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The best Linux apps for your Chromebook

Slowly but surely, Google is bringing support for Linux applications to Chrome OS. Even though the feature is primarily aimed at developers, like those who want to get Android Studio running on a Pixelbook, there are plenty of apps that can benefit normal users. We already have a guide about installing Linux apps on Chrome OS, but if you're not sure what to try, this post may point you in the right direction.

This isn't a simple compilation of the best Linux apps, because plenty of those exist already. Instead, the goal here is to recommend solutions for tasks that cannot be adequately filled by web or Android apps.

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Google is testing GPU acceleration for Linux apps on Chromebooks

There are two major limitations to running Linux applications on Chromebooks — audio doesn't work, and graphics aren't accelerated. Google originally aimed to fix these issues in Chrome OS 71, but that didn't happen. Thankfully, GPU acceleration is a bit closer to reality, according to a series of commits to the Chromium Gerrit.

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Chrome OS v69 stable introduces Linux app compatibility, finalized Material Design changes

The long-awaited Linux support for Chromebooks has just hit the Stable channel. According to the Chrome Releases blog, the consumer-facing release channel is in the midst of being updated to v69, which includes Linux application support — at least, on compatible devices. The update also includes other features, such as a refreshed UI for browsing the filesystem, expanded dictation support for text entry, red-tinted Night Light, and some tablet-centric tweaks (among other smaller changes).

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[Update: Still uncertain] Many older Chromebooks won't get Linux apps, including the 2015 Chromebook Pixel

Google announced earlier this year that Linux apps would eventually be supported on Chrome OS. The feature has been available for months in the Canary and Dev channels, and now works on a variety of Chromebooks from multiple manufacturers. A merged pull request on the Chromium Gerrit now confirms that any device running the Linux kernel 3.14 (or older) will never get Linux app support.

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Acer Chromebook 13 and Spin 13 may be first Chromebooks to ship with day-1 Linux app support

Google revealed Linux app support for Chromebooks at this year's I/O conference, but at the time the only supported device was the first-party Pixelbook. The 2nd device to get the feature was Samsung's ARM-powered Chromebook Plus, and other recently released devices Like HP's Chromebook x2 haven't had Linux app support at all. But, if a recent commit is any indicator, Acer's Chromebook 13 and Chromebook Spin 13 may be the first Chromebooks to run Linux apps from day 1, no update necessary.

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Linux app support arrives on the Samsung Chromebook Plus

Google officially announced Linux app support on Chrome OS at I/O 2018, but until now, the only supported model has been the Pixelbook. The Linux VM requires a kernel version that many Chromebooks don't have, but with Google backporting the required functionality to earlier kernels, we can only speculate which models will actually be supported.

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Linux apps in Chrome OS won't get proper sound and graphics support until December (at the earliest)

One of my favorite announcements from Google I/O was Linux app support for Chromebooks. Starting with Chrome Dev 68, you can install Android Studio, Wine, Git, Visual Studio Code, and thousands of other Linux applications on the Pixelbook. The company didn't reveal many details at the time, but now we know a bit more about how it works and when to expect it.

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