Consumers love options. It’s just a fact and it’s what makes our buying decisions as unique and diverse as we are. For Chromebook users, the Google ecosystem is likely the first stop when it comes to finding and using applications on Chrome OS. That said, a little variety is nice and there are some that would like to use platforms outside of Google’s offerings. One area in which that rings very true is web browsers. When you log into your Chromebook, you’re inherently going to use the Chrome browser. It is, after all, Chrome OS. That does not mean that you have to be married to Google’s browser. You have options and we have covered a few of them in the past.
You can always install the browser of your choice from the Google Play Store but the experience is not great. You’re stuck using a browser designed for a mobile device on an expansive desktop and that’s more frustrating than it’s worth. Thankfully, the addition of Linux apps to the Chrome OS landscape has opened the door to options such as the Brave Browser, Vivaldi, Tor, and others. While the gap is wide, Firefox is still one of the most popular browsers in the world slides in just behind Safari as the third-place desktop browser globally. With the help of Linux, you can install the latest version of Mozilla’s browser on your Chromebook if you are so inclined.
Last year, I mapped out the installation process of Firefox on Chrome OS but times have changed and the Linux container for Chromebooks has updated from Debian 9 to Debian 10. With that, the method for installing the latest version of Firefox has changed, albeit slightly. There are a few different ways to achieve this installation but today, we’re going to look at the one that I recommend for its simplicity and straightforward process.
Side Note: If you’re just wanting to try Firefox out on your Chromebook, you can install the ESR version from the Debian repository. Do this with the command
sudo apt install firefox-esrbut know that it is currently on version 78 while the latest version is 84. If you are serious about keeping and using Firefox on your Chromebook, I recommend getting the latest build for security and stability.
To install the latest version of Firefox on your Chromebook, we will need to add the repository that contains the newest build. Don’t worry. It isn’t as intimidating as it may sound. First, let’s make sure your Chromebook is set up and ready to use Linux applications. You can learn how to install and update the Linux container here. Now we need to install a text editor so we can add the Debian Unstable repository that holds the Firefox package. I use nano but you can install gedit or whichever text editor you prefer. To install nano, run the following command in your Linux terminal.
sudo apt install nano
Now we need to append the source.list file. This file contains repository links that your device can point to for installing Linux packages. To add the Debian unstable repo, we need to open this file with the nano text editor. Do this with the following command in your Linux terminal.
sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list
If you have opened the file correctly, you should see what appears in the above image. Arrow down to the line below the last entry and paste the following string into the terminal. Once it’s in place, press Ctrl + X to exit and hit Y and enter to save on exit. At this point, you can technically install Firefox but don’t. You now have the unstable repository added. If you run any update commands, it will pull them from the unstable repository instead of the main repo and that could result in broken packages or unstable applications being added to your device.
deb http://deb.debian.org/debian/ unstable main contrib non-free
To prioritize the main repository and prevent applications from updating via unstable, we need to create a preferences file to “pin” the repository. For this, we will once again turn to nano or your favorite text editor. In your Linux terminal, paste the following command to create the file with nano. Since we’re creating a new file, it will be empty.
sudo nano /etc/apt/preferences.d/99pin-unstable
In the file, paste the following lines exactly as they appear. Once pasted, press Ctrl + O and enter to save the file, and then press Ctrl + X to exit nano. This will pin the stable repository and prevent updates from the unstable repo.
Package: * Pin: release a=stable Pin-Priority: 900 Package: * Pin release a=unstable Pin-Priority: 10
Last but not least, it is time to install Firefox. To do so, we need to update the packages from the newly added repository. Then, we can install the latest build of Firefox. You can accomplish both of these tasks at once by pasting the following command into your Linux terminal. Once completed, you will have the Firefox icon in your app launcher and you can pin it to your shelf to have quick access to it. If you want to remove Firefox, just right-click the icon and select uninstall.
sudo apt update && sudo apt install -t unstable firefox -y
Hope you found this helpful. I’m sure that there are plenty of users out there that are looking for alternative software to install on their Chromebooks and I’m happy to help make that happen. Is there a specific non-Google bit of software you want on your Chromebook? Drop a comment below and we’ll see if there’s a way to get it working on Chrome OS. See you next time.