docs, etc.) They can also be quickly converted over to Docs format for easy viewing and editing with Google Suite. MS Office files and CSV are also supported.
The best part about this tool is simply the quick access controls added to the right-click menu. I use that a lot for nearly everything- copy/pasting, cutting clipboard content, etc.
Now with this extension saving whatever you see on the page to your cloud account is fast and easy.
A single click saves you 3-4 steps. That’s what I look for in extensions and this one does it well.
There are SOME bugs with it, but for the most part, it works perfectly. Some file formats are permalocked and only save to them even when you choose something else. But for the most part, it works well.
Screencastify is an app that lets you record your Chromebook’s screen. It’s the most popular screen recorder on the Chrome Web Store.
Screencastify is free to use and allows you to record up to 5 minutes of screentime with no watermarks.
The free version even allows you to export your video and trim your video recording to cut out the unnecessary parts.
You can record your Chromebook’s desktop, a specific browser tab, or through the built-in webcam.
The app also picks up your audio through your Chromebook’s microphone and you can record both video and audio at the same time with full HD resolution.
This app is perfect for artists, video editors, tutorial making, school presentations, sales pitches, UX designers, bug demonstrations, how-tos, demos, brand messages, and more.
You can embed your camera directly into the screen recording so it makes it super easy to make videos that you can export to Google Drive, YouTube, and even Google Classroom.
Screencastify also has some easy to use trimming and editing tools. You can change the start and end times of your recordings, draw on your screen, and more.
Some paid features require an upgraded license, like the ability to merge, crop, and add text to your videos. But for the average student, you don’t need to pay to use this app. It does everything you need for free.
Students can use this app for a variety of learning experiences: learning languages, public speaking, reading comprehension, and more.
Teachers can benefit by saving time and making pre-recorded videos and tutorials.
Flipped classrooms and remote learning environments both benefit from the app’s functionality. It also syncs across Google Suite, Google Apps for Educations, and Google Classroom.
Students in kindergarten, elementary school, and even college students can utilize various recording functions.
What I like about Screencastify is that the export formats are usable by both Mac and Windows, so the options aren’t file locked. You can save exported recordings as GIF, MP4, and or directly to your local SSD.
The app also doesn’t depend on external scripts like Flash, Java, or DirectX. This makes it work flawlessly on Chromebooks.
Everyone likes memes. That’s a fact.
You can harness the power of GIPHY’s database of all the GIFs you can imagine and share them anywhere online.
Answer emails, tweets, Slack messages, Discord DMs, and more with a GIF. The extension makes searching for a GIF lighting fast and lets you reply faster than your online buddy can respond.
They’ll be wondering if you had this GIF planned and saved to your clipboard the whole time.
With the Office extension, you can view, edit, and type up Office formats right in your browser.
This includes Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and even Sway- all without having to install MS Office (which can’t be done on Chromebooks anyway). The extension is an easy way to use Microsoft products for classes and teachers that require them, rather than Google Suite.
Although this version is a slimmed-down version that doesn’t have all the functionalities of the standalone one, you can still do almost everything you need through the browser.
All the common tasks are handled nicely and you don’t need to install anything else.
Note that MS Office is NOT free. You need a purchase licensed to use it.
Todoist is a to-do list on too much caffeine.
This handy Chrome extension will organize your daily, weekly, and monthly routines by putting everything you need to know and remember right at your fingertips.
A lot of the dashboards are “at a glance” panels which give you a nice overview of what’s coming up. You can then “zoom” into a specific panel and work.
While you can just use any old notepad to make your todo list, this app does everything you can imagine. And then some.
You can handle all the basic planning such as jotting down tasks, organizing new ideas when they come up, reminders for deadlines and due dates, setting up recurring tasks and dates, and collaborating with others.
Then there are the extras which make this app even more special.
For example, you can add websites as a “task” to remind yourself to read it later. Or prioritize everything with priority labels. Or even build a progress report with productivity trends.
My favorite feature is the ability to check off tasks directly from the browser so you don’t even need to switch out and stop what you’re doing. It’s like having a virtual todo checklist that doesn’t distract you.
I’ve been using Todoist in conjunction with Trello and they both are superb organization apps.
Todoist is free to use and integrates with over 60 popular programs, like Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, and Slack.
Speedtest by Ookla
Crappy meeting quality? You may want to test your connection speed.
Online meeting software (Zoom, Skype, Hangouts, etc.) all require a speedy connection to work optimally, especially when video conferencing is active.
If you constantly see frame drops, slowness, video/audio cutting outs, lag, or freezing, this can be because of your internet speed.
If you’re new to online meetings and you suffer from performance/quality issues no matter who you chat with, chances are it’s not them, it’s you.
To run a speed test to see how fast your connection is with this tool. Then compare it to the software’s site and see if you meet the minimum. For example, Zoom requires a speed of 1.8 Mbps for the minimum of 1080p resolution video.
Many people are new to the world of remote work and never needed a fast connection prior. So it’s easy to pass up the thought that you need to upgrade your internet speed.
Note that many other factors also affect the performance of your online meetings:
- Computer hardware (CPU, RAM, SSD vs. HDD, etc.)
- Microphone quality
- Webcam quality (Chromebooks can use external webcams to get a clearer stream)
- Computer resource usage (having a lot of programs or tabs open will bog down your computer’s speed and may affect meetings)
- GPU performance (dedicated or shared)
- Server issues with Zoom, Skype, Hangouts, etc. (server slowness, outages, overload, etc.)
- Temporary connectivity issues with your service provider (outages)
- Wired or WiFi connection (wired is reliable and generally faster)
Did you find the best apps for your online classes?
You should now have a good assortment of apps to help you succeed in your remote learning!
These apps should allow you to squeeze out more productivity, work efficiently, speak with your peers, meet online, and organize your to-do lists.
Do you have any other awesome apps you came across? Leave a comment and share your findings with other readers!
Don’t get too carried away with games, social media, and watching videos- even though it’s hard to resist. I know that feel.