Google’s Chrome OS started as an incredibly rudimentary platform with a browser and…well, that’s was basically everything. Since then, it has expanded to support more native features via Chrome updates, as well as Android and Linux apps. Linux support is still relatively new — it rolled out widely in Chrome v69. In the upcoming Chrome v71 and 72, Google will make Linux feel more useful and integrated on Chromebooks.
Chrome OS Linux support, also known as Crostini, lets you install apps either via repositories and flatpak files downloaded online. Most Linux apps should work as well on a Chromebook as they do on a native Linux system. There are still some gaps that make Linux apps feel like “second-class apps” on a Chromebook, though. For example, there’s no GPU acceleration. Google isn’t doing anything about that just yet, but it is addressing the frustrating file management segregation.
Currently, Linux apps have their own file system in Chrome OS, and they cannot see anything outside of that. If you want to access a file downloaded in Chrome in a Linux app, you first need to export it to the Linux container. To upload it someplace, you need to export back to Chrome OS. In Chrome v71, Google will add an option to share any Chrome OS folder with Linux. Just right click in the Files app, and click “Share with Linux.” The folder will appear in the Linux file system, saving you several steps. In Chrome OS v72, the sharing features will get more useful. Chrome’s file manager integrates with Google Drive, so the sharing features will expand there, too.
Also in Chrome v71, Linux app processes will no longer exist as a single monolithic process in the Chrome OS task manager. Right now, you can’t see how individual apps are running or manage those processes — Chrome OS just lists the overall Linux virtual machine and all the things it’s doing as one item. Chrome v71 separates all the processes for individual Linux apps.
Linux support is in the Chrome stable channel, but it’s still a little rough around the edges. When things break, there’s no official way to shut down the Linux virtual machine other than restarting your device. Chrome v71 will address that, too. Right-clicking on the terminal icon offers the option to shut down Linux.
Chrome V71 is currently in the developer channel, so it needs to move through beta before reaching stable. It’ll probably be a few months before these features arrive on most Chromebooks.
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