The Best Programs on Chrome for a Web Developer
So, this summer I was at a coffee shop, furiously hacking away on my client's web site, when I accidently knocked over my quad-shot mocha onto my IBM ThinkPad. I had this laptop since 2004. It was my baby, and now, two weeks into a major project, I had to get another laptop. The problem was, I had spent the majority of the down payment on catching up on bills, so I wanted to make my money stretch. After reading many reviews, I bought an Acer C720 Chomebook. Now, instead of just putting linux on it - I decided I would give this Chrome OS a shot, and that is what led me to discover - the 10 best applications on Chrome OS for a web developer.
Crouton is a little program developed by David Schneider. It is downloaded from https://goo.gl/fd3zc and run from a cosh shell. You can get to it from ChromeOS by pressing [ctrl] [shift] + T. Basically, it's purpose, is to allow a user to install linux inside ChromeOS. While this first step is basically cheating in my mind, because it requires ChromeOS to run in developer mode, which defeats the purpose of having a Chromebook, it is unfortunetly still a requirement for web developers. The reason is that there is no php interpreter (as of Dec 2014) or mysql server that will run natively in Chrome OS.
sFTP is a truly awesome Chrome OS application. While you could just run Filezilla from crouton, or ftp from command line, this is an almost full-featured FTP client that runs natively in ChromeOS. It features browser synchronization, SSH keys, copy and past URLs, keep alive connections, master passwords, and saved sessions. In my humble opinion, this is well worth the $2.99. I love the fact that all I have to do, is sign into a Chrome browser, add my already purchased copy of sFTP, and I have all my client's credentials securely at my fingertips.
Caret is a no nonsense IDE. Well, calling it an IDE may be a little too-kind. I would call it more of a text editor with coding plugins. For someone who usually programs with VIM, this is the closest thing I've found in ChromeOS. It is a free application, and features: syntax highlighting, sublime-compatible key mappings, smart "go-to" functionality, tab memory, find and replace search, and most importantly a hackable json compatible settings file.
Secure Shell is exactly what is says it is, it is a terminal emulator and ssh client. If you manage a lot of VPS', as I do, relying on a bash shell, just isn't going to cut it. At least not in any time efficent manner. Luckily, Secure Shell, offers the ChromeOS user a native client. There are some draw backs with this client. It does not use ssh-agent, and it does not support X11 forwarding.
Google Keep is an often overlooked tool for web development. When I first saw it, I thought, why would Google create another PostIT note program. Well, after seeing two other programmers using it, I decided to ask why they thought it was a helpful program. It turns out, having PostIT notes that are viewable from any browser, viewable offline from your Chromebook, searchable, and able to be formatted, turns into a very robust way to manage all those little bits of information you use to do your job. It's like a wiki, except I just hit the search button on my chromebook, type in, "keep" then search for "how to create a recursive array iterator" and I have a little well-formatted note, with just the information I need to get my code going. For a programmer, this is my zen garden.
Chrome Remote Desktop
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I am a web developer. However, I have to admit, from time to time, I still have to do basic desktop support for some of my clients. In my 20s this was a humbling effort, now it is an accepted part of reality. Before I got my Chromebook, I used to use team viewer to connect to my clients. Now I use Chrome Remote Desktop. While it doesn't have the feature set that team viewer does, it is free to use, and very easy for my clients to understand.
Wunderlist is a web-based task list / project managemnet app. Technically, it is not a native ChromeOS app. However, the ChromeOS app is available offline on my Chromebook, so I have included it on the list. Plus, when working in a team environment, this has been away and by far, my favorite way to get the job done. It works on any platform (iOS, android, Chrome, Linux, Windows and MacOS) it suppoorts list sharing, assigning, due dates ordering and smart lists. Most importantly, it gives me a notification when someone else has completed or edited a task.
Sunrise Calendar & Owl Reminder
While sunrise calendar and owl reminder are two seperate programs, on my Chromebook, they are like peanut butter and jelly. I find Sunrise to be the fastest way to update my Google Calendar. It is very nice looking. It runs offline in ChromeOS. It's search function is very robust. Owl Reminder, on the other hand, gives me a desktop pop-up on my chromebook that keeps me from missing those numerous appointments.
Pixlr Editor & Gimp Rollup
Both of these are web-based image editors. I still haven't decided which one I like better, so I keep them both installed on my Chromebook. While it is true that Photoshop is now available for ChromeOS, I am a web developer and not a web designer. So, it is hard for me to justify the $10/month it costs for Photoshop. Pixlr editor is the easiest to use between the two. If you are a long-time Photoshop user, you will find it the most intuitive. However, GIMP has a lot more features. The reason why it is still a toss-up for me, is that I find GIMP fairly hard to use. The same task on Pixlr, takes me twice as long to do in GIMP.
Some of you might consider Office 365 to be a cop-out. The reason why I put it on here, is because it is still the default office tool for most offices. It displays office documents the most accurately, it shares documents in a way that doesn't confuse my clients. It has the best templates. It may not hook into google scripts, or be able to auto complete a wine list, but when I am working with my clients, they want a document that looks good in Word 2007. Office 365 is that solution, and that is why I use it, and not Google Docs.
Some of you may think I coped out by having 7 out of my 10 web development applications not be for actual web development. And while I would have put Zed, postman, Nitrious IO, Shift Edit, the numerous fiddle programs, and numerous rest clients, even Digital Ocean - they are not efficent for me. Code completion, a local LAMP stack, basic image editing is all I need to get a site built. As of December 2014, ChromeOS can not do it. Web Server for Chrome is a very promising step towards completing that. I have no doubt that within a year, a project with be released similar to WAMP server, and Chromebooks will become a developers best friend. However, in it's current state, you might as well put linux on it. Furthermore, in writing this list, I realized that professional web development is actually 30% writing code and 70% communicating with clients.