This week I added two apps to my Samsung Chromebook — significantly increasing its genealogical functionality. As you probably know, the Chromebook is an Internet portal, not what we traditionally think of as a fully functional laptop computer. It is browser dependent — that is, it runs the Chrome browser and its apps are extensions that run in the Chrome browser. It works as well as my desktop, laptop, and tablets for running online searches. I can easily access FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, GMail, Google+, Evernote, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, SpringPad, Kindle, etc. But, because you cannot install traditional programs (such as RootsMagic, Legacy, The MasterGenealogist, etc.), it has somewhat limited functionality for the on-the-road genealogist. At least that is what I thought before last weekend. Two basic things were missing for me: 1) the ability to run RootsMagic (and Evidentia, GenDetective, Behold, etc.) and 2) a good office suite (LibreOffice is my preferred). The addition of two apps has changed all that. My Chromebook is no longer just a way to do Internet searches; it is now a fully functional genealogy ‘road warrior.’
1) Running RootsMagic (or any other Windows genealogy program)
The sceenshot shows RootsMagic on my Chromebook. The app responsible is Chrome Remote Desktop which links my Chromebook to my desktop. I have used Splashtop (and other remote desktops) on tablets, but none have functioned as seamlessly as the Chrome Remote Desktop. My desktop has dual screens and runs 4 virtual desktops (giving me a total of 8 screens to play with). That functionality is nice when working on my desktop computer. It does seem, however, to create some havoc in other remote desktops I have used. Once connected to my desktop via the Chrome Remote Desktop app, I can easily access all four virtual desktops and either screen.
Once connected to my desktop, I was able to open RootsMagic, go to the file of Aaron B. Knepper (my 2g-grandfather), and view/edit the file (screenshot following). I was not able to tell that I was on a remote desktop. (I am sure that when I am away from home and on a slower internet connection, the speed will be somewhat diminished.)
I have run Windows applications on a Linux operating system both via Virtualbox and Crossover. Those have been satisfactory, but do not compare to running the same Windows applications via Chrome Remote Desktop. Chrome Remote Desktop runs in the Chrome browser in Windows (Vista, 7, 8), Mac (10.6 and above), and Linux. At the present, it does not run on Android devices, IPad, or IPhone.
2) Running LibreOffice (OpenOffice) and other open source programs
I have been using open source office suites exclusively for about 10 years – first OpenOffice; now LibreOffice. With my Chromebook I was limited to Google Docs or Zoho Docs for word processing or developing a speadsheet. (I have chosen not to use Office 365, wishing to avoid Microsoft Office – just a personal preference.) All that changed when I discovered the “rollApp” for Chrome browser. The rollApp website describes, as follows: “rollApp is an online application virtualization platform… [where] anyone can access rollApp server using regular web-browser and launch the converted applications inside a browser. When executed via a browser, rollApp applications behave the same way as locally installed ones.”
Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice suites (Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress) are available, along with other open source applications. The only difference I could see between the two Writer applications was that LibreOffice allowed files to be saved in .docx format, OpenOffice did not. (I am increasingly using the .docx format – smaller size files, compatible across applications.) While rollApp does not have its own cloud storage system, it is fully integrated with both Dropbox and Box. Since I have accounts with both Box and Dropbox, I can easily open and save documents in either place. As I continue to do more and more of my genealogical research using word processor documents and spreadsheets, the Chromebook (along with my Razr HD adroid phone) is becoming my “go to” device for work away from home.
This coming week I head to Salt Lake City for three full days in the Family History Library researching German Church Records. My Chromebook genealogy road warrior will be with me!