Chrome OS comes with a Linux distribution, and this Linux is based on Debian 11 Bullseye as of February 2022. You can activate it on most Chrome OS devices via the system settings. Then it runs in a kind of virtual machine in a container.
“Linux mode” is not a technical term, but I can’t get out of the habit of it. It just sounds right to me. 😉
Should you use it?
I’m afraid I’ll have to answer you on that one: it depends. 🙂
Depending on your prior knowledge, it’s more or less advisable to use Linux on Chrome OS.
Although I provide a lot of content for beginners and advanced computer users for that, also, you may not be able to get on alone in a problem situation. If you are a bit more advanced, you might be able to help yourself with an Internet search for the issue or a YouTube video. Because using Linux is anything but trivial. If you’re a computer pro, you might just smile wearily and get the hang of it quickly.
For what should you use it?
Whenever there is a Web version of your App, I recommend that you prefer it over the other versions.
However, this is not a must! Do you prefer to use the Play Store and Android apps, like on your smartphone? No problem! The Apps can be installed on Chromebooks just as easily as there.
If no Web or Android version of your program is available on Chrome OS, or you prefer not to use both, you have the option of using Linux apps in Chrome OS’s Linux mode. That gives you numerous Linux apps at your disposal. Mostly open source and free, but there’s also highly professional commercial software.
For example, many people want to use LibreOffice on a Chromebook as well. That’s possible! I described here how you could install it: Link. In my opinion, even beginners try to do that, more precisely, regular users who otherwise use simple Apps, surf the Web, and consume multimedia. As mentioned above, you can quickly run into a problem and not know how to solve it as such a person. I don’t want to stop you, but point it out to you!
To the advanced and pros: Google used to refer to Linux mode as Linux (Beta). When the beta phase ended, it became Linux for “developers.” That’s how it’s displayed in the system settings. You can, of course, use Linux mode as a non-developer, but the whole thing puts off normal users a bit. Don’t you think so?
How to activate the Linux mode?
I have described how to activate the Linux mode in this post: Link.
It’s easy, as you can get there without any previous knowledge by continuously confirming “Next.”
How to continue?
Professionals and some advanced users know what to do with the Terminal right away and start the first commands to install the software they need. Or they download Debian packages to their Chromebook to install them on their system by double-clicking in Files.
Beginners and normal users probably want to stay away from this. However, I have described a guide on installing a graphical app store. Once this is installed on your system, you can update your Linux via it and install software from a catalog with a click. That sounds better, doesn’t it? 😉 Part 1 of the guide describes the Gnome Software Center, which I actually prefer because you can install additional packages, such as the language files of LibreOffice, via the “Packages” component without a Terminal. Part 2 describes KDE Discover.
A powerful file manager is also very helpful. Here is my guide to Double Commander: Link.
If you right-click folders in the Files app and share them with Linux, they are visible under “/mnt/chromeos” in the Linux mode. That provides Linux applications access to folders from the core of Chrome OS, and the Files app is allowed to access both file systems.
That gives you all the hand tools you need to turn the Linux mode of Chrome OS on your Chromebook into a powerful software environment.
Check out the menu above for more Linux Mode links and other helpful content.
As always, you can learn more about Chrome OS and its Apps on the blog.
Words in italics may be registered trademarks or companies! Examples: Google, YouTube, and Android. Or they are technical terms from the IT world, which are described in various locations in the blog.