I ordered a Chromebook — first impressions

I’m not sure what it was that really triggered things but I ordered a Chromebook last night1. I’ve wanted a lighter laptop for a while. My main (well, only) personal computer is a 15” MacBook Pro. I’ve had it for about three years now. It’s portable. I’ve traveled with it. I’ve used it to write in coffee shops.

It’s not super portable, though. I think twice before taking it anywhere. I have the same laptop at work and have brought both to travel before. That was a little ridiculous to carry in a backpack.

I’m thinking a Chromebook will feel better. The MacBook feels big sitting on an airplane tray. I was thinking right now that anything that might help me establish a writing routine will be worth the investment. Also I had some Amazon credit2.

Anything to help me focus3. This goal to write 100 somewhat-daily posts is becoming more serious as I’m starting to get a little bit of momentum.

One of the biggest distractions when putting posts together is the urge to tinker with the blog. As in writing HTML/CSS. It’s a pretty modern distraction for writing. It wasn’t like you could alt+tab over in your typewriter to go adjust the final book binding and presentation.

Having separate computers for writing and for editing/polishing and doing HTML/CSS things might be overkill. But I think it’s worth a shot. That’s why I ordered a Chromebook.

First impressions after about 15 minutes of use4

  • I like it. I think it’s going to be exactly what I wanted it to be: a writing machine. Which happens to be what I want to become.

  • Happy to see that developer tools work and I can do some JavaScript in the console. I’m not sure why I thought it might not work.

  • I don’t have plans to load Linux on this or anything. I can see why it might eventually be tempting/helpful for when want to make some HTML/CSS updates and finish off posts5.

  • On the other side, I’ll have the itch to figure out how I can do some development straight in ChromeOS. I think that will involve either a web IDE like Cloud9, SSHing into a server, or using remote desktop in some way. On the plus side, this blog runs on Jekyll so it might be somewhat straightforward.

  • The first thing I’ll need to get used to is keyboard shortcuts. Just need to remember they’re closer to Windows shortcuts and there’s no Command key.

  • The thing I’m missing a lot already is Ctrl+K, Ctrl+A, and Ctrl+E for deleting the rest of a line, going to the beginning of the line, and going to the end of the line. With a quick search I can see that there are some shortcuts with the Chromebook’s ‘search’ key that will let me select to end and things like that. I think I can get used to it eventually.

  • The keyboard feels good physically. I don’t think it’s hampering my typing speed at all.

  • The microphone works well enough for dictation to work in Google Docs. Also, if you haven’t tried dictation in Google Docs, you should. It’s incredibly accurate.

  • I read that it has good build quality. It does feel like it’s durable but I think that has more to do with it being plastic. However, I’m very used to MacBook build quality and it can’t compare. It’s an unfair comparison that I was making.

  • 11” screen is totally fine. It’s not like I write in a full window with full line lengths. And the browser can go full-screen so it’s plenty of space for what I need. We’ll see how that goes beyond 15 minute impressions. I’m excited to use this thing.

  • The shortcut for an em dash is to press ctrl+shift+U then typing 2014 and pressing the spacebar. You’ll see fewer em dashes from me, starting right about now.

It’s been a joy to use so far. I’m slowly building out a list of posts I plan to write and when I’ll post them. I won’t go as far as calling it an editorial calendar yet. This post is quick impressions, I’ll write something with one-week impressions, and then something for one-month impressions.

Oh yeah, it’s an Acer Chromebook 11.

  1. I ordered using Prime Now, so I actually got it this morning. I had to buy a gift certificate with awards points. Something about Prime Now that I’m not sure how it works is tipping. There’s a note that says the delivery people don’t know who tips are from or what amount. Maybe they get a bulk payment every paycheck? This seems like a test and that I’m failing and am a bad human being. Is the point of tipping to let them know you, specifically you, appreciated it or is it like charity where some think it means less if announced to the world. Anyway, I’m tipping $5. I noticed the suggested tip is higher than my last Prime Now order because the price is higher. But I mean. It weighs two pounds. I’m buying this thing specifically for its lightness. I’d tip more for a $40 grocery order.

  2. Which isn’t a really valid point about anything at all because you can buy just about anything on Amazon. It’s not like it’s a Starbucks card and I’m saying I made it a venti since I had the credit lying around.

  3. Aka anything to have a new gadget to play with.

  4. With images added way after 15 minutes of use

  5. There would be the added step of having to restart and boot into Linux to do that. Which would be good for separating writing and tinkering.