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Coding On a Chromebook: Here’s How

Coding on a Chromebook is possible! In this article, we will show you how to code on a Chromebook using several methods.

If you want to break no sweat at all, it turns out you can easily use an online IDE to start coding in your Chrome browser right away.

If you want to do it the more advanced way (which we highly recommend!), you will need to install (or rather just activate) Linux on your Chromebook machine.

Whichever way you choose, this guide will answer all of your questions. You will be set to go in no time!

What Is a Chromebook Used For?

Chromebooks are a type of laptop that runs on the Google Chrome operating system. Chromebooks are designed for browsing the internet and using cloud-based apps.

Unlike most other laptops and desktop computers, Chromebooks do not have any traditional desktop software installed on them. Instead, they rely on web-based software and apps that can be accessed through the Chrome web browser.

As a result, they tend to be lightweight and inexpensive. Chromebooks also have a number of features that make them ideal for students, such as long battery life and a durable design. In addition, Chromebooks are usually cheaper than laptops that run on Windows or macOS.

However, one downside of Chromebooks is that they are not as versatile as other types of laptops. For example, they cannot run certain types of software, and they may have limited storage capacity.

Overall, Chromebooks are best for users who primarily need a device for browsing the internet and using cloud-based apps.

Can Chromebook Be Used For Coding?

Chromebooks can absolutely be used for programming purposes! While Chromebooks don’t come pre-installed with a traditional development environment, there are a number of online IDEs (integrated development environments) that can be used for writing and running code online through your Chromebook device.

In addition, Chromebooks can be easily set up to run Linux, making them ideal for developing in a wide range of popular programming languages. This is a more advanced option; however, it is very much worth it to install Linux, as it allows you to download and work with all of the usual IDEs and code editors you are used to be programming with. In this guide, we will show you how to code WITH and WITHOUT installing Linux.

Woman in Grey Jacket Sits on Bed coding on a chromebook
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio @ Pexels

How To Code On a Chromebook WITHOUT installing Linux

First, Chromebook OS comes with native development tools for Android and web development (only), which you can use without installing Linux. You can thus use Android Studio (the official Android IDE) and Flutter (UI development tool for applications) without a hassle on your Chromebook.

If you want to code on other platforms and languages on a Chromebook without installing Linux, you can use an online IDE or code editor. This is an easy solution to start coding on your Chromebook right away, as it does not require you to download or install any software. All you have to do is literally open one of these tools in your browser and start coding!

Here is the list of such online coding tools:

While all these tools are a great way to start coding on your Chromebook without installing any software, they do have some limitations. For example, the coding environment and tools you use on these platforms are often not as powerful or flexible as those available on desktop coding environments and IDEs.

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In addition, you often have to pay for premium features or access to extra coding languages on these online coding tools. As a result, if you want to get the most out of coding on your Chromebook, you may want to consider installing Linux.

How To Code On a Chromebook with Linux: Step-by-Step Guide

Okay, so you want to start coding on your Chromebook! Here is a step-by-step guide for getting started:

Step 0: Pre-history – What is Chrome OS and why it is limiting

Chrome OS is a stripped-down version of Linux that is designed for browsing the internet and using cloud-based apps. While it does have some development capabilities, Chrome OS is not as versatile as traditional operating systems like Windows and macOS. This can be limiting for programmers who need to use more advanced development tools and software.

If you want to code on your Chromebook offline using popular IDEs such as Eclipse, Anaconda, and Visual Studio Code, you will need to follow several steps. Don’t worry, the process is very straightforward and will provide you with capacity to code anywhere and at any time you please.

Step 1: Install Linux on your Chromebook.

In order to install IDE applications on your Chromebook, you will first need to install the Linux OS on your machine. As scary as that sounds at first, it is a really simple process. In reality, Linux comes pre-installed in your Chromebook, so basically the only thing you have to do is activate it in your settings.

First, however, we need to mention that not all Chromebooks support this function, although most new devices will have this option available. Check here for the list of Chromebooks that come with Linux installation setting. And if you have bought a Chromebook recently, you don’t need to worry, as the new models support Linux installation.

So, in order to turn on Linux on your Chromebook, you need to do the following:

  1. Select the time on your Chromebook, at the bottom right.
  2. Go to Settings > Advanced > Developers.
  3. Navigate to “Linux development environment” and press “Turn On”.
  4. Follow the instructions. The whole setup should take around 10 minutes.
  5. At the end of the installation process, you will see a terminal window open up. This is the Debian 10 (Buster) environment, where you can run Linux commands and install more tools.

Step 2: Update the list of Linux packages

As you know, everything is done with a command line in Linux. We will thus use the terminal commands to operate all our tasks related to apps and development.

To install the optional (but strongly recommended) dependency gnome-keyring, type the following two commands into the terminal and press Enter at the end of each command to execute them:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y gnome-keyring

This will allow you to securely store your credentials and unlock them every time you start coding on your Chromebook.

Step 3: Install coding tools using a package manager

Now that you have activated Linux on your Chromebook, it’s time to install coding tools using a package manager. A package manager is a tool that makes installing software much easier and more streamlined.

The most commonly used package managers for Linux are Apt (Advanced Package Tool), Yum (Yellowdog Updater, Modified), and Pacman (Pacman’s Arch Linux User Package Management). In this guide, we will use Apt to install coding tools on your Chromebook.

To install coding tools using Apt, type the following command into the terminal:

sudo apt-get install -y <package_name>

For example, to install the coding IDE Anaconda on your Chromebook, simply type:

sudo apt-get install -y anaconda

This command will download and install Anaconda, along with all of the coding tools you need to start coding on your Chromebook.

Here is the complete list of developer tools and IDEs for Chromebooks and Linux commands to install them:

  • Anaconda (Python): sudo apt-get install -y anaconda
  • Eclipse (Java): sudo apt-get install -y eclipse
  • Visual Studio Code (multiple languages): sudo apt-get install -y visualstudiocode
  • Webstorm (JavaScript): sudo apt-get install -y webstorm
  • Atom (code editor): sudo apt-get install -y atom
  • Sublime Text (code editor): sudo apt-get install -y sublimetext
  • Brackets (code editor): sudo apt-get install -y brackets
  • Gedit (code editor): sudo apt-get install -y gedit
  • Komodo IDE (multiple languages): sudo apt-get install -y komodoide
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These coding tools and IDEs will allow you to develop coding projects on your Chromebook anywhere, anytime, so that you can focus on coding and leave the rest to your coding tools. And with Linux installed on your Chromebook, coding doesn’t have to be a pain anymore – it can actually be enjoyable and exciting!

Step 4: Launch coding tools on your Chromebook

Once you have installed the coding tools you need, it’s time to launch them and start coding! Simply open up the terminal that you’ve used to install coding tools, and type “<IDE_name> <IDE_type>” to launch your coding IDE.

For example, to launch Visual Studio Code on your Chromebook, simply type the following command:

vsce code-editor

Alternatively, you can use the terminal’s autocomplete function to select coding tools that are installed on your Chromebook.

Simply type a few letters of the coding tool you want to launch, and press Tab on your keyboard. The terminal will automatically suggest coding tools that match what you have typed, making coding on your Chromebook a breeze!

So, if you’re ready to start coding on your Chromebook, follow these simple steps and enjoy coding wherever you are, whenever you want to. Whether you’re coding for fun or coding for work, Chromebooks provide a fast and seamless coding experience!

woman sitting on floor and leaning on couch coding on a chromebook
Photo by Thought Catalog @ Pexels

What Languages Can You Code With on a Chromebook?

Depending on whether or not you have installed Linux on your Chromebook, there are a variety of programming languages you can use, including Python, Java, C/C++, JavaScript, R, HTML/CSS, and many others.

If you’re running a standard Chromebook with Chrome OS, you can code with online code editors like CodePen and Glitch. These editors allow you to write code directly in your web browser, with no need to install anything else.

You can also use Android apps like Android Studio and Flutter to learn and write code right on your Chromebook. And if you’ve installed Linux, you have even more options available to you, including the likes of Python, Java, and JavaScript. Whatever your coding needs may be, there’s a good chance you can take care of them with a Chromebook.

Is Chromebook a Powerful Computer For Coding?

Chromebooks are often seen as budget laptops, but how do their hardware specifications compare to other computers? Are they powerful enough for more demanding tasks like coding? Let’s take a look.

Chromebooks typically have lower-powered CPU than full-fledged laptops or desktop computers. That said, they still usually have dual-core processors, and more recent models are quad-core. In terms of RAM, Chromebooks tend to have 4-8GB, although some models offer up to 16GB. Again, this is less than what you’ll find in many other laptops, but it’s still enough for most tasks.

So, are Chromebooks powerful enough for coding? For the most part, yes. If you’re just starting to learn to code, or you’re working on simple projects, a Chromebook will be more than sufficient. However, if you’re working on resource-intensive projects or you need to use CPU-heavy applications, you may find that a Chromebook slows down and produces delays. In general, though, Chromebooks have come a long way since they were first introduced in 2011 and are powerful enough for most coding needs.

Advantages of a Chromebook

Chromebooks have a lot to offer in terms of affordability, portability, and user-friendliness. Let’s take a look at some of the best advantages of using a Chromebook.

1. More Affordable

One of the biggest advantages of a Chromebook is that they are more affordable than other types of laptops. Chromebooks typically cost between $200 and $500, while other laptops can cost upwards of $1,000. This makes Chromebooks a great option for people who are on a budget.

2. Lightweight and Portable

Chromebooks are also lightweight and portable, making them easy to take with you on the go. Most Chromebooks weigh less than 3 pounds, and some models even weigh less than 2 pounds. This makes them easy to carry with you in a backpack or purse.

3. Long Battery Life

Another advantage of Chromebooks is that they have a long battery life. Many Chromebooks can last for up to 12 hours on a single charge, meaning you won’t have to worry about carrying around a charger with you everywhere you go.

4. Easy to Use

Chromebooks are also very easy to use, even for people who are not familiar with computers. The operating system is designed to be simple and user-friendly, and there is no need to install any software updates as they are automatically installed in the background.

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5. Secure

Chromebooks are also more secure than other types of laptops as they run on the Chrome operating system, which is designed with security in mind. Additionally, all of your data is stored in the cloud, so even if your Chromebook is lost or stolen, your data will still be safe.

chromebook on black textile
Photo by Solen Feyissa @ Unsplash

Disadvantages of a Chromebook

While Chromebooks come with a lot of advantages, they also have some disadvantages that should be considered before making a purchase. Let’s take a look at some of the main drawbacks of using a Chromebook.

1. Limited Storage

One of the biggest disadvantages of a Chromebook is that it has limited storage. Most Chromebooks come with only 16GB of storage, which can fill up quickly if you have a lot of files or photos. Additionally, many Chromebooks do not have an SD card slot, so you cannot increase the storage by adding an SD card. There are, however, options to increase your storage capacity by using an external hard drive.

2. Limited Apps

Another downside of Chromebooks is that they have limited apps. While there are hundreds of thousands of apps available for Android and Windows, there are only a few thousand apps available for Chrome OS. This means that you will not be able to find an app for everything that you want to do.

3. Requires an Internet Connection

Chromebooks require an internet connection in order to be used effectively. This means that if you are in an area with poor or no internet, you will not be able to use your Chromebook. Additionally, if you are working on a project offline and need to access it later when you have an internet connection, you will not be able to do so unless you save it to an external storage device.

4. Needs effort to install development tools

While Chromebooks are generally powerful enough for coding, they do require some effort to install development tools. In order to code on a Chromebook, you will need to either use online development tools or install Linux on your Chromebook. While this process is not too complex, it can be a bit time-consuming and effortful.

5. Not as advanced in hardware

While Chromebooks are becoming more powerful, they still lag behind PCs in terms of hardware. This means that you may not be able to use many of the latest software updates or high-end games on your Chromebook, which can be frustrating if you are used to using a top-of-the-line PC.

Should I Buy a Chromebook or PC for Coding?

If you’re looking to get into coding, you may be wondering whether a Chromebook or PC is the best option. Both have their pros and cons, so it really depends on your needs and preferences.

For instance, Chromebooks are typically more affordable than PCs, and they’re also very light and portable. On the other hand, Windows is generally considered to be the best platform for coding, and PCs offer more storage capacity and processing power than Chromebooks.

Ultimately, the best way to decide is to try both out and see which one you prefer. If you’re on a budget, a Chromebook may be the way to go. But if you want the most robust coding experience, a PC is probably your best bet.

In our opinion and opinion of thousands of people who use Chromebooks to code both leisurely and professionally on a daily basis, Chromebooks are excellent devices for coders, so long as you activate Linux on your device.

Conclusion

Chromebooks are a great option for people who are looking for a budget-friendly laptop that is simple and easy to use. They have many advantages, such as being lightweight and portable, and having a long battery life. However, they also have some disadvantages, such as limited storage space and limited app availability.

In this article, we have provided step-by-step instructions on how to start coding on your Chromebook. Whether you are a coding beginner or an experienced coder, using a Chromebook will help you to stay productive and have fun coding on the go. Let’s get coding!