We started on Command line to explore new, unexplored ways to use Linux apps on Chrome OS. During our journey, we discover a lot of great tools and methods to bring powerful and versatile tools to your Chromebook, but alas, Project Crostini is still missing an essential tool that would make it a viable option for consumers in general. An app store.
Chrome OS has the Chrome Web Store, Android apps get the Google Play Store, and the majority of users are familiar with these stores. With Linux applications you need to know or learn a bit about navigating the Linux terminal and for most users who have lived within the confines of consumer operating systems it can be a bit intimidating. I firmly believe that if Google does, having a pre-installed Linux app store on Chrome OS would help onboard many users. Consumers want a user interface. Consumers love familiarity. Consumers want to click a button to open an App Store and install apps with one click.
Until then, I want to help people get the most out of their Chromebooks, and Linux apps bring a lot to the table. As we’ve demonstrated in previous articles, using Linux apps on Chrome OS can deliver features that were previously not possible on a Chromebook. So I’m always looking for new ways to make it easier for the average user to find, install and use these apps. No, I am not a Linux assistant. Far from it, but I’m a DIY enthusiast and happy to try things that many users just aren’t willing to try in the hopes of demystifying things a bit.
Having said that, I have discovered another method where you can add a clean and fairly convenient Linux App Store to your Chromebook that will allow you to find and install new apps with just one click. Our first look at a Linux App Store for Chromebooks came in the form of the Gnome Software Center. While this is always an option, I really like the look of this software so I thought I’d share. I stumbled across the “Discover” software center a few weeks ago when we made a video showing how to install a full Linux desktop environment on a Chromebook. The environment, KDE, comes with a prepackaged software center named Discover. The actual name of the package is Plasma Discover and I have “discovered” that you can install it as a standalone application on Debian Buster.
KDE Discover contains hundreds of useful utilities, productivity apps, audio / video tools, and even games. If you’ve used the Gnome Software Center, it will look quite familiar. You can search by name or filter by app type and sort your results by name, rating, size, or release date. Once you have found the app you want, a single click on the “install” button will start and you can follow the progress at the bottom left of the Discover app. To install the KDE Discover Software Center, you need to make sure that your Chromebook is prepared and ready for Linux applications. You can find these simple steps here. Once you are up to date, you can install Discover by entering the command below in the Linux terminal.
sudo apt install plasma-discover
The installation will take a few minutes, but once complete, you should find the “Discover” desktop icon in your app launcher next to all of your other apps. If you don’t know where to look, it will be in the Linux applications folder that Crostini created when you activated the Linux applications. Click on the Discover icon and your software store will launch. If you don’t see any apps, don’t panic. The store will take a few minutes to update all available packages. Just close the store and wait a bit. If you still don’t see any apps, restart your Chromebook, but I’ve found that waiting around five minutes will do the trick.
Now, before you install any apps and come back here to give me a lick, you should be aware that the apps you install are at the mercy of Crostini’s capabilities. Some Linux apps just don’t work on Chrome OS due to missing dependencies or because it’s not a full Linux distro and running in a container. Still, a good majority of these apps will install and work as they should. Popular apps like GIMP, Inkscape, Blender and many more can be installed directly from Discover without ever having to touch the terminal. I sincerely hope this could be the boost many users need to get to grips with Linux apps on Chrome OS while they wait to see if Google produces a proper app store. Until then, I’ll continue to tinker, and as always, I welcome your requests for help using Linux apps on your Chromebook. Drop me a line and we’ll figure it out.