In Short

Apps and third party programs are a must-have for any device. Many of the things we do every day on our phone or tablet or computer didn't come with the operating system and we had to install something else to do what we like. Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are no different. They're very good at what they do with the factory software — you can easily and safely get online, create and edit all the documents you need and even seamlessly manage your photo library using Google Drive storage. But maybe the most important feature in the out-of-the-box software is the access to an app store.

Chrome is a popular browser for most desktop operating systems, but it's also an application platform in its own right. We see that on our Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. There is support for graphics engines, managing your files, multiple input methods, and support for external hardware like a webcam or a headset. And there are plenty of apps that take advantage of it all!

Chrome apps are divided into two categories — actual apps and extensions. They're built differently, but for us, as users, the important difference is how they are run. Extensions are active in the browser and do things like monitor scripts for malware, check our spelling as we type or tell us when we get an instant message. they usually don't have to be individually started, and just work without much attention from us.

Apps are a little different. They live in an actual application menu, and you can go in and start one up when you need it. They usually run in their own window and are separate from the other things we're doing but can still connect to and use the services from Google that we like. Chrome OS powers both kinds, and at the very core, they have access to mostly the same things from the hardware or our Google account. You'll find both types in the Chrome Web Store. Everything you see will work on your particular device, and installing is as easy as clicking a button.

Recent Chromebooks (support for Chromeboxes is on the way, too) also have access to the Google Play store for Android. Android actually runs alongside Chrome with little to no impact on performance and support for most every Android app in Google Play is provided through the same storefront you may be used to seeing on your phone. As of the summer of 2016 things are still in beta on the Android for Chrome front, but things are progressing rapidly and initial reports are overwhelmingly positive.

With multiple ways to get the apps we want to use, a Chromebook or Chromebox might be the best computer for you!