Born as pure conduits to the web—showcases for Gmail, Drive, and other Google cloud services—Chromebooks have been stuck with a reputation that they’re useless offline. The basic complaint is that Chromebooks become nothing more than dumb, worthless, keyboard-equipped pieces of glass if your Internet dies off.
While that may have been an accurate description of first-generation Chromebooks, it’s not the case today. The offline abilities of Chrome OS have skyrocketed since the first Googley laptops hit the streets, and now Chromebooks can tackle many of the most popular PC uses—from blasting out emails to working on spreadsheets to even just playing movies—completely offline.
Such capabilities may not be obvious at first, and it may take some work to ensure what you want is available offline. But we’ve got your back. Here’s a guide to everything you can do offline with a Chromebook, complete with instructions on how to set it all up.
Back to basics
Let’s start with the cornerstones of the Chromebook experience. Google’s email and productivity solutions live and breathe on the web, but enabling their offline options lets you tinker with files and sift through your inbox away from the Internet. You can then sync all your changes when connectivity kicks back in.
Install Gmail offline to access your messages if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.
Chrome OS’s Gmail app doesn’t include offline capabilities natively, but that’s quickly fixed by downloading and activating Google’s Gmail Offline app, which mimes the look of the mobile Gmail apps. It will locally synchronize your messages and actions, which you’ll then be able to access while offline by opening the Gmail Offline app via an icon in Chrome’s New Tab page, or by selecting Gmail Offline in the Chrome App Launcher.
The menu options that allow you to activate Drive’s offline capabilities on a Chromebook.
Enabling offline productivity is just as easy. Simply open Google Drive, then click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and select Settings. Open the General tab and check the box next to “Sync your work to this computer so that you can edit offline.” Presto!
The process is even quicker with Google Calendar. Open it in-browser, click the gear icon and select the Offline option. Then, click the Enable button in the pop-up that appears. Calendar’s pretty much only good for viewing your schedule while offline, though—you can’t create or edit events.