Hey! You there! Have you ever wondered if Chromebooks can be used offline? Or what exactly you can do with a Chromebook offline?
A lot of people (especially Chromebook haters) have the misconception that you can’t do much when you’re offline on a Chromebook.
Depending on your usage, this could be entirely false. And you can probably do a lot more than you think- even without an active WiFi connection.
This guide will go over some awesome things that an offline Chromebook can do. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pick up some new tricks that you didn’t know about before!
So let’s put a counterpoint to those haters and go over some handy things you can still do on your Chromebook even when you’re offline.
(By the way, if you’re trying to get online and you don’t want to be offline, you may want to check out this tutorial that teaches you how to connect to WiFi on your Chromebook.)
Sound good? Let’s roll.
Last updated: 1/7/21. I always try to keep this list as accurate as possible, but I’m only human. Let me know if a link is broken or app doesn’t work.
1. Compose and send emails offline
Ah, email. One of the major reasons why people need a connection in the first place.
Did you know that the Chrome Web Store has an extension that allows you to compose and send off emails in Gmail while you’re offline?
The problem is that this “Gmail Offline” extension was axed and now no longer exists. So the workaround is to enable Gmail to work offline from your Gmail account.
You can access your email like normal, reply to all those messages, and mark them to send off.
How it works is that you’ll automatically download all emails to update your inbox whenever you have a connection.
When you’re offline, you can still do pretty much all the normal functions:
- Read emails
- Write emails
- Send emails
And then when you get an active connection again, all those emails you typed up will automatically send off.
So it’s like they’re queued for sending when you’re offline, and will send as soon as you get connected to WiFi. Pretty awesome, right? Now you can be productive (or not) when you’re on the train, bus, or at the mall.
You can do all this through the magic of Gmail Offline, and here’s how:
- Log in to your Gmail account.
- Go to your settings.
- Enable “enble offline mail.”
- Go over your settings, such as archive dates, message amounts to save, etc.
- Save your changes.
This isn’t limited to Chromebooks, you can do this on any computer that can run a modern browser.
You can also check out Google’s documentation on this feature.
Update: After a trip overseas in a land where WiFi is hard to come by, sending emails offline was a blessing and I was very appreciate that this technology exists. As soon as I got an active connection, all my emails that I composed offline sent without an issue. The timestamps were a little messed up, but otherwise, it works!
2. Work on documents, spreadsheets, slideshows
Here’s another cool one for the productivity ninja.
Most jobs will require that you use some sort of office suite. It just so happens that the most common formats used are documents (Word), spreadsheets (Excel), and slideshows (PowerPoint).
Google has their own office suite of products as a substitute to Microsoft products, and is also completely free to use.
Here are the alternatives from Google’s servers vs. Microsoft:
- Microsoft Word = Google Docs
- Microsoft Excel = Google Sheets
- And Microsoft PowerPoint = Google Slides
You can access all of these for free and they work pretty much exactly the same as MS Office. The best part would be that you can use all three office products even when you’re offline.
Yes, you can still be productive without the ‘net
This means you don’t need an active WiFi connection just to type up a document or crunch numbers on a spreadsheet.
You can utilize “offline sync” which allows you to work on your stuff even when your Chromebook has no connection. Then when you get an active internet signal, your work will automatically be saved and synced. Awesome.
Google’s office suite is a cloud-based platform that works all devices that run Chrome (or can download the app). Of course, for the data to sync, you’ll need to be online.
Work offline, then sync when you get back online
So for example, let’s say you’re working on a document, on your phone, while you’re on the train and you have no internet connection. You can type away using offline synch. Your work will automatically save and upload when you get connected again.
If you were to use another device at this point, let’s say your Windows laptop, and access that same document, you wouldn’t see any updates since the phone hasn’t had a chance to connect online and update the document yet.
But as soon as your phone connects to the net, the document will update. Then it’ll show the most recent version across all your devices. Get it?
Not to confuse you- but my point is that you can use any Google office product offline and your work will be saved, then automatically updated when you get connected. Pretty nifty if you have hours of blocks where you have no active connection.
3. Play games offline
Bored on the plane? Waiting at the airport? Sick of the daily commute?
Whip out your laptop and play some offline Chromebook games. There are a ton of free games that run completely offline without a connection to the internet.
Since I’ve already written a list of Chromebook games you can play offline, I won’t rewrite them all here. I’ll just list a few suggestions that you can check out:
4. Read the news
News is nonstop. Daily. 24/7. Not having an active connection doesn’t provide an excuse for not catching up on the latest news.
There are many news publishers that have created their own apps for the Chrome Web Store that run offline.
You’ll get fresh news whenever you get connected
You can download them and they’ll automatically download the latest news to your Chromebook so you can read them during your downtime or commute.
When you get an active connection again, you’ll automatically fetch the newest headlines to your laptop. Then the process repeats.
Of course, depending on the time you actually read the news after it updates from the server will determine how fresh and recent articles are. If you download them at home, then read them on your hour commute on the bus, they’re pretty much as fresh as can be.
This also depends on how often you’re able to obtain a connection. If you’re offline for extended periods of time, the articles you read will definitely be dated.
Catch up on the news during your commute or downtime
However, for typical usage scenarios, your Chromebook will provide you with a plentiful, fresh, and updated articles that you can read even when you’re offline.
The app I personally use is NewsPrompt, which is basically a news aggregator that gathers trending stories and personalized them.
Though the personalization engine isn’t quite there yet, the stores are relevant enough for my liking. You teach the extension to show only stories you want to read about. There are no settings you have to adjust- it just “learns” over time.
Because there’s no way to directly tell NewsPrompt what you want to see, the engine can be a little off sometimes- especially for those who want specific news about a specific niche.
Read the news with your Chromebook offline
Overall, NewsPrompt works well and constantly feeds you news whenever you can connect online. And you can read all the articles even when offline after it downloads.
This is a decent news app for Chromebooks and works well. It’s free and works offline. I’m sure there are other news aggregators that work offline for Chrome OS, but this is the one I use and can vouch for right now.
You can check out NewsPrompt here, or search for your own.
If you only read news from a single or a few sources, do a search on the Chrome Web Store to see if they have their own news app and check if it runs offline by ticking the checkbox, like this:
5. Browse web pages, notes, pictures, and more
Are you offline? Guess what? You can still browse the web!
(Well, a “saved” version of it.)
This may be a surprise to many who always thought you need a connection just to browse the web, but that’s not entirely true!
While you do need an active connection to get the most recent copy of a webpage, you can still view websites that have been downloaded or saved to your computer.
This is useful for pages that don’t change very often- such as for research, taking notes, reviewing study guides, prepping for exams or presentations, reading articles, etc. You can use a variety of extensions to accomplish this, but the one that works right out-of-the-box is Google Keep.
An alternative to Evernote for Chromebooks (and works offline)
As the name states, Google Keep is made by Google and is basically an extension that allows you to save web pages, pictures, URLs, articles, snippets, web clippings, notes, text, and more for offline viewing.
This means if you were reading a lengthy article, but you needed to catch the bus, you could save it to your Chromebook and read it on the bus without a connection to the ‘net.
Or maybe you’re collecting web clippings from various sites all around and you’ll need to cite them later. You can just save them, label them (such as “resources” or “works cited”) to Google Keep, then have them all in one place for later whenever you’re ready.
Or maybe you just like reading a bunch of news during your morning commute on the train. Rather than loading up each page in a new tab, now you can save them all into Keep and read them on the ride- complete with URLs and images.
Pretty cool, eh?
Google Keep does the trick
There are multiple extensions that can do this, but Google Keep is free and just works.
The extension also syncs across multiple devices, such as Android, iOS, and your PC or Mac- pretty much anything that runs Chrome Browser.
You can use this to take notes for anything and everything and access them across your devices without an Internet connection.
Here are just some random ideas that you could use Google Keep for:
- Making grocery lists
- Making shopping lists
- To-do lists
- General reminders
- Short-term goals
- Long-term goals
- Project timelines
- Workflow notes
It’s basically a “reminders” app for your Chromebook
Google Keep works offline by saving your data to local storage so you can access it when you’re not connected to the Internet. You’ll have to enable “offline viewing” to do so, and you can do this in the settings menu.
You can grab Google Keep here.
If you like this kind of stuff, you may want to check out some other note-taking apps for Chromebooks.
Other popular related extensions you may be interested in:
- Note Board
- Nimbus Notes
- Google Tasks
6. Clean up (and speed up) your Chromebook
This one’s kind of an oddball, but when you’re offline (and bored), you can use that time to clean up any unnecessary junk files and folders on your Chromebook.
This will pretty much ensure that your Chromebook will remain speedy and fast, rather than bogged-down and clunky with a ton of unused junk stored on the SSD.
One particular app that allows you to use a single-click to clean up your device is Clean Master. Pardon the corny name of the extension, but this thing works without any problems.
And it really is just a single click (not counting the one used to launch the extension).
Some basic features of Clean Master is that it lets you do all of the following in just a single click:
- Delete the Chrome cache, cookies, storage, history, or other garbage to speed up Chrome
- Erase all passwords to prevent others from logging into your account on your device
- Clean up all personal details tied to your Chrome session
- Delete all browsing history
Clean Master isn’t anything spectacular for cleaning up your Chromebook or making your Chromebook faster, as there are dozens of apps out there that do the same thing. However, Clean Master does run offline, and that fits the subject of this article, so I thought I’d throw this extension in.
Again, it’s definitely an oddball, but the app does work offline and it’s definitely something you can do offline on a Chromebook when you’re bored without anything to do. You can clean up your system and speed it up for the next time you use it!
7. Access your pictures and videos with your Chromebook offline
Have you been wondering if you can watch moving offline on your Chromebook? Or how about looking at pictures without Internet? Well, this is one way you can do so.
With Google Drive, you can store up to 10GB of data online for free.
Google Drive is a cloud-based service provided by Google. It allows you to access your files from pretty much any device with a modern browser.
You can save pretty much anything on Google Drive, such as the following (via Wikipedia):
- Native formats (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Drawings)
- Image files (.JPEG, .PNG, .GIF, TIFF, .BMP, .WEBP)
- Video files (.WEBM, .MPEG4, .3GPP, .MOV, .AVI, .MPEG, .MPEGPS .WMV, FLV, .OGG)
- Audio formats (.MP3, .M4A, .WAV, .OGG)
- Text files (.TXT)
- Markup/Code (.CSS, .HTML, .PHP, .C, .CPP, .H, .HPP, .JS)
- Microsoft Word (.DOC and .DOCX)
- Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
- Microsoft PowerPoint (.PPT and .PPTX)
- Apple Pages (.PAGES)
- Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
- Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
- Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
- Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
- PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
- Python (.PY)
- Fonts (.TTF)
- XML Paper Specification (.XPS)
- Archive file types (.ZIP, .RAR, tar, gzip)
- .MTS files
- Raw Image formats
After you save your file to Google Drive, you can sync the files to save locally on your machine, so you can still view images, present slideshows, or review documents or spreadsheets even when you’re offline.
You can even make edits to these saved files and the changes will update when you get a connection again.
You can use Google Drive for free until you hit a specific GB limit. But for most people, this limit should be plenty enough.
8. Drawing, photo editing, designing graphics
There a few dozen extensions available on the Chrome Web Store that allow you to do things that the creative person would appreciate.
Whether you’re an artist, doodler, or graphic designer, you can download photo editing apps that work offline on your Chromebook.
So if you’re ever on the road traveling without access to WiFi, you can still work and touch up your images or work on graphics even then.
Of course, Chromebooks don’t pack that much horsepower under the hood for editing purposes, so what you can do will be limited.
Some apps are perfect for casual to moderate graphic work, which means that the freelance digital artist can still do decent work on a Chromebook or the person who needs to touch up their selfies with some filters before uploading to social media.
Some image editors that work offline on Chrome OS worth checking out:
These extensions run offline at the time of this writing, so you should be able to download and use them without Internet.
Personally, I’ve never used any of them. Based on the reviews, some look decent and several reviewers seem to know what they’re talking about. So if you really need to work on editing your photos on your Chromebook, you may want to check these editors out.
9. Play music or videos
You can still play music, watch slideshows, movies, and videos even when your Chromebook is offline.
As long as you have the file saved locally on your Chromebook’s hard drive, you can use Chrome OS’s native built-in player to view images- and even edit them.
There are also plenty of other alternative apps on the Chrome Web Store that allow you to do these things offline also, such as Songify and Google Play Movies and TV.
Chromebooks can view images offline using the Chrome OS image viewer, but can’t play videos and movies without downloading an extension.
The most popular video player for Chromebooks is the Google Play Movies and TV extension, which will let you play videos and movies without a WiFi connection. You’ll just need to make sure you have them downloaded and saved to your computer first.
You can also directly just plug in your USB, SD card, or any other supported peripheral and play the media off that drive.
Lastly, if you really need to play every type of file offline, consider installing Linux and downloading a media player. Or getting something like VLC for Chromebooks to watch your movies and videos anytime.
VLC does have some performance problems reported by users, but it’s still worth a try if you don’t want to use the Movies and TV extension. But hey, it depends on what you need to do and your usage scenario. So it just may work for you.
10. Read books, study materials, PDFs
You can download your e-books, study guides, presentations, docs, PDFs, and other materials and read/review them when you’re offline. All you’ll need to do is save them locally to your SSD local storage, then access them whenever you wish.
There are a few various extensions you can use to assess written materials on a Chromebook. All of the following work offline:
eBook Reader for Google Drive
This will let you read from Google Drive or your local storage and supports:
Nothing special. Just a straightforward extension that lets you read in these formats on the Chrome Web Store. You can grab a copy here.
Kami lets you read, review, edit, and annotate/markup PDFs offline on your Chromebook. This is pretty much an all-in-one PDF reader for Chromebooks that does nearly everything you could want. And it’s free to use.
Office Edition for Docs, Sheets, and Slides
As mentioned earlier, Google has a Suite of office products that all work offline. You can enable “offline sync” to access, read, and edit your work offline.
You can get the extension called “Office Edition for Docs, Sheets, and Slides” to accomplish this.
11. Install and use Linux
Well, if none of these options do it for you, then maybe Chrome OS isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s Linux.
Linux is another “operating system” like Chrome OS. In fact, Chrome OS was built on Linux. It’s a lot more feature robust and fleshed-out compared to Chrome OS. Linux has a ton of software you can download, some of which even let you emulate Windows (WINE) entirely.
Yes, that literally means you can have a copy of Linux, Chrome OS, and Windows all on your Chromebook that you can switch between as you please. Nifty, eh?
Linux does have a learning curve, and will take some time to master. However, once you really get into it, you’ll find that it’s really user-friendly, fast, and most of all, super duper secure.
How to get Linux
If you’re interested, you can try playing around with a built-in copy of Linux on your Chromebook. Newer models have Linux (Beta) preinstalled. You can enable the beta version of Linux on your Chromebook if you’re using a newer device.
For those on older devices, you can still get Linux using Crouton. I’ve written a complete tutorial on how to accomplish this already, so check it out if you want.
Once you have Linux installed on your Chromebook, the possibilities are endless. Seriously.
Here’s just a taste of what you can do with Linux on your Chromebook:
- Run Windows programs
- Play Windows games
- Install and play Steam games
- Play nearly any video file
- View nearly all image files
- Install your favorite browsers (Firefox, Brave, Opera, Safari)
- Download Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
- Photo editing
- Video editing
- Word processing
- PDF handling
You’ll be able to do whatever you do on a traditional PC on your Chromebook, pretty much. Linux has plenty of offline programs (more than Chrome OS does), so if you’re without a connection to the Internet frequently, you may want to consider getting Linux. It’ll be worth your time. Seriously.
12. Use Android Apps from Google Play
Have you heard? Chromebooks have been running Android apps from the Google Play Store for quite some time now.
That means you can literally play games and run apps on your Chromebook just like how you do on your Android smartphone.
Not all Chromebooks can do this, but models made in the past year or so going forward are all equipped with the Play Store.
If you’re sporting an older Chromebook, you may be on the list to receive the Play Store update sometime in the future. Google has a list of these models.
Not that not all Android apps will run, as the integration is still pretty much in beta. You can try to force the Android update on Chrome OS by following this tutorial.
But you do have the capability and more apps are being compatible each day. The app itself has to be able to run in offline mode before it can run on your Chromebook offline.
How to test if Play Store apps will run on your Chromebook:
A good way to test this:
- Turn off your phone’s WiFi and network (or just enter airplane mode)
- See if you can easily launch the app on your phone
And then seeing the results:
- If the app launches, chances are that it’ll work offline on your Chromebook too
- If the app doesn’t work, then it won’t on your Chromebook offline either.
Overall, it’s pretty cool to be able to utilize both Play Store apps and Chrome Web Store apps on the same machine.
Some apps you may want to check out:
- MIcrosoft Outlook
- Adobe Comp CC
- Amazon Kindle
- Google Translate
- Google Maps
- Plague Inc.
- Podcast Addict
- Candy Crush Saga
You can see the full list here.
The majority of models can now support this feature, so you should already have the Android store pre-installed on your device!
Did you discover something new you can do with your Chromebook offline?
Well, that’s about it!
These handy tips can keep your productivity (and entertainment) going even when you’re offline.
As always, I hope this guide has helped you out in some way or another, and now you know something else you can do with your Chromebook even without an Internet connection.
If you have any other tips to suggest, leave a comment below and I’ll add it to this guide for others!
Or if you’ve found this guide to be helpful, let me know.
Consider telling these tips to fellow Chromebook user =].
Thanks for reading!