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What is Chrome OS?

Chrome OS - the operating system that powers Chromebooks and other similar devices.

Chrome OS is an operating system that is basically just a Chrome web browser. Programs are installed in the form of "apps" from the Chrome Web Store. Chrome OS and its many apps allow you to surf the web, listen to music, watch videos, make video calls, create and edit documents, upload and edit photos, play games, and much more. Almost anything that can be done using a Windows or OSX computer can be done using Chrome OS.

Chrome OS has similarities to other operating systems like Windows and OSX. There is a desktop background, a task bar with shortcuts to commonly used apps (Google calls it the "shelf"), a menu that shows all apps that are installed, and a settings screen. You can easily change the desktop background image to a photo of your cute kittens.

How is Chrome OS different from using the Chrome browser in Windows?

Chrome OS gives you all the benefits of Chrome without the headaches of Windows. Chromebooks and other devices running Chrome OS don't use Windows at all. Google provides built-in security, so there is no need to install anti-virus software. Chrome OS updates itself automatically in the background, so you don't have to worry about installing Windows updates. Chrome OS runs Chrome apps faster than Windows since the computer doesn't have to run a huge operating system under Chrome. In a nutshell, Chrome OS takes the hassle out of using a computer, but leaves the good stuff in.

What are the limitations of Chrome OS?

Chromebook pundits have been very vocal about Chrome OS's inability to run Windows software. Since Windows isn't installed, Windows software doesn't work. However, most users will be able to find an app or website to do just about every task they need.

 If you want to:  Windows program:  Chrome OS free replacement:
Create a document, spreadsheet, or presentation Microsoft Office Google Drive, Microsoft Word Online, Microsoft Excel Online, Microsoft PowerPoint Online
Email Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail
Create a calendar Outlook Google Calendar
Organize and listen to music iTunes, Windows Media Player Google Play Music
You can move your music by following these instructions
Play games   Many games are available for free
Edit and organize photos Photoshop, GIMP Pixlr Editor, Pixlr Express, Google+ Photos
Make a video call Skype Google Hangouts
Read a book   Kindle Cloud Reader, Google Play Books

Can I use Chromebooks offline?

Yes and no. Many apps work offline (Google Drive, Gmail, and a growing number of other apps). For the best experience, however, you will want to be connected to the internet. This is no different from any other modern operating system. Most applications in any OS are designed to work best with an internet connection.