Well, it seems that 2021 is shaping up to be the year of “mass exodus” to and from various tech platforms. I’ll save the politics for other websites but we are here to help users get the most out of Chromebooks and that has spurred this latest how-to. Thanks in part to a simple, two-word tweet from Elon Musk, the Signal messaging platform has seen a massive influx of new users. This migration was initially spurred by an upcoming change in Facebook-owned WhatsApp’s terms of service. I won’t get into the gory details but it has a lot to do with what and how WhatsApp shares its data with Facebook. You can read a detailed rundown over at Ars Technica.
Whatever your reason for making the move to Signal, you may be wondering if you can install a desktop version of the messenger on your Chromebook. Signal does not offer a web interface but thanks to Linux, the answer to your question is a resounding “yes.” (Before you ask, no, the Android version of Signal is not available for Chromebooks.) Signal offers a desktop version of the company’s security-focused messaging platform for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It isn’t readily available in the Debian repository but you can install it on a Linux-compatible Chromebook with just a few simple commands. To use Signal on a PC, Mac, or Linux desktop, you first need to get the mobile application for your Android or iOS device.
To install Signal for Desktop on your Chromebook, you will first need to make sure that your device is set up and ready to run Linux applications. You can learn more about that here. Once you’ve done that, open your Linux terminal and execute the following three commands, one at a time.
wget -O- https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt/keys.asc |\ sudo apt-key add -/
echo "deb [arch=amd64] https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt xenial main" |\ sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/signal-xenial.list
sudo apt update && sudo apt install signal-desktop -y
If all went well, you should now have the Signal app in your app launcher. Open the app on your desktop and then, head over to the Signal app on your phone. Click your avatar at the top-left and find “linked devices.” Click that and then select the plus icon at the bottom right. You can then scan the QR code to link your phone and the desktop app. Once it syncs, you can set your notifications for and they will work on your Chromebook as long as you have the desktop application open in the background. Keep in mind, previous Signal messages will not sync to a newly added device for security purposes. Hope this helps. I know a lot of users are looking for alternatives that can be used across all of their devices and Signal works like a charm. One thing to note. The Linux container can not access your Chromebook’s camera. You will not be able to use the Signal desktop to make video calls at this time.