When Chrome launched their web store earlier today, the main question on a lot of minds was: “How are these apps any different from bookmarks?” Here’s a look at five of our favourite exclusive apps for Chrome that stand out.
To be honest, there’s a lot in the Chrome web store that is underwhelming, essentially being links to popular web apps. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though — it does still provide a place for you to search out and find good webapps for what you need, and many of today’s webapps are pretty fantastic thanks to new technologies like HTML5. Once you find them, however, you’re left with something pretty similar to a custom start page from the likes of myfav.es. If you’re looking for the Chrome web store to provide something that isn’t already in your bookmarks bar, these five apps are sure to impress.
Note that while these dedicated apps have the ability to do more than a standard HTML5 app, it’s hard to tell when looking at these apps which features actually fall into that category. In theory, the developers of these apps could have just released them as a normal webapp, but they didn’t. At any rate, the point is moot right now because these five apps are only available in the Chrome web store—and they’re all definitely worth checking out.
If you use Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare or Google Buzz, you probably use a native social networking client like TweetDeck. The TweetDeck team wrote the Chrome app entirely from scratch, bringing the awesome features you’re used to from native clients to your Chrome window: Inline image previews, drag and drop organisation, and a remarkably slick and smooth interface make it pretty neat. It isn’t as fully featured as the desktop client just yet, but the developers noted that they’ll be implementing new features in “ChromeDeck” first, so it’s going to be pretty cutting edge once it ramps up — and we’re excited to see where it goes.
Aviary is like Photoshop in your web browser, and it’s capabilities are almost mind-blowing. If you need any proof, just watch a cat get unzipped in the video above. While it’s certainly not as feature-rich and seamless as a desktop option, the fact that it is usable and surprisingly responsive makes it an option for actually doing real graphic work, colour correction for your photos, and other common jobs you’d handle in Photoshop — but directly from your web browser. Aviary supports layers, blending modes, a variety of fonts, and even popular filters like blur, sharpen, emboss and more. The downside comes in the form of keyboard shortcuts, which are mostly absent. It’s not a tool you’ll be able to use as quickly as your favourite desktop imagining application, but you can use it to do most of your graphic work from just about anywhere.
For creating vector graphics, Aviary also offers a free vector editor. You can also get a dumbed-down HTML5 image editor and a variety of other imaging webapps. As an alternative, Picasa and Flickr users might appreciate Picnik as an alternative. While it’s not as feature-rich as Aviary, it provides common photo editing functions and integrates nicely with photo sharing sites.
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SlideRocket is billed as your online replacement to PowerPoint, and although the interface, at times, has a few more clicks than it may need it’s pretty impressive overall. It’s not just capable of making presentations, but adding rich media and functioning just as well as a desktop app. Anything you add to a slide can be quickly dragged around and adjusted. Common settings are easily accessed from an inspector panel right in the app. SlideRocket lets you start from a selection of a few basic templates or import a PowerPoint presentation you’ve already started. When you’re all done, SlideRocket lets you share your presentations by playing them in the app, exporting a portable version for Windows or Mac, or exporting to either PowerPoint or PDF format. A 15MB account is free, but SlideRocket offers more space and functionality for paid users as well.
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We love distraction-free writing tools here at Lifehacker, and while there are a lot of good apps (and hacks) out there for native distraction-free writing, Write Space does a pretty good job of bringing those features into the cloud with their Chrome app. It’s completely self-contained, so it works offline, saves data locally, and constantly backs up your work. It’s also pretty customisable, letting you change the font, background and other window traits. And, of course, you can make Chrome go full-screen for a truly distraction-free experience. You can even set it to do so whenever you launch it, which is convenient. There are certainly a few things we’d like to see in it (like exporting), but it’s a great example of an app-like experience within Chrome.
New York Times
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While we’d prefer it to be a multi-publication web app (Flipreader for Chrome, anybody?) or at less an RSS reader, the New York Times put together a pretty fancy web app for Chrome. If you’re an avid fan of the Times, this is a really excellent way to get your news. The interface is both simple and attractive, making it really easy to navigate through the top stories in various sections of the New York Times. If you’re not satisfied with the default look, the webapp includes a number of themes to choose from. Overall it’s a good way to read the New York Times, but is better served as an example of what other news-centric apps should aspire to be when they make their debuts in the Chrome Web Store.