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A Basic Guide to Learning Coding on a Chromebook

Learning to code on a Chromebook isn’t just a possibility, it’s also one of the lightest, most efficient ways to learn to code. Your Chromebook is a great instrument to learn any coding language. Unless you’re playing with huge datasets and tackling professional-level coding architecture, your Chromebook is more than sufficient.  

So, here is how to get started on your coding journey with your handy dandy Chromebook.

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Google’s Chrome OS Developer Toolbox

Google is doing everything it can to make the Chromebook a first-rate laptop. It has made it possible to get your degree in Computer Science using just a Chromebook with the Developer Toolbox. The platform is full of instructions and snippets of code to make the process better.

You can install the toolbox through the site and it’s divided into four basic categories:

  1. Setup: This allows you to set up Linux containers on your Chromebook. Linux environments are preferred by most coders due to the uncluttered and free feel of the operating system.
  2. Android: This section covers the basics of Android Studio installation. You can then start to learn and build basic Android apps.

You can even use the included script to automatically connect to an Android device to test your apps. Since the release of Chrome OS 81, that feature has also been built in for coding on a Chromebook.  

  • Web: This section is specifically for web development. However, there are still dev tools for more than websites and web apps.

You can use these features to test web apps across multiple environments other than Chrome, like Firefox and Safari.

  • Games: This section covers installation and tutorials for game engines including Unity and Unreal. You can also get tutorials for the open-source Cocos2d-x game framework.

Learning Android on Your Chromebook

As mentioned in the previous section, you can install the Android Studio on your Chromebook to learn the language. In 2020, Google launched ChromeOS.dev, a site to help developers start building Android apps.

This platform can help you maximize your capabilities on the platform through “technical resources/tutorials, product announcements, code samples, and more”.

Google also offers the full Android Emulator on Chrome OS now to test apps on Chromebooks without an Android device.

Learning C++ on Your Chromebook

There is a deceptively simple IDE (Integrated Learning Environment) which you can use on your Chromebook to learn C++. It’s called Source Lair. You can also learn Objective-C, Fortran, JavaScript, etc. on it.

You can install it with a simple click on your Chrome browser at this link.

Learning Python on Your Chromebook

Trinket is a web-based coding environment that you can use to learn python on your Chromebook. The platform can be used to develop programs using Python, HTML, and even Java. All files are saved as “trinkets” online for subscribers to the platform.

However, for non-subscribers, you can still use the platform to write code. You’ll have to download the program to your own machine to save it though. After that, the file can be uploaded in every new session to continue editing.

Setting Up Trinket for Coding on a Chromebook

  1. Go to the Trinket website.
  2. Choose the Sign in With Google option.
  3. Choose a username to display the menu.
  4. Select “New Trinket” and then pick “Pygame”.
  5. You’ll be greeted with a coding environment that allows you to write code in the left panel, and display the result on the right panel.
  6. You can work with intuitive controls to run or stop your code easily.

Setting Up Linux on Your Chromebook

Note: You will need an Intel-Based Chromebook (ARM Chromebooks don’t cut it yet).

You will also need to know the basics of Linux, like how to install programs on it, etc.

Finally, you should back up your data using the Chromebook Recovery Utility and create a recovery disk. This way, none of your important data will be lost if something goes wrong.

Installing Linux Using Crostini

For this method, we’ll be installing a Linux environment using Crostini, which is included in the Chrome OS software. This is the easiest way to set up Linux if you’re learning to code on a Chromebook.  

  1. On your Chromebook Desktop, go to the bottom right corner and select “Settings”.
  2. Scroll down to the Linux (Beta) setting and enable it.
  3. In the Linux Terminal that pops up, type the following commands and press Enter after each one:
    “sudo apt update
    sudo apt ugrade”
  4. These commands will verify if the Linux software is up to date. Right now, that means the software running the underlying Linux system is updated. These two commands can upgrade your Linux apps in the future too.

Installing Linux Using Crouton

Crouton gives you a more full-fledged Linux desktop experience on the Chrome OS desktop. Make sure to backup your data before you proceed using the Recovery Utility.

  1. Put your Chromebook in Developer Mode
    1. Shut off the Chromebook.
    1. With the Chromebook turned off, hold down the Esc and Refresh keys, and then press the power button
    1. When the recovery screen appears, press Ctrl+D.
    1. When asked if you want to turn OS verification off, press Enter
  2. Once you’re back on the Chrome OS desktop download Crouton using this link.
  3. Press Ctrl+Alt+T to open the Chrome OS terminal. Then type “shell” and press Enter.
  4. Run this command to copy the Crouton installer: “sudo install -Dt /usr/local/bin -m 755 ~/Downloads/crouton”
  5. Run this command to install Crouton in the desktop environment: “sudo crouton -t xfce”. This part can take a while, so be patient.
  6. After that, you can run this command and access the Linux desktop: “sudo enter-chroot startxfce4”

Using these simple methods and tricks, you can start to learn coding on your Chromebook. You may have thought that a Chromebook restricts you from coding, but that’s certainly not the case.  

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