A bespoke writing experience from the Google’s top of the line notebook
I love to write on Medium. The supplied editor is gorgeous and makes it drop dead easy to produce beautiful articles. Unfortunately, the editor doesn’t do much to help with my atrocious grammar. Without proper grammar, nobody will read my stories. Grammar matters on Medium and rightfully so.
So how can someone like me compete with other writers who are proficient in grammar? I certainly can’t use the Medium built-in editor to compose my articles. I need to look outside Medium for a purpose-built application to help me identify my mistakes and make suggestions for improving my writing. Fortunately there is Grammarly.
Grammarly is an all-purpose writing application with a focus on; you guessed it: grammar. It supports multiple platforms including the web making it ubiquitous. For the best quality user experience, I recommend pairing it with a Chromebook device. Specifically, the Chromebook Pixel from Google. A little more about the Pixel in a moment.
Grammarly is an editor that has built-in Grammar checking. It can do much more than check Grammar (like verify plagiarism) but for my purposes, I use it for Grammar. As you write with Grammarly, it checks your work for mistakes and improvements. It underlines words and sentences that it thinks need work. Clicking on those underlined words and phrases will pop up a window showing why your word or phrase is incorrect and Grammarly’s suggestion for improving it. Accepting Grammarly’s change will automatically adjust your document. If you disagree with Grammarly, you can ignore the error and continue.
The user interface for Grammarly is quite friendly. The writing environment is similar to Medium’s editor, but it is missing a couple of key features that mean that you will still need to complete your work in Medium. Grammarly does not support images, links or text formatting of any kind. It just works with plain text. The suggested workflow for using it with Medium is first to compose your document in Grammarly and then edit it in Medium. This workflow makes sense as most writers write their stories before they send it to their editors.
There is no built-in mechanism to send your stories from Grammarly to Medium. You’ll need to copy and paste them from within the browser. The lack of integration isn’t much of a problem because there is no formatting or images to transfer between Grammarly and Medium because Grammarly is text only.
For a truly first class writing experience, you should take a hard look at the Chromebook Pixel. This $1500 top of the line Chromebook has a few features that make writing much more pleasurable than a MacBook, or iPad.
The Chromebook Pixel has a gorgeous display. One of the best I’ve seen on any computer including the MacBook Pro with its Retina display. It is sharp, handles glare nicely, has vibrant colors and supports touch. You might be wondering why a touch screen would be important to a writer but trust me it is. Grammarly will highlight (underline) words that need to be corrected. When a mistake appears you touch it to fix it. There is no faster way to correct your mistakes. It is an intuitive way to write.
The Chromebook Pixel display uses a 3:2 aspect ratio which favors web pages as it is taller than most notebook displays. That means you scroll less because you can see more text on the screen. The screen is crisp, bright, and text is easy to read. It nearly pops off the screen.
My experience with Chrome OS
I’ve written about Grammarly in previous articles but never in conjunction with my Chromebook Pixel. You see, it has been a couple of years since I’ve booted up my 2013 Chromebook Pixel. I purchased it a few years back to give Chrome OS a whirl and then shelved it after realizing how limiting it is compared to my MacBook Pro. I had no regrets making the purchase; it has an excellent keyboard and a gorgeous display, but Chrome OS was missing the core capabilities that I needed to get work done. So the Pixel ended up collecting dust on my bookshelf while Google engineers continue to improve Chrome OS. Two years later and I’m ready to give the Chromebook another try.
One of the benefits of Chrome OS is that it powers on very quickly — within seconds. Even after sitting on a bookshelf for years it still booted right up. If I try to turn on one of my old MacBook Pros, it will chug along very slowly trying to download a million updates. On the Chromebook Pixel, updates took thirty seconds. It’s fast. The update downloaded in the background over my Gigabit AT&T connection and after a quick restart, I was on the latest version with all of my settings synced up.
Chrome OS is lightweight, but it is also very portable. All of my Chrome browser settings, apps, and extensions from the past two years transferred automatically onto Chrome OS on my Pixel. Within a minute, I had my system running the latest OS and all of my settings in place.
I played around with the new OS for a couple of hours, and my first impression is that it has matured. Google has done a lot to refine the rough edges and add some polish. There are great usability features that bring the OS closer to Mac OS and Windows 10. For example, it now supports multiple browser windows which can be moved around rather than a single window view. The multi-window feature makes it feel more like an operating system and less like a browser. Although I spend a lot of my time in a browser, these days I still like to be able to drag around windows often placing on in front of another.
Chrome extensions are one of the ways you can customize the browser. If you installed a lot of these extensions, you ended up with a lot of silly icons polluting the otherwise streamlined browser interface. With the latest OS, they are moved into a menu which makes things a lot cleaner. Hiding the lesser used user interface behind a menu is one of the many ways that Google has polished the user experience.
One of the recommended Chrome plugins is the one from Grammarly. This plugin will allow you to use its powerful grammar checking in other web pages. Grammarly doesn’t work natively with Medium, unfortunately, but it does work in Google Apps (including Gmail) and a lot of other web applications.
The quality of Chrome Apps has also improved over the years. Microsoft Office, for example, feels a lot like the iPad version which can do much of what the desktop versions can do. Chrome apps now run Android, which means that can do a lot more than the Chrome apps of old. For example, Google Hangouts can be displayed as little bobble-heads representing the currently active chats. These tiny icons can appear on top of other windows. With a unified Material Interface it’s hard to tell the Android apps from the native Chrome apps. The whole thing is melded together quite nicely.
I’m a little excited about using my two-year-old Chromebook Pixel again. This little notebook was way ahead of its time when it launched and now that it has proper software support it’s a great little notebook. In some ways, it is better than the MacBook Pro. It would be interesting to see if specialized jobs like video editing or coding could be done efficiently on a Chromebook Pixel. My guess is no. Not without significant trade offs. Given the direction Google is going with Chrome OS it won’t be long before you can do everything on a Chromebook that you can do on any other notebook.
Chromebook Pixel, Grammarly, and Medium
Writing on Grammarly and then editing and publishing on Medium is a very robust workflow for improving your writing and ultimately your audience. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen my work improve, and Medium’s stats show a healthy increase in views and reads on my articles. I enjoy the intuitive nature of the Chromebook Pixel’s touchscreen and the high quality 3:2 aspect ratio of the screen. That combined with a fantastic keyboard make for a top of the line writing experience. The Chrome OS has come a long way over the past few years so much so that I’ve decided to purchase the newer 2015 Chromebook Pixel. It has a longer battery life and uses the much better USB-C charging port which I’ve standardized on for my Apple MacBook. I don’t have the new Chromebook yet, but when I get it, I’ll review it too.