Google has recently added support for Linux applications in a container to Gentoo Linux-based Chrome OS, effectively giving users the ability to install open source apps if they so choose.
Linux apps aren’t yet standard on all Chromebooks, and Chrome computers, so you’ll need to enable the features manually. However, when this feature is set up correctly, you’ll be able to install apps with Apt-get (Ubuntu/Debian package manager) and even Flatpaks from Flathub!
Note: the Linux app feature on Chrome OS is a work in progress, and not all Chromebooks support it yet. You may run into issues with sound, drivers, etc. Use these apps at your own risk!
Developer channel on Chrome OS
Before being able to access Linux apps on Chrome OS, it’s important to switch over to the development channel. With the development channel active, it’ll give you the latest updates related to this Linux technology.
WARNING! By switching your Chromebook to the development channel, you’ll be erasing everything currently on it. Files, settings and unsaved information will be deleted. Be sure to save and back up everything before continuing!
To switch to the developer channel on your Chromebook, click on the time menu at the bottom right-hand area of the screen. From there, click on the settings gear icon. Then, select the menu icon. In the menu area of Chrome OS, scroll down and look for “About Chrome OS.” After that, click on “Detailed build information.”
Under the build information for your Chromebook, it’ll display what channel you are currently using. For most consumers, this is going to be the “Stable” channel. To change it to the development one, select “Change channel.” Then, in the options click “dev.”
Upon clicking “dev channel,” your Chromebook will download an update. Let the update download to your Chrome device. When the update is done downloading, you’ll be asked to restart your device. Do so.
As Chrome OS comes back online, you’ll be using the dev channel!
Enable Linux app support
To enable the Linux features on your Chromebook, you’ll need to go back into settings. To get to settings, click on the time menu at the right-hand section of the screen. Then, click the gear icon to access the settings area.
Inside of settings for your Chromebook, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page till you locate the “Linux” menu option, use it to enable the Linux feature on Chrome OS.
Once the Chrome OS Linux feature is set up on your Chromebook, the system will walk you through installing the Linux container. Don’t skip this step! Without the container, it won’t be possible to run Linux apps on Chrome OS!
When Linux app support is fully functional, Chome OS should automatically open up a terminal for you to use. Alternatively, it is possible to launch the terminal by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T on the keyboard.
Enabling Linux app support on Chrome OS means that you’ll be able to install Ubuntu applications through the Apt package manager. However, this isn’t the only form of software that is possible through the Linux container on Chrome OS. In fact, it’s also possible to set it up to install Linux apps via the Flatpak universal Linux packaging format.
To get apps working through Flatpak on Chrome OS, you’ll need to have the Flatpak app installed on Chrome OS. To do this, open up the Chrome terminal with Ctrl + Alt + T. Then, use the Apt package manager to install the Flatpak runtime.
sudo apt-get install flatpak
With the Flatpak runtime installed in your Chrome OS container, it’s time to subscribe your Flatpak system to the Flathub software store. To do this, use the flatpak command below.
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
Install Linux apps on Chrome OS – Apt-get
Installing applications on Chrome OS via the Apt package manager is quite easy, and it works as if you were using Ubuntu. To install an application, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Use the search command to search for a program you’d like to install.
apt-get search program-name
Step 2: Look through the search results and find the name of the package you’d like to install on your Chromebook. Keep in mind that you can install several packages at a time with the same command.
Step 3: Take the name of the package(s) and plug them into the following install command to get the app working.
sudo apt-get install program1 program2 program3
Install Linux apps on Chrome OS – Flatpak
Installing apps via Flatpak on Chrome OS is a little easier than with Apt, as you can use the Flathub website to more easily search for applications to install. To learn how to get apps working on your Chromebook, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Open up the Chrome terminal with Ctrl + Alt + T.
Step 2: Go to Flathub.org, click on “search” and find the program you’d like to install. Then, click on the app icon to go to the app’s page.
Step 3: Copy the terminal command at the bottom of the app page and paste it into the terminal to install your app on Chrome OS!