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How to install Linux apps on your Chromebook

Push your Chromebook to its limit with the power of Linux apps.
By
May 2, 2022

Thanks to Linux support on Chromebooks, the Play Store isn’t the only place you can use to download apps. Many Chrome OS devices can run Linux apps, which makes them all that more valuable.

Installing a Linux app isn’t as simple as installing an Android app, although the process isn’t complicated once you get the hang of it. The good news is that when done correctly, you’ll feel like a computer whiz since there’s a bit of code involved.

Here: What is a Chromebook and what can it do?

QUICK ANSWER

To install Linux apps on a Chromebook, make sure your Chromebook is running Chrome OS 69 or newer. Open Settings -> Advanced -> Developers and click Turn on next to the Linux developer environment tab. Follow the instructions, and enter the relevant commands in the Linux terminal that pops up.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

Check your Chrome OS version, and update

Lenovo Duet desktop
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The first step is to check your Chrome OS version to see if your Chromebook supports Linux apps.

  • Open the Settings app.
  • In the left navigation pane, select the About Chrome OS option. 
  • Check your Chrome OS version in the right pane, under Google Chrome OS.
  • If it is lower than version 69, click on the Check for updates button to the right of the version information.
  • Wait for the update to download and complete, and restart the Chromebook when prompted.
Chromebook check for updates
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

If you’re running Chrome OS 69 or later, you can download Linux apps. If not, you’re out of luck. However, if updating the Chromebook gets you to a newer version, you should be good to go. Alternatively, you can check our list of Chromebooks that support Linux apps.

Enable Linux on Chromebook

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 tablet mode
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Now that you’ve figured out that your Chromebook supports Linux apps, the next step is to enable Linux on your machine. It’s easy to do and won’t take a lot of time overall, although this depends on how fast your internet speed is and the power of your Chromebook.

Open the Settings on your Chromebook. In the left navigation pane, click the Advanced button. It will expand into a drop-down. Click Developers.

Chromebook Developer settings
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

There will be a tab in the right pane that says Linux development environment. Click the Turn on button next to it.

The Linux installation window will pop up. Click Next. Select your preferred disk size, and click Install.

Chromebook Linux disk size
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Once the download completes, a terminal window will open. You can use this window to download Linux apps, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Read next: The best Chromebook deals you can get right now

How to download Linux apps on Chromebooks

Asus Chromebook Flip C436 review right edge close up
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. But before we get into exactly how to download Linux apps on Chromebooks, there’s one more thing to do. To make sure everything runs smoothly, you have to update your packages by entering the command below into the terminal window. Hit Enter after you type/paste it in.

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade -y

Chromebook Linux terminal update
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Once that’s done, you can start downloading Linux apps on your device. There are two ways to go about this.

More: Deleting Chromebook apps

Installing Linux apps via Terminal

To do so, you have to use the command sudo apt-get install app name -y, in which you change the “app name” part with the actual name of the app. For example, if you want to download the popular image editor called Gimp, you would use the following command. Enter it in the Terminal, and press the Enter key.

sudo apt-get install gimp -y

Many text lines will appear in the Terminal as the download and installation progress.

Linux app download progress Terminal Chromebook
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

When the installation is finished, the Terminal will be idle, letting you type in commands again. You can then search for the installed app in Chromebook search to open it.

Linux app downloaded and open terminal Chromebook
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

To ensure you’re installing the right apps, you may need to look up the app name commands needed for the apps of your choice on a case-by-case basis.

More: Set up VPN on a Chromebook

Installing Linux apps using the .deb file

This is a bit simpler. You can download the .deb Linux installer files directly from the internet for some apps, like Minecraft. Once downloaded, find it in your Downloads folder and copy the file by pressing Ctrl + C or right-click and Copy.

Open the Linux files folder from the left navigation pane and paste it into the folder. Double-click the file to run.

Chromenook Linux Files folder
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

The installation window will appear. Click Install. It’ll take a few seconds, and the installation will finish. Click OK to close the window.

Chromebook Minecraft install
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

The best Linux apps for Chromebooks

Asus Chromebook Flip C436 review front profile
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

In addition to the already mentioned Gimp, several other great Linux apps are available to download. We’ll let you discover them on your own, but to get you started and give you a little taste of what to expect, we’ve listed a few popular Linux apps below and commands you can use to download them. Like the update command in the last section, all you have to do is enter these commands into the terminal, press Enter, and follow any instructions.

LibreOffice: An alternative to Microsoft Word, LibreOffice includes a word processor, a spreadsheet program, and a presentation tool, among other things.

sudo apt install libreoffice libreoffice-gtk3 -y

Transmission: This is a free BitTorrent client that allows you to download and upload files easily.

sudo apt-get install transmission-qt -y

FileZilla: If you want to move files from your device to a server, an app like FileZilla makes the process faster.

sudo apt-get install filezilla -y

Evolution: If you want to use a desktop mail client instead of a web-based one, the Evolution Linux app is for you.

sudo apt-get install evolution -y

Audacity: This advanced audio editor and recorder comes in handy when playing around with various audio files.

sudo apt-get install audacity -y


Related: The best Android apps for Chromebooks