Many people believe that Chrome OS is nothing but a glorified Chrome browser. That would have been true 3-4 years back, but this statement does not hold water right now (check out our favorite Chrome OS tips and tricks). At present, Chrome OS has support from many quarters including the Web, Android, and most recently, Linux. It essentially means that Chromebook is enjoying millions of native apps from multiple subsystems. So in this article, I am going to share some of the best Chrome OS apps available right now. We have included top-notch apps for every category so you can have an enjoyable experience while using Chrome OS.
Best Chrome OS Apps for 2021
We have categorized the article into four sections so you can comfortably navigate through the list of apps. First, we have mentioned Web apps and then Android, Chrome Extensions, and finally, Linux apps. We have picked only the best Chrome OS apps which are running perfectly fine without any glitches. So now, let’s go ahead and begin with Web Apps first.
Best Web Apps for Chrome OS
Before we begin, let me clarify some key points about web apps. Web apps are basically websites on the internet, but more essentially, they follow the PWA (Progressive Web Apps) standard. In case you have no idea about PWA, it’s a flexible and modular web standard that allows websites to behave like a native app. You can create a separate window of the website, pin it on your shelf, and also use it while being offline. Simply put, PWA is the cornerstone of Chrome OS and that is why we are going to start with web apps first.
To create a web app for a website, open the website of your choice, and click on the 3-dot menu in the top-right corner. After that, click on “More Tools” and then open “Create Shortcut”.
Next, enable the checkbox for “Open as Window” and click on the “Create” button. That’s it. The website will be available as a Web App in your app drawer. Now with all that said, let’s go through the best Chrome OS Web Apps.
1. Google Docs and Microsoft Office
Google Docs does not need any introduction. And users who are coming from Windows and are looking for Office apps, Google Docs can be a great Office alternative on Chrome OS. It brings almost all the Microsoft Office features and you can also use it while being offline. You can save files in whichever format you want ranging from PDF to DOC and DOCX. It will help you edit your documents on Microsoft Office as well.
However, if Google Docs does not cut for you and you want Microsoft Office on Chrome OS then you have that option as well. You can use the web version of Microsoft Office free of cost exactly like the native application on Windows OS. But keep in mind, there is no offline support for the web version of Microsoft Office.
2. Google Keep
If you want to take notes quickly and scribble something for later use then Google Keep is one of the best note-taking apps you can use on Chrome OS. Sure, you can install the Android version of Google Keep, but I would recommend you to use the web app. It’s designed for a bigger screen and syncs directly with your Google account without any issue.
On top of that, you can create a standalone app of Google Keep using the guide I have mentioned above. You can also install the Google Keep extension if you want to save websites quickly and create tasks while browsing the web.
3. Pixlr and Canva
Many users who flock to Chrome OS find that there are no good options for photo editing. However, things have changed quite rapidly in this department. You can now do some great photo editing with all the essential tools on Pixlr. The new beta editor of Pixlr is even better with support for layers, lasso tool, wand, mask and more.
Apart from that, Canva is also a great choice for photo editing and creating collages on the fly. You can choose your dimensions, pick a background and just get started with your photo editing. Not to mention, you can create a PWA app for both the websites so there is that.
Check Out Pixlr [In Beta]
For those users who want Photoshop-level features, well there is a great web app on Chrome OS which does exactly that. Photopea is a web app where you get a similar layout to Adobe Photoshop with countless advanced features and editing tools baked in.
And that is not all, you can continue editing photos of different file formats like PSD, XCF, RAW, SKETCH, etc on your Chromebook without any issue. All I would say is, Photopea is among the best Chrome OS apps for photo editing and you won’t be disappointed at all.
5. Google Canvas and Sketchpad
Since most Chromebooks come with a touch-screen display, you can use it as your drawing canvas as well, similar to the iPad. There are two great apps for doodling and illustration on Chrome OS: Google Canvas and Sketchpad. If you are a beginner and want to learn the basics of drawing, you can start with Google Canvas. It’s quite feature-rich and the touch response is excellent.
However, if you are looking for an advanced program that gives you lots of options then Sketchpad is the best choice. It has a myriad of options for brush styles, calligraphy, vector fill and more. So to conclude, if you are looking for the best Chrome OS apps for drawing and sketches then both these options are great to consider.
6. Skype Web
Users who have moved from Windows to Chrome OS need not worry about communication tools. You get all your native applications including Skype in the form of a web app. Skype offers a full-fledged web platform where you can access your messages, contacts, and most importantly, calls.
And similar to the native application, you can make and receive calls without any problem. All you have to do is create a shortcut to this app and you will receive calls even when the app is closed. For more information, you can head over to our tutorial on how to get Skype for Chromebook running in easy steps.
7. Other Web Apps
At present, tons of modern websites are created based on the PWA standard. To name a few, almost all the popular platforms including Spotify, Twitter, YouTube Music, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Disney+, HBO Max, etc. adhere to the PWA framework. So, instead of looking for a native application on Chrome OS, you can use their web version.
Further, you can create a standalone app by following the guide that I have mentioned above. Do not worry, these websites don’t have a mobile layout, but designed in a uniform way that scales with the screen size. So, you will always be getting a desktop-class layout with mouse, keyboard, and touch-screen support.
Best Android Apps for Chrome OS
Since Chrome OS does not have native apps, Google has brought support for millions of Android apps on this new operating system. The apps are compatible with the mouse and keyboard and also support resizable window size. So, in this article, I am going to share some of the best Android apps for Chrome OS that you must use.
While you can use Netflix on Chrome browser without any problem, the primary reason I am recommending the Android app because of its offline support. With the Android app, you can download Netflix movies and shows for offline viewing and that’s simply great. That said, if you want the best quality then opt for the web version which streams at 1080p. As for the Android app, Netflix streams at 480p.
Install: Netflix (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
VLC is ranked among the best media players on any operating system and the same is true for Chrome OS as well. You can install the Android app on Chrome OS and you will be good to go. As we already know, VLC (learn VLC keyboard shortcuts) supports all kinds of media formats ranging from MKV to H.265 encoded videos.
So, if the native media player is unable to render a video file, VLC is going to be your friend. The best part is that the app is completely free and open-source and you don’t need to pay anything for playing videos that are encoded with proprietary codecs.
Install: VLC (Free)
10. Microsoft Office and Office Suite
The reason I am mentioning Microsoft Office again is that the Android version has offline support. Also, all the Microsoft Office apps work in full-screen mode and do not lack any of the major desktop features. However, you will need an Office subscription to activate the Office apps so keep that in mind.
In case, you are not willing to purchase another plan, you can opt for Office Suite by MobiSystems. It supports all your Office files including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF. On top of that, you can edit and create Office documents while being completely offline and without any subscription fee.
Install: Microsoft Office (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
Install: Office Suite (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
11. AirDroid, Pushbullet & Snapdrop
Google is trying to bring a unified ecosystem between Chrome OS and Android with seamless sign-in and instant data tethering. However, we still don’t have an option for mobile notifications on Chromebook and seamless file transfer support like AirDrop. Even Windows has released the Your Phone app which brings notification mirroring and call support.
Nevertheless, you can get all these features using two of the popular Android apps: AirDroid and Pushbullet. Both the apps are more or less the same but I would recommend you to go with AirDroid as it brings local file transfer, screen mirroring and notification prompts in the same package. However, Pushbullet is slightly better at notification handling and has clipboard syncing across devices as well. If you are not happy with Pushbullet, you can also check out its alternatives.
Install: AirDroid (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
Install: Pushbullet (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
12. Adobe Lightroom
In the web apps section, I have mentioned a few photo-editing programs, but those are mostly for image manipulation and complicated editing. However, if you want an offline app that allows you to adjust lighting, contrast, saturation, and other such parameters then Adobe Lightroom is the best Chrome OS app in this regard.
Simply put, if you are a photographer and want to enhance the look of your photos then just go with Adobe Lightroom on your Chromebook. It supports both mouse and touch-screen controls so you can delve deeper and edit your images in great detail.
Install: Adobe Lightroom (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
While Chrome OS is not designed to handle resource-intensive tasks, there are a few ways you can push your machine to the brink. Yes, you can do video editing on Chrome OS using a popular Android app called PowerDirector. It’s an excellent app created by CyberLink that counts among the best video editing apps on the Play Store.
The app layout is optimized for full-screen use so there is a timeline track, controls on the left window and your video output on the center. All in all, if you want to do video editing on your Chromebook, PowerDirector is a great app to use.
Install: PowerDirector (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
Squid is my personal favorite in this list and one of the best Chrome OS apps. It’s an app created for students and educators. You can scribble your notes with a stylus just like you would on paper. Further, you can import images, scribble over it, markup PDFs and more.
The best part about this app is that the company has partnered with Google to bring down low-ink latency on select Chromebooks. It will make you feel like you writing on a solid paper. So if you were looking for a note-taking app that is heavily optimized for Chrome OS then Squid is the best app, bar none.
Install: Squid (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
For users who like Snapseed on their smartphone, well, you can use it on Chromebook as well with equally great control and features. Google has ensured to bring this popular app on Chrome OS with support for the big screen and mouse controls. Not to mention, you can also adjust the image using the touch screen too.
And I say, editing on a big screen with touch-screen controls is much better than using mouse and keyboard combination. Anyway, if you are looking for a simple photo-editing app, you can definitely go with Snapseed. Also, if you are new to Snapseed check out our Snapseed tips and tricks article to master the apps.
Install: Snapseed (Free)
16. Solid Explorer
Solid Explorer does not need any introduction, but if you looking for an alternative file explorer on Chrome OS then Solid Explorer is the one you should pick. To be frank, the native file manager on Chrome OS is very limited and does not have multi-window dragging and other essential features.
In that case, you can use Solid Explorer as it offers a two-pane window and you can access all kinds of details of a file or folder. Apart from that, I like how Solid Explorer organizes my files and also allows me to clean up my internal storage periodically. Simply put, if you want an alternative file manager then Solid Explorer is one of the best Chrome OS apps.
Install: Solid Explorer (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
17. iA Writer
If you want the best writing app for Chrome OS then iA Writer would be my top recommendation. It’s a pretty popular app across Windows and macOS users, but now you can get it on Chrome OS as well thanks to the Android app support. The app is designed in such a way that all your focus remains on writing alone.
It’s based on the distraction-free principle and comes with many markdown formatting options. Not to mention, there is dark mode, dictation, focus mode, and more. Simply put, for writing purposes, iA Writer is one of the best Chrome OS apps available right now.
Install: iA Writer (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
18. Proton VPN
If you wish to set up a VPN on your Chromebook then go for the Proton VPN. It offers a free plan at a slightly reduced speed and in limited regions. Also, the company claims that it does not log user’s internet traffic so that is great. I would say instead of relying on dubious Proxy extensions on Chrome, installing a proper VPN is the best way to stop your data leakage.
Apart from that, Proton VPN worked perfectly fine in our testing. You don’t need to change the network configuration manually as was the norm before. So to put it straight, if you want the best VPN on Chrome OS then Proton VPN is a solid choice.
Install: Proton VPN (Free, Offers in-app purchases)
ReadEra is an excellent eBook reader that packs all the premium features, but it’s completely free to use. You can use this app on your Chromebook for reading eBooks in tablet or tent mode. The eBook reader supports file formats like PDF, EPUB, WORD, MOBI, FB2, and more.
But that is not all, despite being completely free, the app does not show any ads while reading books or documents. Simply put, if you are a voracious reader and want to make your Chromebook a Kindle alternative then ReadEra is the stepping stone you were looking for.
Install: ReadEra (Free)
Best Chrome Apps and Extensions
We have discussed the two foundations of Chrome OS – Web apps and Android apps – and no we move on to extensions. Extensions are also equally popular in the Chrome ecosystem. You can say that Extensions are the only native apps that use Chrome OS’ API and libraries. So, in this article, I am going to share some of the best Chrome OS extensions that can enhance your experience even better.
In case you are wondering about the lack of a Text editor (like Notepad on Windows) on Chrome OS, well Google has recently developed an extension for that. It’s pre-installed on newer Chromebooks, but in case, your machine does not have it, you can install it from the link below.
As the name suggests, Text is a simple text editor where you can write anything you want. The extension for Text files is also TXT which is the same as Notepad so all your Text files can be used on other systems as well. Surprisingly, Google has baked in dark mode too on this text editor. So, just install Text on your Chromebook and give it a go.
21. Nimbus Screenshot
Screenshot feature has almost become a necessity on every system — be it a smartphone or a desktop computer. While Chrome OS does have native support for screenshots, you can get a third-party extension if you are looking for versatile features. Nimbus is a pretty solid app and offers plenty of options from partial to window screenshots.
You can further crop and annotate the images as well. Apart from that, if you want an extension solely for annotation purposes then Awesome Screenshot extensions is another great choice. It offers you to create boxes, blur certain parts of the image, highlight sections, and more.
Screencastify is one of the powerful apps for Chrome OS as it allows you to record your screen with your voice and webcam support. This extension can help you record tutorials in case you are an educator. While the app is quite good, it puts a watermark if you are recording for more than 5 minutes.
To remove the watermark, you will have to subscribe to a premium plan. In that case, you can use RecordRTC as an alternative. It’s an open-source extension that offers similar features and does not require any premium subscription. So, depending on your use-case, you can go for either extension.
Kami is a complete package in the form of a Chrome extension. It’s a PDF and document annotation tool that can be a life-saver for students and educators. You can import any PDF, image, document; annotate on it and then describe everything using the webcam. It helps you create videos on the go as the company has partnered with Google Classroom for seamless creation and syncing with Google Drive.
The only con about this extension is that it’s not free for the most part and you will have to pay even for the most basic features. Simply put, if you are a student who wants to create detailed notes or a serious educator making videos for the internet, Kami is the best Chrome OS app you can go for.
Caret is a top-notch text editor for computer programmers and software engineers available on Chrome OS. It’s based on the widely popular Sublime Text Editor and uses similar graphical colors for various syntax, arguments, and functions. For Windows users, you can consider it as your Notepad++ alternative.
I would say, if you are a serious programmer or just a beginner, Caret is the best way to do programming on Chrome OS. It’s so good that you don’t need to install Vim through the Linux container.
While we understand that Google wants to make Chrome OS a minimal and user-friendly operating system, some users want to know the technical details about their machine. For that, you can install the Cog extension on your Chromebook. It shows all sorts of details including CPU cores, temperature, RAM, processes, internal storage and more. Cog also showcases a real-time graph of the current state of your Chromebook. So, if you want to get nerdy about your Chromebook, install the Cog extension.
Best Linux Apps for Chrome OS
It has been quite a few years since Google added Linux support on Chromebook. And now Linux has become a viable platform where you can use apps without any performance or stability issues. I personally use a lot of Linux apps on my Chromebook so I can vouch for their reliability.
I have already made a separate list of best Linux apps for Chromebook so you can go through that if you want an exhaustive list of apps. Nevertheless, here are some of the best Linux apps for Chrome OS that you must give a try.
GIMP is one of the best graphics editors available on various platforms ranging from Windows, Linux, and macOS. And now with Linux support, you can install and run GIMP on Chrome OS as well. In our testing, it installed perfectly fine and ran without any hiccups. However, there was quite a bit of lag while dealing with heavy images. As I said above, the apps are running in a container, and on top, there is no support for hardware acceleration yet so the performance takes a hit.
How to install GIMP: Open Terminal and execute the below command.
sudo apt-get install gimp
27. Master PDF Editor
If you are looking for a Chrome OS app for PDF editing — similar to Adobe Acrobat — then the Linux version of Master PDF Editor has you covered. It is an excellent program for creating and editing PDF files and works absolutely fine on Chromebooks.
Master PDF Editor also lets you encrypt, sign, modify, split, and annotate PDF documents on the go. Basically, you get all the features of a PDF editor on Chrome OS thanks to the Linux support. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and install this excellent Linux app on your Chromebook.
- How to Install: Download the .deb file from here and double-click on it to install the application. After that, run the below command in Terminal. Finally, run the application from the app drawer.
sudo apt-get install libsane
Wine is an unusual Linux app that you will find on this list. It does not have a graphical interface, but it’s one of the most powerful Linux apps that you should install on your Chromebook. Wine is a compatibility layer (not an emulator) that allows you to install Windows apps on Chromebooks. Believe me, I have installed and continue to use full-fledged Windows versions of Microsoft Office, IDM, IrfanView, research tools like GraphPad, powerful OCR software, and much more on my Chromebook.
In fact, after the latest Wine 5.0 update, you can install even heavy Windows software without any issue. Simply put, Wine is an impressive piece of software and you must use it on your Chromebook to take full advantage of Linux on Chrome OS.
- How to Install: Just follow our dedicated guide on how to install Windows programs on Chrome OS using Wine 5.0.
You may not be aware but Steam works wonderfully well on Chromebook, thanks to the Linux support. It also features the Proton layer (a modified version of Wine) which you can use to play Windows games on Chromebook. Not all Windows games are supported though. You can find more information about the state of Linux gaming from our article on the best Linux games. Anyway, the installation process is pretty simple and we have mentioned a detailed guide below.
- How to Install: Open this Steam webpage and download the .DEB file. Now, move it to the Linux files section and double-click on it. The Steam installer will automatically start the installation. Alternatively, you can follow our detailed guide on how to install Steam on a Chromebook.
30. Kdenlive / OpenShot
If the Android app, PowerDirector does not cut it for you then you can give a shot at these two popular video-editing apps on Linux. Kdenlive is a desktop-class and powerful application for video editing. It’s a very popular app among the Linux users community and we tried it on our Chromebook and it worked just fine. Sure, the app was sometimes slow to respond, but it certainly worked in our testing. Apart from that, you can use another widely popular open-source video editor OpenShot which is also quite feature-packed.
Also, if you enable the
chrome://flags/#crostini-gpu-support flag then the performance gets much better while dealing with resource-intensive Linux apps. All I would say is, in the absence of Chrome OS native apps, Linux apps have filled the shoes to a large extent and now you can perform even heavy tasks like video editing on your Chromebook.
- How to Install Kdenlive: Open Terminal and execute the below command. After installation, you will find the app in the app drawer inside the Linux apps folder.
sudo apt-get install kdenlive
- How to Install OpenShot: Open Terminal and execute the below command. After the installation, you will find the app in the app drawer inside the Linux apps folder. You can also install OpenShot by downloading the latest AppImage file. You can learn how to install AppImage programs on Chromebook from our guide.
sudo apt-get install openshot
Personally, for me, Kolourpaint is the best Linux apps on Chrome OS and I will tell you why. It’s very close to MS-Paint that we have on Windows and does not leave out any of the major features. In fact, it brings more advanced features like free-form selection, scale by image portion, skew diagram, monochrome effect, and much more.
Apart from that, Kolourpaint performed really well and it didn’t feel like the app was running in a container. There is no lag and you can create and edit a bulk of images in one go. If you ever wanted to use an app like Microsoft Paint on Chrome OS, this is the best option and I think, it’s much better.
- How to Install: Open Terminal and execute the below command. After installation, you will find the app in the app drawer inside the Linux apps folder.
sudo apt-get install kolourpaint
If you want a desktop-class email client for your Chromebook then Bluemail is the best Linux app you can opt for. It offers a modern UI with support for various domains such as Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, and more. You can even manually set up IMAP, POP3, Exchange accounts on Bluemail. What I love about Bluemail is that its Linux version is quite feature-rich and supports dark mode too. So go ahead and install Bluemail on your Chrom ebook.
- How to Install: Open this link and click on the “Download .deb” button. After the download is complete, double-click on the DEB file and install it right away. Once the installation is done, press the Search button on the keyboard and search for Bluemail. Now go ahead and open it.
Nautilus is one of the best Linux apps on Chromebook as it allows you to access Linux directories just like any other Linux distro. With the default Files app on Chromebook, you can only access the Linux file section and at most, can see the hidden files. However, if you want to access system directories like
root then Nautilus helps you access those folders easily.
- How to Install: Execute the below command in the Terminal. After the installation, you will find the app in your app drawer.
sudo apt-get install nautilus
34. Visual Studio Code
For many programmers, Visual Studio Code is their go-to code editor and the great news is that you can use it on Chrome OS as well. It’s developed by Microsoft and supports a great number of programming languages including JAVA, HTML, CSS, C++ and more.
Apart from that, VSC also has options for debugging, Git control, syntax highlighting, bracket matching and intelligent code completion. All in all, having Visual Studio Code on Chrome OS and the ability to compile programs on the system is just magical. And for that very reason, Visual Studio Code is one of the best Chrome OS apps in this list.
How to install VSC: Open this page and download the .deb file from the “64-bit” link. Now, open the File Manager of Chrome OS and double-click on the .deb file. Now VSC will start installing itself and once that is done, you can find it in the app drawer.
35. ADB Tools
Recently, Google brought native support for Android Debugging Bridge (ADB) after Chrome OS 85 in the stable channel. It allows you to test Android applications and also control your smartphone at a much deeper level. This makes Chrome OS a versatile machine that can interact with hosts of devices at a technical level. So, to install ADB on Chrome OS using Linux, follow the below commands.
How to install ADB: Open Terminal and execute the below command. Alternatively, you can also download the Platform Tool and move it to the Linux folder.
sudo apt-get install adb
Here are the Best Chrome OS Apps For You
So these are our picks for the best Chrome OS apps that are available through various platforms right now. I have included Web apps, Android apps, Chrome extensions and finally some popular Linux apps too. After going through a legion of apps, I can confidently say that you would find the majority of apps either in the form of Web or Linux apps. At this point, Chrome OS has improved by leaps and bounds and there is huge support from the developer community as well. Anyway, that is all from us. If we missed to include some apps that you are looking for, comment down below and let us know.