Chrome OS 69 just hit the stable channel and is currently rolling out to devices. This brings a handful of new features and changes, including Google’s Material theme, Night Light, an improved file manager, and most importantly: support for Linux apps.
Linux Apps for Chromebooks?
At Google I/O earlier this year, Google announced that it was going to bring support for Linux applications to Chrome OS, starting first with the Pixelbook. While Linux support has been available on the developer and beta channels for a while now, users who choose to stick with the stable channel (a wise choice for the most part) may now get their chance to check this out.
We say “may,” because Linux support won’t be available for all Chromebooks, unfortunately. It depends on which kernel your Chromebook is currently running, but at the current time, the list of devices that will receive Linux support is quite a bit shorter than the devices that won’t get the feature. Here’s a shortlist for the time being:
- ASUS Chromebook Flip C101
- Acer Chromebook 11
- Acer Chromebooks Spin 11
- Acer Chromebook 15
- HP Chromebook x360
- HP Chromebook x2
- Google Pixelbook
- Samsung Chromebook Plus
- Samsung Chromebook Plus v2
- Lenovo Thinkpad 11e
- Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11e
So, what does that mean for the average Chrome OS user? Honestly, not much. You won’t be forced to use Linux apps if you don’t want, and nothing is going to change in your day to day usage. That’s a good thing.
But if you want to expand your device’s capabilities, this will be a great way to do it. We have a full tutorial on how to get started with Linux apps, which should get you started. That said, we’d be remiss not to mention that Linux support is still in beta—just because it’s on the stable channel doesn’t mean that the feature is completely finished. It’s just…stable.
What it means, in general, is that your Chromebook just got a lot more powerful. The biggest complaint about Chrome OS, in general, has been its lack of a “real” ecosystem, something that Google started to address with the addition of Android apps. But now, with the entire Linux ecosystem on tap, Chrome OS is a lot more useful.
That means you can run things like GIMP for photo editing or LibreOffice for spreadsheets and documents. There are a lot of other applications made available with this move forward too, but it’s also worth keeping in mind that GPU acceleration isn’t yet available in Linux apps—that means things like gaming or video editing are still off the table, for the moment at least.
Other Features in Chrome OS 69
Aside from Linux support, Chrome OS 69 has a few other new features worth talking about.
For starters, it is getting a Material Design makeover that really modernizes the overall look and feel of the entire OS. It also gives it a more Android-like feel, which is something that Google has been working towards for a while now. The two are getting closer and closer to parity with each update.
Otherwise, you’ll notice that the File Manager has been slightly reworked in 69, with a new section called “My Files” that houses all Downloads, Play Files (Android files), and Linux Files. This is again a step in the right direction, as the file manager has often been cited as one of Chrome OS’ weakest links.
There’s also a Night Light feature in Chrome OS 69—this is exactly like its Android counterpart. It’s essentially a blue light filter that makes the screen better for your eyes at night. It can be turned on, off, or set to turn on at a specific time (or with sunset/sunrise). It’s an excellent feature that everyone should start using.
There are a myriad of other, smaller features available in this release as well, as per the norm for every Chrome OS update. It’s not yet available on all devices, but should be rolling out over the next few days.