How to install different browsers on a Chromebook
While Google Chrome might be the star of the Chromebook show, you can install different browsers on a Chromebook. Whether you’re a web developer testing a site across multiple browsers or just someone who wants something a little different, you’ve got the full lineup of Linux browsers.
Why use different browsers?
One of the reasons for installing different browsers is that you are a web developer. Different browsers can display websites in unexpected ways. Many web developers have multiple browsers installed to test how their websites work.
Other people might want to try different browsers on a Chromebook. You might be wary of Google’s dominance in the browser market, or you might be wondering if there is something better.
Fortunately, it’s easy to install different browsers on a Chromebook through Linux. Almost all new Chromebooks support installing the Linux environment. Once you have installed the default Debian environment, you can simply install any browsers you want using the APT package manager.
To install a browser, use the apt order:
sudo apt install browser
…or the browser is the name of the Internet browser package you want to install.
After installing alternative browsers on your Chromebook, you can find them in the launcher along with other apps.
Install Chromium on Chromebook
The Chrome browser is where the development of the main Chrome browser takes place, including the Chromebook. This is effectively the open source version of Chrome.
Many other browsers on this list are based on Chromium. If you’re looking for a glimpse of what future versions of Chrome might bring, give Chromium a try.
One key difference between Chrome and Chromium is that Google has disabled their sync features on the latter, so if you’re relying on those features, you might want to stick with the standard Chrome.
To install it, type:
sudo apt install chromium
How to install Firefox in Chrome OS
While Chrome is still the most widely installed desktop browser today, Firefox is still a popular “alternative” browser. While Chromium and Firefox are both open source, the Mozilla Foundation is developing Firefox from an explicitly nonprofit stance.
The foundation is well known for its stance in favor of the protection of privacy. Firefox blocks trackers by default and can alert you if data breaches contain your email address. Unlike Chromium, its optional sync features are fully available.
The default Debian distribution in Chrome OS uses the Extended Support or ESR version. To install it you need to download the firefox-esr package:
sudo apt install firefox-esr
Install Midori on Chromebook
Midori is another privacy-focused browser that, like Chrome, attempts a minimalist design. Its functionality is really minimal. There are no plugins, and the only options in browsers are forward, backward, bookmark, view page source, search within a page, and print current page. It offers tabbed browsing like other modern browsers.
Midori is developed by the Astian Foundation and has switched its rendering engine from WebKitGTK to Electron.
To install it, download the midori package using APT:
sudo apt install midori
How to install the Brave browser
Like many of Chrome’s competitors, Brave touts its stance in favor of privacy. It automatically blocks trackers like Firefox does. Brave claims that this makes the browser up to three times faster than Chrome while using less battery. You can even earn cryptocurrency by using it. Brave also blocks most ads automatically, without having to install any third-party plugins.
An interesting feature of Brave is that its private mode automatically activates Tor, which incognito mode does not. Chrome’s incognito mode still sends traffic unencrypted over the conventional Internet.
Brave also integrates natively with IPFS, the Interplanetary File System protocol. It is a distributed peer-to-peer file system that allows users to share files and download them in the same way as BitTorrent. This feature is optional and the browser will offer to enable it when you access an IPFS address.
In Debian, you can install Brave using the brave navigator package:
sudo apt install brave-browser
Text browsers: Lynx and Links
While the previously mentioned browsers were graphical, Linux on a Chromebook gives you the option of using text-based software in the terminal. This also includes web browsers.
Why would you want to use a text-based browser when graphical browsers like Chrome are the default? There are several reasons.
When the Internet first became available to the general public, people would connect via modems through a communications program to remote systems that offered only text browsers, as personal computers in the early 1990s generally did not have not TCP / IP installed.
If you’re developing a web page, you’ll want to see what it looks like on every browser, including text-based ones. For anyone interested in increasing your SEO skills, you’ll want to see how a web crawler like Google’s might crawl your page.
People who are blind or have low vision often use text-based browsers with screen readers. If you cannot see the images, there is no point in running a graphical browser, even if it works with screen readers.
Some people don’t like advertising or tracking. You can’t see the ads in a text browser at all, and the trackers don’t work at all. These browsers also ask you explicitly if you want to save cookies.
The two main text-based browsers are Lynx and Links. Yes, the names are similar. Lynx dates back to 1992 and certainly wants it. Even for a text-based program, Lynx can sometimes seem clunky. To install Lynx, type:
sudo apt install lynx
To use Lynx, run it on the terminal with the URL you want to visit:
Links is relatively newer and attempts to be more “user-friendly”, functioning more like a modern browser. You can install it using the links2 package:
sudo apt install links2
Running it is similar to Lynx:
You can use different browsers, even on a Chromebook
Just because you’re using a Chromebook doesn’t mean you just have to use Chrome. If you are ready to use the Linux command line, you have access to a wide variety of browsers.
Whether you’re testing your web app for compatibility or just want something different, you can open your terminal for alternatives in minutes. This is just a little taste of what you can do with Linux on a Chromebook.
Have you finished setting up Linux on your Chromebook, but not sure what to do next? Here are three things you can try.
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