The entire Crostini (Linux apps on Chromebooks) effort has moved along quite quickly when you think about it. In just 6 short months, we’ve gone from not having an official option for Linux apps (though Crouton is and was an amazing effort) to seeing a majority of Chromebooks gain baked-in access to Linux on Chrome OS.
While we’re still eagerly awaiting a few big, missing features (audio and GPU acceleration), the core pieces are falling into place quite nicely and many users are already finding great workflows with their favorite Linux apps on Chrome OS.
One thing we’d been able to do for a while with the app launcher is search for installed and not-yet-installed apps from the Web Store and/or the Play Store. The Play Store and Web Store search and install feature was removed in Chrome OS 70 due to some conflicts with the overhauled launcher and it seems it is planned to stay that way for the time being.
However, it now seems there’s a chance that we could see this function return to the app launcher in the form of APT (advanced package tool) search support. APT’s are the files that most of us use to install packages in Linux, so the ability to find and run APT’s would be pretty awesome.
In general, finding and installing Linux apps isn’t that simple for most people. If Google is planning on leaving this whole Crostini effort as a developer-focused project, I don’t see much need for any of this as developers will know their way around a Linux terminal.
However, if there’s any thought that this could become a thing that general users actually leverage, a simple way to find and install Linux apps could be a game-changing addition.
In the commit, we see:
Experimental flags for crostini apt search Flags for enabling/disabling crostini apt search (experimental feature) go/chrome-apt-search
In the associated bug report, we see:
Add APT search into Chrome OS App Launcher, so that uninstalled Linux packages and Apps can be searched for and installed via the App launcher. go/chrome-apt-search
So, clearly in some way, shape, or form they are working on bringing an ability to search and install APT’s right from the app launcher. This all sounds fantastic and could be a really interesting development, but I do see a red flag that I’m not seeing anyone talking about just yet.
In the bug report, it seems clear that this might be referring to apps that have been installed and/or removed from the user’s machine: “so that uninstalled Linux packages and apps can be searched for and installed via the app launcher.”
I’m not entirely certain how this would even help users other than the ability to quickly re-install something you’ve previously had up and running on your Chromebook prior. Perhaps you’ve changed devices or simply powerwashed and you want all your Linux apps back to where they were. This would be a way to do that.
For now, I’m hopeful that the bug report is only talking about a portion of the capability of this new feature and that we’ll be searching and installing APT’s right from the app launcher one day, but I’m a bit skeptical at this point. Time will tell.