Thin Client – Chrome And Skype Is All I Need

I got my new iMac a few days ago after the old one died. This is the first computer I’ve bought in years that I didn’t set up by automatically syncing with the previous computer (since that computer is a brick until I do something about the hard drive).

So, I’ve had to decide what software to actually install on it. Here’s what I have so far, and I can’t think of anything else I really need:

Chrome browser
Skype
Skitch (for image manipulation)

I can’t think of anything else I’ll need to install on this, except maybe the printer software at some point and possibly VLC and a BitTorrent client (uTorrent). I could probably do without Skitch if I had to and use a browser based editor, but I’m used to it and like it.

Things sure have changed, even in the last few years. Office, for example – I absolutely don’t need it for anything anymore. I used to make sure I had at least the student/teacher edition for the occasional spreadsheet. But I haven’t opened Office in the last couple of years.

Anything else I’m forgetting that I’ll probably need at some point?

56 thoughts on “Thin Client – Chrome And Skype Is All I Need

  1. What about music? Spotify?

  2. Dropbox maybe ?
    That’s probably why macs are getting so popular these days, it’s easier to switch when everything happens in the browser.

  3. Office products are terrible on Mac, so it’s good to stay away.

    What about Evernote? You could use the online version, but the Mac version is sleeker.

    Maybe GoToMeeting for meetings, but you could also use iMeet and Meetings.io without installing anything.

    • Bobby says:

      Irina you’re full of crap. Office just sucks period. It sucks on Windows and it sucks on Macs. Bloated piece of Microcrap.

      • Actually PowerPoint 2011 is quite good on the Mac. I occasionally use it for high-fidelity mockups, when Balsamiq just won’t cut it. (Cue Death by PowerPoint jokes now …)

  4. And we’re pretty close to being able to trim even that down! The HTML5 based image editors are compelling but still not as ‘immediate’ feeling as native (the biggest hurdle still to cross, I feel) and Chrome beta has just enabled the getUserMedia API which gets native media sharing into the browser (without Flash) so I imagine there’ll be some leaps there soon, if only Skype gets on board and releases a full on Web client..

    Interesting times, that’s for sure.

  5. Michael Weiksner says:

    Dropbox? Cloud storage and backup is essential.

  6. Khalid says:

    Google Toruqe – it’s a project by Bittorrent that aims to remove the need for a local torrent client entirely. Right now, a Chrome extension will turn your downloads into a regular HTTP download, but it still needs a local Torque.exe file. Coming soon(they say) there will be an entirely web-based version. This is all that’s stopped me switching to a Chromebox as my main machine.

    WebRTC(as I’m sure you’re aware) is in the new beta version of Chrome, which will allow voice and video chat without any plugins at all. It’s coming to Firefox soon, too and again, I’d imagine that you’re aware that Microsoft is recruiting WebRTC folks for a web-based version of Skype, so IE will be supporting that technology, too.

  7. JustinLL says:

    I’d add Evernote, Dropbox, and CoRD.

  8. I realized that more than year ago. We are now cloud generation, and it doesn’t matter on which OS we are working on, since it runs Chrome and a couple of simple apps, like Sitch.

    It’s too soon for Chrome OS, but the idea behind it is absolutely right.

  9. Jason says:

    Dropbox/SugarSync/GDrive/Evernote (just because I need printouts of those airline tickets/car rental reservations/hotel reservations).

  10. I couldn’t agree more. I had been running a win 7 laptop for the past two years as an entrepreneur and had zero need for anything outside of the browser and skype. I don’t even really like skype and would rather just use Google Talk or Hangouts, but most of the world thinks its the only good free video chat.

    Just switched to a Mac Book Air and despite the fact that I can’t stand how task switching works, I have realized that I don’t need much of anything to do my work. It is only what others think I need or organizations who aren’t aware of what is available on the web.

    If you aren’t a designer or programer, you don’t need much more than a browser. Now if only OS’s could do a better job at treating browser windows as separate applications. Only windows does this well.

    • Jake says:

      That’s the thing, I AM a programmer so it annoys me that Windows and OSX seem to be going into a non-programmer direction.

  11. Great article. Just by the way, you should change “it” to “if” in the sentence, “I Could probably do without Skitch it I had to…”

  12. Tom Brander says:

    Just get a Chromebook and use Google chat/ video and voice in place of Skype and you are good to go. And save a ton$$$

    • Nicholai says:

      That’s what I’m doing. Chromebooks are awesome once you spend some time with them, but there are still some problems. I use a chrome extension to remotely control uTorrent off of another desktop in the house, then I use a simple file server program to download it over to the Chromebook to watch, with it’s really loud awesome speakers. They claim their 7.1 somehow. But even so, AVI files jitter, but MP4 files work flawlessly. Theres no method to upload to Google Music (Serious Irony).

      I still switch over to the desktop occasionally is what I’m saying. But rarely, only when one of these problems rears it’s nasty head.

  13. Siddharth says:

    Isnt installing many plugins the new equivalent of installing many software?

  14. simpsonreid says:

    Great article! Cloud-based technology is awesome :) I’m a huge fan of operating lean as well . . .

    As a side note, you may want to change “it” to “if” in the sentence, “I could probably do without Skitch it I had to . . . ”

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. J Washburn says:

    MNMLST?

    Ah yes. This is brilliant. You’re a man after my own heart. (See? http://www.jwashburn.com/2012/04/mnmlst.html)

    I still use iTunes (with my iPhone) though.

    I’d like to start using Google Music, but I feel like it’s not quite there yet (like with audiobook support, for example). But maybe when I switch to a Jellybean phone I’ll get used to it.

    What do you use for you music?

  16. Mark says:

    dropbox, bitcasa

  17. Joseph Smarr says:

    With hangouts you don’t need skype either. ;)

  18. Went through a similar exercise recently and was amazed at how little “find and install” work I needed to do. That said, my winnowed down list ‘o necessary bits that live outside of Chrome:

    Spotify
    iTunes
    DropBox
    EverNote (although you could use the Chrome plugin, the client is nicer)
    Sparrow

    I won’t list dev tools, but the above list is all I need from a general-user-scenario perspective. Insane how it used to take literally a day or more to set up a new PC, now it can be done while eating lunch.

  19. Outside of DAW’s (which most people probably don’t use or need) that list looks pretty complete to me.

  20. Mike, Google already has such a product for you called a Chromebook :P

  21. I still have a heavy-duty desktop that has a ton of software on it like Word, Endnote (both used for my dissertation), trading software (Tradestation), photo software (lightroom & Photoshop) and a few other utilities that I use fairly regularly. This machine is my daily workhorse and I couldn’t live without these apps for the kind of things I do.

    I find myself working in Google Docs more and more. If they (Google) had a real Bibliographic management system, I’d never open need Word or Endnote again. Till that day…I’ll be plunking away inside Word until the dissertation is done.

    That said, my laptop is much more thin. I’m running a Linux laptop with only Chrome, Skype and pidgin. I can’t think of anything else i need on this laptop or you’d need on your iMac.

  22. I still have a heavy-duty desktop that has a ton of software on it like Word, Endnote (both used for my dissertation), trading software (Tradestation), photo software (lightroom & Photoshop) and a few other utilities that I use fairly regularly. This machine is my daily workhorse and I couldn\’t live without these apps for the kind of things I do.

    I find myself working in Google Docs more and more. If they (Google) had a real Bibliographic management system, I\’d never open need Word or Endnote again. Till that day…I\’ll be plunking away inside Word until the dissertation is done.

    That said, my laptop is much more thin. I\’m running a Linux laptop with only Chrome, Skype and pidgin. I can\’t think of anything else i need on this laptop or you\’d need on your iMac.

  23. sorry for the double post ^^

  24. Z says:

    Moom – to easily resize windows, especially if you’re using the 27″ iMac

  25. @Mike – how do you deal with photos? That’s what I primarily wound up using Dropbox for.

  26. Denis Mars says:

    if you bookmark http://meetings.io on your chrome browser, you won’t need skype

  27. I’m a developer and run a business and all I need beyond Mike’s list is:

    Eclipse
    Spotify
    Dropbox
    CrashPlan
    Photoshop instead of Skitch

    I wish I didn’t need an app for spotify
    I wish I didn’t need photoshop
    I wish CrashPlan had sharing as easy as DropBox

  28. I’m waiting for my new Retina MBP to arrive and this is the first time I’m not going to sync with my old laptop. I’ve been syncing for almost a decade but with Dropbox, Evernote and Google Products the need is no longer there.

    It will be nice to have a clean system!

  29. I am using Transmission instead of utorrent. Feels a bit smaller and faster.
    Because I still love Twitter, Twitter for Mac and now Tweetbot Alpha that runs beside the Browser. I don’t like Twitters web interface.

    Coda 2 and Github for Mac because I sometimes have work with code and as a non dev this feels like the best way.

    Other than that I have some helpers installed that aren’t really programs but make my life easier. Dropbox of course. Alfred to do stuff faster. Screens connect to have easy remote access to my MacBook from my iPhone/iPad.

  30. Gus says:

    I totally agree: need to sync and the number of software required is reducing drastically.
    Unfortunately I’m still stuck with Office: at least until Google gets its act together with its Presentation (it needs entrance and exit effects, align/distribute/group objects, a lot of those nice MS arrows and lines. In other words, the stuff that makes a presentation something elegant) and Spreadsheet (this one really sucks. The graphs it produces are something that I could never dare to show to the PA of the PA of my clients. And the inability to run things like regression and correlation analyzes makes it a dead end for anyone looking for something more than very basic 1+1 cells).
    The day someone at Google understands corporate needs as Microsoft do and design/elegance as Apple do, they will become the greatest company that has ever existed. Until then, I carry my Android smart phone, use MS on my MacBook Pro, send email from my Gmail account on my iPad, etc.
    And I hate having to sleep with three masters at the same time.

    • TechPro says:

      “The day someone at Google understands corporate needs as Microsoft do and design/elegance as Apple do, they will become the greatest company that has ever existed”

      Gus, I also totally agree with you. As an IT Consultant that has implemented Google Apps (and other services) in several corporations, I sometimes feel that Google developers live in their “Own Little World”…

  31. Anas Hashmi says:

    7zip, VLC, notepad++, filezilla, foxit for pdfs

    If you like to transfer files using your network between computers, see if you can use SMB on a mac. It is how I transfer everything in my home on computers.

    I am not a mac user and will never be, so I won’t understand why you prefer to use preinstalled software, but the stuff I recommended is just the bare minimum alternates that you should prefer to mac stuff.

  32. Magnus L Andersson says:

    Sparrow, awsome, makes a huge difference when it comes to productivity

    • Michael Arrington says:

      I’ve never gotten Sparrow to work, seem to choke on my inbox.

      • Magnus L Andersson says:

        ok if you are using GMAIL and have keyboard shortcuts enabled try * then a then e in your inbox, it should do the trick ;-)

  33. Dave Mackey says:

    Hmmm…I do powerpoint presentations and I haven’t found a suitable replacement for that yet, other than OpenOffice.

  34. aaronghirardelli says:

    Try http://put.io and you will not even need uTorrent and VLC!

  35. puja108 says:

    So why do you need an iMac?

  36. Tom D. H. says:

    Doesn’t this beg the question, “why get a Mac?”

    What do you get for the additional 20% over the price of an ultrabook?

    Chrome and Skype are essential. Other nice add-ons? Teleport Extender to manage and respond to phone’s text messages from laptop. Drive, Dropbox and Evernote (again, sharing data between laptop and phone) and Avast as defacto standard. I’d throw in Gadgettrak for good luck (just in case someone nabs your device).

  37. Diablo 3, battlefield, mass effect, guild wars is coming soon, dude so many options!

  38. June says:

    Another vote for Evernote and Spotify.

  39. Assaf Lavie says:

    What do you when you get an occasional Excel spreadsheet that’s just too complex for Google Docs? I just kept getting those until I bought Excel…

  40. I went 3 whole weeks not using a desktop app except my browser and skype.

    Occasionally, I really need Excel. Sorry, but true. Excel really rocks for some things.

    But not much else. The cloud has arrived.

  41. Dan G says:

    on my Verizon Nexus, I’m mostly on the stock browser. Google Maps and Gmail are the other apps I use. Aside from those, the other apps are rarely used.

  42. Mike says:

    I feel like a lot of the browser HTML5 apps are becoming thick clients. Another possible analogy would be that your iMac -> OSX(+BSD) -> Chrome would compare to Nexus -> Linux -> Android. It’s tough to call all these increasingly stateful HTML5 apps “Thin” anymore. That said, I understand your choice of words wasn’t intended to be that literal.

  43. kOoLiNu says:

    Just out of curiosity … are you still using the 2.* family of Skype client or have you gotten accoustomed to the (awful, IMHO) Skype 5.* interface?

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