In the introductory article to this series, I told you that I would attempt to live exclusively within Google's Chrome OS for work and for play. In the last update, I discussed my first impressions of the device overall. Today we'll get into file storage, user management, and how ChromeOS handles these standard tasks versus a more traditional OS.
Hit: Free cloud storage (for a limited time), familiar enough, Google drive integrates into system well as main storage.
Miss: Lack of views in file explorer, inability to open multiple file explorer windows, preview views of images are small and odd with a lack of controls.
Where the traditional OS chooses to confuse with names like "Explorer" and "Finder", Google is more straightforward with simply, "Files". You can still open multiple windows, and dragging and dropping works well. As you drag a file, you are given a hidden advantage that you won't find in a traditional OS. While dragging a file, hover over a folder and after about three seconds the icon "blinks" and you are taken into the folder. This action can be repeated as many times as you'd like as long as you continue to drag the file. This is especially handy with the file tree view on the left hand side of the window. You can quickly go deep into a set of folders to drop a folder exactly where it needs to be.
When using multiple windows to drag files to new locations, I noticed something odd - a user can't minimize the file browser window? You can still re-size the window and snap to either side, but for whatever reason you can't minimize? It's not necessarily a missed feature, but it does illustrate the still unfinished edges of the ChromeOS.
Another section that feels unfinished and limited are the options within the file browser. There are only two views, a one size fits all thumbnail view and a basic list view. Windows 8 gives me no less than 8 viewing options. On top of that I can view hidden files, toggle displayed file extensions, and sort my view. The right click menu is also very limited with a file. You don't get a details or properties option. This is especially noticeable with folders. Windows tells me how many files are in a given folder with just a single click on the icon. A look at that's folders properties tells me how large a folder is with all of it's contents combined. This isn't a feature on the current ChromeOS.
Windows gives me the options to set up my views in the sidebar as well. I can choose if I want expanded or collapsed views of a file tree by default. In ChromeOS, a user is given two basic destinations to start; Downloads (local storage) and Google Drive (Cloud storage). Right clicking on these folders does nothing. The user can't rename, hide, delete, etc. The problem that I see is that leaving these features out doesn't really seem to accomplish anything. Viewing and sorting options are traditionally there for those that want to use them and for those that don't to ignore. Knowing that more can be done spoils the experience for me, but it doesn't mean that Google hasn't had their successes as well. ChromeOS does a great job to accomplish something previous difficult to deliver, cloud storage that feels native. While you can set up Google drive to have desktop syncing on a windows machine, it's another step that eliminates most users from ever approaching it. With a Chromebook, the average user will be saving files to the cloud without even knowing it. What this means is, without really doing anything deliberate, you'll quickly have access to most of your desktop or laptop files from your phone, tablet, or any device connected to your Google account. This is a small touch of magic that a basic user gets amazed by, "Wait... I was working on this at work? How is it on my phone? Awesome!"
I set up six user accounts to test the limits inside ChromeOS. User setup is effortless, which is a double-edged sword - Easy to create also means easy to delete. In two clicks, an unknowing user could delete my entire user profile. With ChromeOS and it's always-on backup that isn't a huge problem, but it is annoying. Re-creating the user will restore your wallpaper and desktop shortcuts, but your current state of open windows and apps will be gone.
Next month we’ll get into more specifics about the main desktop, taskbar, and device settings.
Thank you again to Google for supplying their product for review.
Is it worth buying: I only suggest that the thoroughly educated purchase this or any Chromebook. Do NOT buy this as a gift unless the recipient knows that they are an early adopter and will need to be patient as they navigate the inevitable learning curve of a new OS.
ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!