Chromebooks started out as inexpensive laptops that ran a little more than a version of the Chrome web browser. These days, though, you can get a surprising amount done on a Chromebook without being connected to a Wi-Fi network, or mobile data.

In this article we'll explain what sorts of things you can achieve on your Chromebook when it’s offline.

Will all Chromebook apps work offline?

No. The nature of web-based apps and services means that quite a lot of Chromebook apps will not work without an internet connection. The good news is that many of Google’s own apps (which are arguably some of the best and most useful on ChromeOS) do have offline capabilities. Of course, these will need to be set up while connected to the web, but after that you’ll be able to use them anywhere.

To see which apps you can use without a connection, open their page on the Chrome Web Store and you should see Runs offline listed next to the developer’s name.

How to use a Chromebook offline: Checking apps work offline

1. Use Gmail offline on a Chromebook

While you won’t be able to send or receive any emails when offline, you can still read your existing ones and create replies which will then be sent once you have a network connection.

To enable this, open Chrome and go to mail.google.com or click the Gmail app icon which does the same thing. When on the page and logged into your account, click the cog icon to open Settings then select See all settings.

Along the top of the page you’ll see various headings, including General, Labels and Inbox. At the end of that line should be Offline. Select that and then tick the box to Enable offline email.

How to use a Chromebook offline: Use Gmail offline

Now, you’ll be able to access your email even if you’re not connected to the web.

2. Use Google Docs, Sheets and Slides offline on a Chromebook

Google’s office suite is available offline if you set up the feature in Google Drive. To do this, open Google Drive on your Chromebook and click the Settings (cog) icon. Select Settings then scroll down through the options that appear in the pop-up window until you see the Offline heading. Lastly, click the tickbox marked Create, open and edit your recent Google Docs, Sheets and Slides files on this device while offline and click Done to complete the process.

How to use a Chromebook offline: Google Drive

Now, when offline, you can work on existing documents by opening the Files app, selecting the Google Drive section from the left-hand column, clicking Offline, then opening your file.

If you want to start a new file, then you can do so in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides and the files will sync up when you’re online once more.  

3. Use Google Keep offline on a Chromebook

New notes can be created in Google Keep when you’re offline, plus you can also work on existing ones if you’ve synced them up. To do the latter, simply open the Google Keep app when connected to the internet, then wait a minute or two for the files to sync. Then, you will be able to edit them offline and have the changes applied the next time you go online.

4. Watch movies offline on a Chromebook

If your Chromebook supports Android apps (you’ll know because it will have the Google Play Store installed), then you should be able to download Netflix, Android Prime, Disney+ or any of the other streaming and entertainment apps. So long as you have an active subscription to the service, you should be able to download various shows or movies and watch them on your Chromebook when you’re offline.

These are just some of the things you can do offline with a Chromebook. Be sure to investigate the Chrome Web Store and Google Play Store for plenty of other apps, such as games, music and photo editing, that will make your ChromeOS laptop more useful when you venture far from the reach of a Wi-Fi network.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your device to one with more onboard storage or a faster processor to take full advantage of the offline capabilities, then take a look at our best Chromebook chart for the pick of the current bunch.