“Is Chromebook Linux?”
“Can you run Linux apps on Chromebook?”
“How do I know if my Chromebook can run Linux?”
These are most of the common questions we hear regarding Linux compatibility in Chrome OS. There’s still a lot of things we don’t know about Chromebooks. Fortunately, we’re here to share some knowledge. For starters, let’s answer the questions above:
- Chrome OS is a watered-down Linux OS (details later).
- There are a handful of apps that work with Chromebooks (listed below).
- You have Linux (Beta) support if your Chromebook is 2019 or newer. For those using older Chromebooks, you can refer to this list to check if your device is capable of running Linux.
Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to learn more about what Linux can do for Chromebook users.
Is Chromebook Linux?
While Chrome OS is built on Gentoo Linux OS, it’s still technically not Linux, per se. There are still some limitations when it comes to full Linux compatibility. The good news is Google is already on the job and their Beta version has been stable so far.
If you’re thinking about using Linux on Chromebook, take note of the following limitations:
- Cameras are not yet supported
- Android devices are supported over USB, while other devices are still yet to be supported
- Android emulators are not yet supported
- Hardware acceleration is not yet supported (sorry, gamers)
From the looks of it, using Linux doesn’t sound that appealing, right? However, the beauty of Chrome OS with Linux support is you can experience the best of both worlds with no major drawbacks.
Why would you use Chromebook Linux?
If you’re a casual user and you’re more than happy having your Chrome browser do all the heavy lifting, then you don’t need Linux. However, if you’re like me and you want to make sure you get your money’s worth, then it doesn’t hurt to flip that switch to enable Linux.
Here are some of the reasons you should consider Linux apps:
If you prefer to edit your documents offline
The problem with web-based word processing programs is their reliance on the internet to sync your files to the cloud. When this feature is readily available, it’s amazing. However, all these conveniences go away once you lose internet connection.
This is where offline productivity apps can save your behind. An app like LibreOffice is capable of doing all these without the need to be connected. Is it good enough to be your main productivity suite? No, not really. But it’s a nice option to have if you lose internet access.
If you regularly edit photos and videos on your laptop
Even the best photo and video-editing apps for Android and Chrome OS are pale in comparison when compared to their Linux-based counterparts.
For your photo-editing needs, we recommend GIMP for Linux, as it has the features you would expect from Photoshop. For video-editing needs, you can use your Chromebook to run Kdenlive for Linux, or OpenShot if you want a simpler user interface.
Also see: 5 Best Free Video Editors for Chromebook
If you are an aspiring developer with a limited budget
I know what you’re thinking, is Chromebook Linux good enough for developer tools? Let’s put it this way: If you can run integrated development tools such as Python, C++, Java, and more without spending a fortune, then you can already consider it as a win.
Don’t get me wrong, having a powerful computer can make things a lot easier for you. However, if you are on a very limited budget, then you’re better off with a Chromebook than a Windows laptop.
Also see: How to Download Apps on Chromebook
Linux Apps Compatible with Chromebooks
What holds a lot of people back when it comes to buying Chromebooks is the limited usability. There are no compelling desktop apps to download – until today. Thanks to native Linux support, you will now have more options to download and use at your disposal.
Here are some of the Linux apps that caught our attention:
Mozilla Firefox – A different browsing experience
If you’ve been around the internet for a while, then you’ve heard of Mozilla Firefox. This browser has been a staple amongst Linux users because of how lightweight and reliable it is. It may not have the versatility of Chrome, but if all you need is web browsing, then you can expect a smoother operation.
Slack – Everyone’s favorite work messenger
Slack is a messaging app that doesn’t need any introductions. If you have engaged in work-from-home arrangements, then Slack isn’t a stranger to you. Is Chromebook Linux capable of running Slack? Oh yes, and it runs buttery smooth in our experience. If you’re still hesitating on buying a Chromebook, hopefully, this would sway you in the right direction.
Audacity – A simple, yet versatile digital audio workstation (DAW)
Audacity is one of the best entry-level DAWs for Linux and Windows users. Thanks to Google’s recent update, Chromebook users can finally have access to it! If you need to edit anything audio-related, this tool can help you without breaking a sweat.
Also see: 5 Best Audio Recorders for Chromebook
LibreOffice – your favorite office suite now available offline
Nothing beats the convenience of being able to use office suite apps while being offline. With LibreOffice suite, you can take your creations with you wherever you go – regardless of internet connection. Oh, and have we mentioned that it’s free?
Kdenlive – an amazing open-source video-editing tool
If you’re serious about video editing using your Chromebook as your main device, then we highly recommend Kdenlive – a free, open-source video editor! This powerful video editor is being constantly updated (recent patch: 20.12.3 released on 03/08/21) so users can expect general improvements regularly.
Is Chromebook Linux going to change the way we use your devices? Should you add extra functionality just because you can? Well, the answer lies in your use case. If you use your laptop merely for entertainment purposes, we don’t see the need to do so.
If you see yourself doing more than leisure on your Chromebook, we highly recommend enabling Linux on your device. Having Linux apps on your laptop can become a game-changer, especially for productive individuals. Because at the end of the day, having more functionality for the same price you paid for is always a welcome addition.
Recommended reads for Chromebook newbies: