We started the Command Line series to explore new and uncharted ways to utilize Linux Apps on Chrome OS. In our journey, we’re discovering a lot of great tools and methods to bring powerful and versatile tools to your Chromebook but alas, the Crostini Project is still lacking one essential tool that would make it a viable option for general consumers. An App Store.
Chrome OS has the Chrome Web Store, Androids apps get the Google Play Store and the majority of users are familiar with these shops. With Linux apps, you have to know or learn a little bit about navigation the Linux terminal and for most users that have lived inside the confines of consumer-facing operating systems, that can be a bit intimidating. I strongly believe that, if Google will do so, a pre-installed Linux app store on Chrome OS would help get a lot of users on board. Consumers want a UI. Consumers like familiarity. Consumers want to click a button to open an App Store and install applications with a single click.
Until that day comes, I want to assist users in making the most of their Chromebooks and Linux applications bring a lot to the table. As we’ve demonstrated in previous articles, using Linux apps on Chrome OS can offer functionalities that were previously impossible on a Chromebook. So, I’m always looking for new ways to make it easier for the average user to find, install and utilize these applications. No, I am not a Linux wizard. Far from it but I am a tinkerer and I’m happy to try things out that many users just aren’t willing to in the hopes of demystifying things a bit.
That said, I have discovered another method in which you can add a clean, quite handy Linux App Store to your Chromebook that will allow you to find and install new applications with a single click. Our first look at a Linux App Store for Chromebooks came in the form of the Gnome Software Center. While that’s still an option, I really like the look of this piece of software so I thought I’d share. I stumbled upon the “Discover” software center a few weeks ago when we did a video demonstrating how to install a full Linux desktop environment on a Chromebook. The environment, KDE, comes with a pre-packaged software center named Discover. The actual package name is plasma discover and I “discovered” that you can install it as a free-standing application on Debian Buster.
KDE Discover houses hundreds of useful utilities, productivity applications, audio/video tools and even games. If you’ve used the Gnome Software Center, it will feel quite familiar. You can search by name or filter by application type and sort your results by name, rating, size or release date. Once you’ve found the app you want, a simple click of the “install” button will get things started and you can track the progress at the bottom-left of the Discover app. To install the KDE Discover Software Center, you will need to make sure your Chromebook is prepped and ready for Linux apps. You can find those simple steps here. Once you’re up to date, you can install Discover by entering the command below into the Linux terminal.
sudo apt install plasma-discover
The installation will take a few minutes but once it’s finished, you should find the “Discover” desktop icon in your app launcher alongside all of your other applications. If you aren’t sure where to look, it will be inside of the Linux apps folder that Crostini created when you enabled Linux apps. 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 of the available packages. Simply close the store and wait a bit. If you still aren’t seeing applications, reboot your Chromebook but I’ve found waiting five minutes or so will do the trick.
Now, before you go installing apps and coming back here to give me a tongue lashing, you need to be aware that the apps you install are at the mercy of Crostini’s capabilities. Some Linux applications simply do not work on Chrome OS because of missing dependencies or because this isn’t a full Linux distro and it’s running into a container. Still, a good majority of these applications will install and run as they should. Popular applications such as GIMP, Inkscape, Blender and many more can be installed directly from Discover without ever having to touch the terminal. I sincerely hope that this could be the push that many users need to get their feet wet with Linux apps on Chrome OS while we’re waiting to see if Google will produce a proper app store. Until then, I’ll keep tinkering and as always, I welcome your requests for assistance in using Linux apps on your Chromebook. Drop me a line and we’ll figure this thing out.