Developing Websites Professionally With a Chromebook

July 26, 2018

I would like to share my experience developing websites on a Chromebook. 

I am currently using a Samsung Chromebook Plus around February 2017. This is a powerful little machine from Samsung. The reason I bought it was to see if I could use it as a development machine for website design and development. Most of my development has been using the web browser and notepad++ along with photo and video editing software. I wanted to experiment on adding the Chromebook to my development workflow for times to do quick editing or small changes to a website that I did not need to use a full PC. In my mind a professional web developer or blogger should not have to have a powerful machine to do his job. But the one thing I did not know was how useful the Chromebook would be since this will be the first Chromebook I have used. 

I am also using Google Docs and Drive to do my writing and organization of talks and blogs. I will give you my impressions from a web professional perspective. 

I would like to say that I have accomplished the task of using my Chromebook for Web Development. I am able to do most of my work from my Chromebook. I am a WordPress Developer, and most of the work including running the business can be accomplished using the laptop. This includes editing graphics, CSS, some coding, video and webinars, and accounting. I have moved my entire workflow to the “Cloud” as much as possible. 

"I have moved my entire workflow to the "Cloud" as much as possible."

Why?

You may ask why would someone do this. It is simple I am a web guy. I tell my clients and customers that your website is the lifeblood to your business, and it is how you get new customers. I got to thinking that if that is what I am telling people then I need to show them just how important a website is. Also it allows me to be more agile, and not to carry so much stuff with me. I can grab one laptop and power cord, and an external drive just to be prepared. I am ready to get to work anywhere. And most of the time I can work off-line and then when I get an Internet connection it syncs back up or I can copy and paste my work to publish it to go live. 

Staging Environment

Most of the development for clients take place in what is called a Staging Site. Some web hosts provide one as a testing site, or you can make your own using subdomains or subdirectories through C-Panel. My host is a managed host that offers a separate Staging Site. Staging Sites are good to test new plug-ins or new design changes without effecting the live site. But sometimes staging sites are not good enough to deploy to, or you just may want to do development locally. In those situations I use Chrome Remote Desktop to access another computer from somewhere else. 

Bring Your Website Development Home

I do have a full desktop computer that is my main backup computer. I keep this computer on all the time. I also use this PC for my video and audio editing. I can also connect to the computer if I am away from the office. I currently use Local by Flywheel for local development, and all of those files are stored there. Local is a quick way to get started with my web development projects. 

Set-up

This is the way I set-up my Chromebook. I install Local By Flywheel as a local development server onto my main development laptop or desktop computer. It works on Windows or Mac computers. You do not have to have a super computer to use the software. I then install a chrome extension called Chrome Remote Desktop. It is the one made by Google. Once you have installed Chrome Remote Desktop. It is the one made by Google. Once you have installed Chrome Remote Desktop you can then start it on that machine. And select the second option to allow a remote connection into the machine. This machine will be the host machine. You will need to add Chrome Remote Desktop on your Chromebook. Both accounts need to be signed into using the same Google Account. You need to have the main computer powered on and have the power settings set to not sleep. You can have the computer locked. You just don’t need the hard drive to power down otherwise you will not be able to connect to the computer. 

Chromebook Web Development

Once you load up Chrome Remote Desktop then go to the Chromebook and open up Chrome Remote Desktop, and you will see the computers that are available to access. If you do not see your computer’s name that you want to connect to go back to the “Main” computer and make sure you are sharing that computer. Next just click on that computer, and you will be asked to enter your PIN number that you set to log-in to the computer remotely. Now you will see the desktop of the computer. You are able to use the same tools that you are used to. This means if your development machine is a Desktop computer then you can access your work information while in the living room using a laptom, tablet, or as I do a Chromebook as long as you are able to run the Chrome Browser and install the Chrome Remote Desktop extension. 

Tools I Use for Remote Website Design

You can then access your local website. This comes in handy when you are at a client’s site and you need to make a change and you do not have your test site to make a quick change. Just pull out your 1-2 pound Chromebook, and make the change to a CSS file or make a Theme design change as the client is telling you what they want to change to look like. It is that simple. Also if it is a graphic change you can simply by either using the software that you have on your desktop through the Remote Desktop, or you can use some of the Photo editing programs that come with the Chromebook. It is becoming more useful in this regard. 

Chromebooks are coming with the Google Play Store which means you can install Android apps. Android has very nice photo editing software and are related software. Some of the programs include PhotoShop Express and Sketchup. I would recommend giving these programs a try along with the Google Photos app. Here are some of the programs and apps that I use on my ChromeBook. I will possibly write additional articles to talk about them, but I wanted to just list them and just mention what is available. 

Miscellaneous

Remote Documentation

Documentation is extremely important for an online business, and when you want to document things either your process or take a quick note there is no better tool than G-Suites and if you can’t afford G-Suites then the free Google Docs is an option.

Google Docs

I use Google Docs. I have used Docs before, but nothing for any serious writing. That is going to change. I have been a Microsoft Office user since Office 97. This past year I have been using Google Docs to write my blog posts and other documents. I have to say that I am very impressed with the improvements that have been made. I use Google Docs to write my proposals, contracts, and different other ideas I may be inspired.

Research Topics

There are features to do what is called Explore. You click on the explore button, and it will pull up information about the topic that you are writing about. And if it doesn’t find anything then you can search the web for a specific topic and the search results will appear in the window to the side of the dock.

Save as You Type

Google docs is also good about saving changes as you type. As you make a change it will save those changes as soon as google detects a break in typing. So you will always have the latest changes, and you want be worried about losing Internet connection or losing your work because of losing power.

Collaboration

Also with Google Docs you have excellent collaboration tools if you have a team to communicate with or if you want a client to review and make changes to a document. The only one that can make changes to the document is the owner of the document, but your team can make suggestions to the document in the form of COMMENTS. Then the comments or suggestions can be either approved or sent back to the other team members with additional comments. All of the changes will be annotated with the team members’ name, so everyone will know who made what changes in the document. This works with Docs, Sheets, and Slides. It is an interesting feature especially if you have a proofreader.

Alternative Writing

With Google Docs you can Translate your document into a foreign language using Google Translate. There are also tools to do Voice Typing, so you can dictate your document. You also can do handwriting if you have a touch screen. I hope you have enjoyed my exploration of using my Chromebook to get work done. Please leave a comment or send me an e-mail if you have any questions.

Google Sheets

I have been using Google Sheets to determine my pricing structures, and to determine how much items I am selling and to predict how many items I need to sale. I use it to provide a snapshot of my business. I include graphs and charts, and with it being part of Google Docs I am able to share and calibrate with others. And I can insert it into a document or slide for a presentation.

Google Slides

Google Slides is great and improving recently. It is used to design slides for presentations. If you haven’t checked it out try it. You will like it I think.

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways to minimize the amount of equipment and work smarter and become productive if you want to reduce your workload and footprint to work. You just have to be creative. And you have to think about your work procedure and how do you already work. Also is there a program that may be used without as many features that you do not need or use. The more features that a software  program has means that it could be more complicated to use. Where as if you have a piece of software that does the minimum that you need to do your job then the more productive your work will be, and the more lean the software budget will be.  

And if you have as much access to the Internet as web developers should then somewhere within your procedure plan of operations there should be a file storage or working online component. I hope this little article has been helpful, and if you find it useful please share it with others and stay tuned to more articles like this one.