The Pixel C Challenge, Day 7: Wherefore Art Thou Spellcheck?

This article is part of a 30-day Pixel C Challenge by  Chip Colandreo. Read all the articles from this series here. Pixel C Challenge.

Last week, I took a leap on Leap Day and shelved my Chromebook Pixel in favor of Google’s new Android tablet-cum-laptop, the Pixel C. I promised to use no other laptop/desktop computer for 30 days as I went about my usual business as a magazine publisher. I think I’m going to make it. In fact, I think I’m going to enjoy it. I’m as surprised as you.

That’s not to say the Pixel C is without its flaws. Early reviews of the device could talk about little else, and indeed, going exclusive with the Pixel C has brought its flaws front-and-center into my life. There are many. I’ll talk about some below and in future posts, but I want to make sure we don’t all lose sight of an important point: This experiment is proving to be fun. The fact that it has, so far, been more fun than infuriating says a lot.

The biggest Pixel C annoyance this week hasn’t been the lack of multi-window capability, it’s been the absence of active spellcheck in a few mission-critical spots. I’m talking about the red line which appears under misspelled text as you type. The biggest culprit is Google’s evolved email app, Inbox. Inside the app, active spellcheck works just about everywhere except where I need it the most: the compose window for new messages. I write for a living, so I take all my written communication very seriously, especially the stuff that goes out (usually by email) to colleagues and clients. I’m also a really, REALLY bad speller. I’ve taken to composing emails in another app when I can, and then copy/pasting the text into Inbox. I’ve also started to pay comically close attention to what I type. Maybe it’s not a bad thing.

I’ve seen the same issue pop up in Google+; an obviously misspelled word is staring me in the face, but the OS spellchecker couldn’t care less. Because it’s happening in multiple apps, I have to assume this is an Android bug. The problem exists on my Nexus 5X, too.

Death, taxes, and printer stupidity

I experienced a moment of panic when I realized this 30-day Pixel C experiment was right in the heart of American tax season. I promised myself I would prepare my taxes early this year, but I wasn’t sure the Pixel C was up for the job. I’m not a W-2 employee, so my tax return is more complicated than most. Preparing it requires a lot of research and reference of my business spending during the year. That means a lot of multitasking. Using Alt-Tab on the physical keyboard, I was able to jump between the TurboTax app and my various documents without too much trouble. Could I have done it all a bit faster on my Chromebook? Probably, but I never felt crippled on the C.

That is until I tried to print a handful of reports for my accountant. Printing is a notorious weakness of Chrome OS, so the fact that I was able to print files directly from the Android-powered Pixel C should be a plus, not a complaint. But, as with most printer experiences, the whole thing was a mess. To accomplish a variety of tasks, I’d purchased a USB Type-C adapter made by Satechi that includes Type-A USB ports (more on that adapter and my Pixel C app/homescreen setup in the next post). It took several tries as I plugged/unplugged the printer cable into the adapter, but the OS eventually recognized my printer and prompted me to install the HP printer plugin from the Play Store. I did, and everything seemed fine, but all I could print were blank pages. After about 45 minutes of troubleshooting, I was finally able to print the Google Docs files, but only after selecting “Draft” in the quality settings. Weird. As advertised, the printouts looked like crap, but they did the job. It’s impossible to know if the Pixel C, the adapter, Android, or my printer were causing all the trouble. They’re all likely candidates, though the HP looks most guilty.

At the end of the day, though, I was able to do my taxes entirely on the Pixel C. That’s an accomplishment. Even in previous tax seasons with my Chromebook, I had to fall back to my wife’s iMac to print out my reports. So, this is progress… I guess.

Any questions or requests for the next post? Sound off in the comments below. Thanks for all the great feedback on this series so far!

11 responses

  1. Great write-up, thanks Chip! I’m a writer too, and I’d love to know what app you’re using for most of your writing work and how that’s going on the Pixel C (I’m currently running some horribly old version of MSWord on my ancient Toshiba laptop). And if you have any thoughts on how the lack of trackpad is affecting your writing, I’d be interested to know about that too. Cheers, Jane.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Jane! On the Pixel C, I compose in an app called JotterPad. I want three things (and only three things) from my word processor: the ability to choose a monospace font, the ability to change the size of that font to my liking, and an easily accessible word count. JotterPad does all that and not much else. It has great Material Design, too, and the Dropbox sync is fantastic. I firmly believe MS Word is the work of the devil himself. You’ll like my next post. I plan to break down my writing/editing workflow, which features text-to-speech and everything!

      1. Great, can’t wait! MS Word works for me because I write novels, and I can shift chapters around easily (using their outline view) without a bunch of copying and pasting, which saves me some drama.

  2. Chip,
    in my experience with the pixel C, any sort of research work was hard because the chrome app cannot be put in deskop mode permanently. Additionally, I noticed a lot of stuttering with just 4 or 5 tabs open.
    Maybe you could describe your experiences with web browsing.

    Another great topic would be continuity of work on the pixel. For example how good (or bad) the keyboard can be used in apps. I found its really hard with the pixel. Sometimes you can scroll with the keyboard, but mostly not.

    Keyboard shortcuts would be a great thing, too. They are helpful as one can search for certain characters in chrome like on a desktop OS (ctrl-f)

    1. I would love a default “desktop” option for mobile Chrome on the Pixel C. I spend most of my work time in Google apps, and keyboard integration there is pretty good. Ctrl-F works as expected almost everywhere I’ve tried it.

  3. I would like to know if the C is a combination of Chrome OS and android so that I can shop and use apps from Google Play and still have my beloved Chromebook.

    1. The Pixel C is all Android. Early development was a touch-based Chrome OS, but that was abandoned upstream and Android was shoehorned in at the last minute. The hope is that Android N will provide some much needed tablet-specific functionality, like multiple apps on the screen at once. The for factor was specifically designed for it, with it’s golden ratio screen.

  4. Why not just use Google Cloud Print? Flawless, on any Android.

    1. Printer is old, crappy, and not directly compatible with Cloud Print. I could hook it to the home iMac and Cloud Print via that machine, but that would have forced a break of my Pixel C exclusivity. Which, for the purposes of this experiment, I was not willing to do.

  5. What kind of HP printer is it? It sounds like it might have just been easier for you to use Google Cloud Print

  6. I’ve got the same setup as you (Pixel C with N preview). I don’t use Inbox, but I can report that active spell check works fine in Gmail and Google+ for me (even in compose mode).

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