Prior to 2017, Chrome OS was regarded as nothing more than a basic Operating System used in Chromebook that may handle limited browsing activities.
Chromebook is a laptop that runs Chrome OS as its operating system. Chrome OS is a Linux-based, fast, lightweight operating system that boots in seconds and gives you an excellent online experience when surfing the web or using apps on the internet.
In Jan 2017, Google had announced that it is partnering with Samsung to launch a new generation of Chromebook that will work with apps from Google play store, and this was really good news for people who like Chromebook and also want to use apps on their devices.
In 2018, Google went a step further and announced that it is launching Chromebooks that will have Linux support. Linux runs inside a VM that is designed especially for Chromebooks, which means it loads within seconds and integrates well with Chromebook features.
You can now do programming on a Chromebook more comfortably than ever. Having Linux will allow developers to create, run and test both mobile and web applications in the same device. You can run your preferred editors, code in a programming language of your choice, and submit projects to Google’s cloud.
These features were hitherto unavailable.
Linux apps can be launched with a click of a button on Chromebook, and files can be opened from apps directly.
Many people will appreciate the enhanced protection, low cost, and simplicity of use that comes with using a Chromebook for programming. There are, however, a few drawbacks to utilizing a Chromebook for programming. Fortunately, Google is currently working hard to plug the deficiencies in future versions of Chromebooks.
To get the best experience from a Chromebook for programming, get one with an Intel Processor.
Why Is Chromebook Good For Programming?
Chromebook is quickly becoming one of the most popular devices for programming due to its low cost, simplicity, and security.
In 2020, Google announced that over 40 million people are now using Chromebook in the field of education, seeing a 33 percent rise over previous year. However, not a lot of people use Chromebooks for programming, YET.
Let’s see some of the reasons why you should consider using Chromebook for programming –
1. It Is Based On Linux
At its core, Chrome OS is a Linux machine. Most programming tools have Linux support, so it’s good news for developers.
Chrome OS comes with its own command line called Chrome Shell (CROSH), but you also get the Linux terminal automatically installed when you activate Linux on Chromebook. Full Linux Debian distro gets installed when you use Linux on Chromebook.
Here’s how to activate Linux on a Chromebook –
- Go to “Settings”.
- Scroll to “Linux Beta”.
- Turn ON the Linux Beta option.
- Follow the commands on the screen (takes about 10 minutes).
- You will get the Linux terminal where you can install apps.
If you do not see the “Linux Beta” option, your Chromebook likely doesn’t support Linux yet. Please note that Google gives a warning that Linux is still in BETA on Chromebook and can experience issues.
You can run all the Linux apps with an “ÖN” switch built-in on Chromebook.
Crostini Project allows you to run Linux alongside Chrome OS in Chromebooks.
Crostini is an umbrella term used for making Linux support easy alongside Chrome OS. Basically, it focuses on getting a terminal with a container to install any developer-focused tools you may want.
2. Easy, Fast And Safe To Use
As mentioned earlier, Chromebooks are easy to use. The Chrome command-line CROSH that comes installed, is fast and easy to use.
Chromebooks are also very safe to use as they come with multiple layers of security features. There is hardly an incidence of virus affecting Chromebooks. This is achieved through sandboxing of the browser, encryption of sensitive data, automatic updating of the system, and monitoring of all files during bootup.
3. Has Plenty Of Storage And Ram For “Basic” Usage
Chromebooks come with plenty of storage for basic usage, so you don’t have to worry about running out of space. They also come with a good amount of RAM, which is ideal for most programming purposes.
The Google Pixelbook, one of the most popular Chromebook, has 8 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. Highest variant has 16 GB RAM and 256 GB storage.
4. Good Battery Life
Chromebooks also have great battery life, so you can work on your projects without having to worry about charging your device.
Google Pixelbook comes with only 13.3 inches size, which allows it to run for over 12 hours on battery at a time.
5. Low Cost
Chromebooks are very affordable devices, making them an excellent choice for students and budget-constrained programmers.
6. Updates Are Faster
Chromebooks get updates faster than other laptops, so you don’t have to wait for long periods of time before your device is updated with the latest security features.
7. Portable And Lightweight
Lastly, Chromebooks are very portable and lightweight, making them perfect for programming on the go.
The Google Pixelbook, for example, weighs only 2 pounds and has a thickness of 13 mm.
Drawbacks Of Programming On Chromebook
Chromebook does come with a few limitations, but in my opinion, these are not major issues, and just minor inconveniences that would not bother you unless you are a bigtime seasoned hardcore programmer.
1. Low-Powered Hardware
Chromebooks are meant to be lightweight, and hence are not equipped with a lot of hardware. Although most programming tasks require low processing power, if you do require more processing power for your work, Chromebook may not be the best device for you.
If you are used to Intellij and Eclipse which use a lot of processing power, you may find that Chromebooks are a bit slow for you. You are going to want more than 32 GB of storage that comes with most entry-level Chromebooks. I would go with the 128 GB model just to be on the safe side. Most entry-level Windows laptops come with more than 500 GB storage.
Visual Studio can run pretty well on Chromebooks. Microsoft recommends 1.6hz processor and 1 GB RAM, and the app footprint is <500 MB.
Android Studio requires bare minimum of 8 GB RAM and 4 GB storage, along with Core Intel I5 U or better processor.
For heavy “data science” tasks, you are going to struggle unless you get a Chromebook with a very good processor and a lot of RAM.
Fortunately, Docker, Django, Python all run very well in the higher-end versions of Chromebook.
If you have a good internet connection, you can just run applications directly on the cloud. You can even use online IDE like Cloud9 and Code envy to run, edit and debug code. Data Science applications that can run online, can easily use Chromebook’s Chrome browser to connect to a cloud application.
2. Lack Of Some Programming Tools
Chromebook also lacks some programming tools that are available on other platforms. This is mostly because of the lack of hardware support.
3. Installation Of Additional Developer Tools Is A Bit Of A Pain
If you want to install additional developer tools like IDE’s, there is a lack of proper documentation, and beginners may find it a bit difficult to install some tools.
While Chrome OS does include Python pre-installed, you may need to install pip and other tools for Python. Here is a step-by-step guide for installing and using Python on Chromebook.
Similarly, none of the other tools are native, so you end up loading crostini and downloading the apps via the Linux VM.
You may also need to update the tools that come installed on Chromebook. While this isn’t a problem for seasoned coders, it may be time consuming for novices.
4. Linux Is Slow And Buggy
Linux apps in Chromebook may crash and hang, because Linux is still in beta on Chromebook. While the apps are getting better with each update, they are still not as stable as compared to Windows or macOS apps.
This may be due to the fact that very few people use Chromebook for programming and hence, the development community is still small. Not many bugs might be reported, and the ones that are – take time to get fixed.
5. Some Apps Do Not Work Well On Linux
If you have to work with Microsoft SQL Server, you may find it difficult to use Chromebooks. Microsoft does release a Linux version of SQL, but I find that it’s much better to use SQL Server on Windows. The same goes for MongoDB. You can use it on Chromebooks, but I find the Windows version to be much better.
6. Not Suitable For Heavy Development Projects
Chromebooks are not suitable for heavy development projects as they tend to freeze or crash when overloaded with tasks.
This is because Chromebooks are designed primarily for surfing the web and using lightweight apps. They are not meant for intensive tasks such as video editing or gaming.
So, if you are planning to do some serious development work, Chromebook at this time is probably not the best choice for you.
What Can Be Done To Improve Chromebook For Programming?
- We can get better support for programming tools on Chromebook. For example, better installation documentation and support for different software development environments. We can have some simple scripts provided by Google to install and configure some common programming tools and software like Python, Docker, Django, Node JS on Linux machines.
- We can promote the use of Chromebooks for coding and data science by writing more articles, tutorials and books on the subject.
- We can create a development channel on YouTube where people can share tips and tricks for programming on Chromebook.
- We can create a development community for sharing diy scripts for the majority of coding tasks. Wouldn’t that be great?
In short, Chromebook can be made a better platform for programming if only some effort is put into implementing the above outlined improvements.
Which Is The Best Chromebook For Programming?
The Google Pixelbook Go is one of the best Chromebooks for programming. This Chrome OS device comes with all of the functionality necessary to code continuously for long periods of time.
It’s light, thin, and has a distinctive style. To provide you with exceptional performance, all the specs and features are well-integrated.
- Weighs only 2.3 lbs
- Modern design
- Battery life of upto 12 hours.
- Comes with 8th Gen Intel Processor
- Comes with a backlit keyboard, quiet key and a spacious keyboard
- Two high-quality speakers
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Program Python On A Chromebook?
Yes, you can program Python on a Chromebook. All latest Chromebooks come with Python installed. You will have to install pip and the python tools to get started coding with Python on Chromebook.
Can You Code HTML On A Chromebook?
Yes, HTML can easily be coded on a Chromebook, as it is a very light task. All you need is a good text editor that comes installed on Chromebook, or install Visual Code from the Linux terminal.
How Do I Get Notepad++ On My Chromebook?
Notepad++ is not available on Chromebook, but you can use other alternatives like Visual code.
Is It Difficult To Install Linux On Chromebook?
Installing Linux on Chromebook is not difficult at all. All you need to do is go to Settings and enable the Linux Beta option, then follow the steps on the screen.
Can You Code SQL On A Chromebook?
Yes, you can install a Linux version of SQL on Chromebook using the terminal, if you are comfortable. However, I find it easier to use SQL Server on Windows.
How Do I Install Java On My Chromebook?
You can install Java on your Chromebook using the terminal and wget option in developer mode. However, Java has been identified as a security threat by Chromebook.
Can You Code C On Chromebook?
Yes, you can code C in Chromebook pretty easily using vi editor or Visual Code.
Can You Code C++ On Chromebook?
Yes, you can code C++ in Chromebook pretty easily using vi editor or Visual Code.
Can You Code C# On Chromebook?
Yes, you can code C# in Chromebook pretty easily using vi editor or Visual Code.
Can You Code PHP On A Chromebook?
Yes, you can code PHP on a Chromebook pretty easily using the terminal or an online editor.
Can You Code Ruby On Rails On A Chromebook?
Yes, you can code Ruby on Rails on a Chromebook pretty easily using the terminal or an online editor.
Can You Code Objective C On A Chromebook?
Yes, you can code Objective C on a Chromebook pretty easily using the terminal or an online editor.
How Do I Install Android Studio On My Chromebook?
You will need to install Linux on your Chromebook first to use Android Studio. Then, using the command line, you can easily install Android Studio.
Can You Use An IDE On A Chromebook?
Yes, you can use an IDE on a Chromebook. However, not all IDEs are available for Chromebook. Some popular IDEs that work on Chromebook are Visual Studio, and Android Studio.
Is It Safe To Use Chromebook For Programming?
Yes, you can use a Chromebook to code. Because the Chromebooks are built with security in mind, they come equipped with several layers of protection for your data. However, you should always follow good online safety practices and avoid adding any apps from unknown sources.
Related Post: Computer Programming As A Hobby
Conclusion – Can I Do Programming On Chromebook?
Chromebooks are a great choice for those who want to get started with coding, as they are lightweight and portable. Plus, they come with all the necessary tools pre-installed.
So, if you’re a beginner on a budget considering picking up a Chromebook for lightweight programming tasks, go ahead and do it!
However, if you are an experienced programmer who wants to run heavy-weight IDEs or use specific software, you might want to consider a different laptop. If you need a lot of space for coding work, you might want to get a laptop with a larger hard drive.
Additionally, Chromebooks might not be the best option if you need to run Windows-only software. In this case, you might want to get a Windows laptop instead.
For Linux users, Chromebooks are a fantastic alternative since they come with a pre-installed Linux shell. This makes it simple to install and utilize any software for Linux that is available.