ChromeOS has grown into a formidable operating system that offers a plethora of options for gamers, business types, students, and just about everything else in between. In addition to Android applications, streaming game platforms, and powerful web apps, Chromebooks have also gained the extremely useful ability to run Linux packages via a container named Crostini.
If an application will run on Debian Linux, chances are very high that it will run in the Linux container on ChromeOS. That means that you can utilize executable applications that would otherwise be incompatible with ChromeOS. For developers, this means that ChromeOS has access to powerful IDEs and coding tools used to create, test, and debug an endless variety of software.
For Android-related software development, Google introduced a fully compatible version of Android Studio for Chromebooks. The only requirements are that you have a late-model Chromebook with decent enough specs to run the software and Linux support. The latter of which is available on any Chromebook released in the past two or three years. For other development environments, the Debian repository offers a wide variety of IDEs that can be installed directly from the Linux terminal. Even more compatible IDEs such as Netbeans, Sublime, and more are available directly from their respective developers in the form of an installable .deb package.
Another well-known and widely used code editor is Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code. The counterpart to Visual Studio, VS Code offers a flexible development and debugging environment for a wide range of programming languages. It is so popular, in fact, that a 2021 developer survey from Stack Overflow ranked VS Code as the “most popular developer environment tool” out of roughly 82,000 user responses.
While Visual Studio is only supported on Windows and macOS, Visual Studio Code offers a Linux version which means that you can run it on a Chromebook. Both editors have their own, distinct advantages but VS Code seems to be the most flexible and most widely used of the two. Microsoft clearly saw the potential of VS Code and a couple of years ago published ChromeOS-specific instructions for running the text editor on a Chromebook. There’s even a Linux build specifically for ARM devices which means that you don’t need the latest, most powerful Chromebook to get up and running with VS Code.
Installing VS Code on ChromeOS
The quickest way to install VS Code on a Chromebook is to download the .deb package directly from the Visual Studio website. That said, there is a little bit of prep work required but don’t worry, it only takes a couple of minutes. First and foremost, you’ll need a Chromebook that supports Linux apps. As I mentioned, most devices released in the past 2-3 years will fit that bill. To learn more about setting up the Linux environment on your Chromebook, check out our Command Line article here. Once you’re set up and up-to-date, we can move to the next steps.
Ready? Awesome. First, open your Linux terminal. I pinned mine to my shelf for easy access but you can find it in your ChromeOS app launcher. Once open, we need to install the gnome-keyring package as a recommended add-on for VS Code. Gnome-keyring is a set of tools that encrypts and stores credentials and keys in your home directory. To install, paste the following command into your terminal and hit enter. Power tip: Scrape the code, right-click and hit copy and then, right-click anywhere in your terminal and it could paste the code automatically.
That’s it. This is the only recommended prerequisite we need to install. Now, we just need to install VS Code. You can grab the download directly from the Visual Studio downloads page here. If you are using an Intel or AMD Chromebook, you can simply grab the .deb file directly beneath the Linux Penguin. If you have an ARM-powered device such as the Lenovo Duet 5 or Acer Chromebook Spin 513, you will need to download the ARM64 build which is below the aforementioned version.
Once your package is downloaded, open your Files App and double-click the .deb file for VS Code. You’ll be prompted to proceed with the installation. Hit “install” and wait for the process to finish. Once it is installed, you will find VS Code in your App launcher. If you wish to use your Downloads folder in conjunction with VS Code, you can open your Files App and right-click the Downloads folder. Click “Share with Linux” and you’re good to go. VS Code will now have access to your local Downloads folder. You can also do the same with your Google Drive via the Files App if you are working with projects that are saved to the cloud.
There you go. You now have Microsoft’s flexible VS Code editor on your Chromebook and you’re ready to start coding. Check back for more guides and how-tos for making the most out of the Linux environment on ChromeOS because we’re just getting started.