Programming on Chromebook

HandiHow has been a big fan of Google for years (unfortunately we are not sponsored to say this). We like to use Google's open source framework Angular for programming modern web applications. We also make frequent use of Google's Firebase as the back-end of our web apps and we are also on Google Workspace.

We therefore decided to investigate whether it is not possible to switch completely from MacOS to ChromeOS. The MacBook Pro is the top favorite of many programmers, but of course there are also fervent and many supporters of excellent Windows laptops. Chromebooks are not very popular with programmers yet.

Core software we use:

  • Google Workspace for mail, calendar, files
  • Microsoft Office for documents, spreadsheets
  • Google Meet for online meetings, but also Zoom or MS Teams if desired
  • Moneybird for administration

So far the most used business applications. There are actually no restrictions on ChromeOS. We cannot use the desktop versions of Office programs on Chromebooks, but in principle we mainly work with Google Workspace. The online versions are fine to use. All Google programs work great on the Chromebook. You are automatically logged in and you can easily navigate to all programs. Moneybird can be used completely online in the browser.

But then the programming… There are online IDEs (integrated development environments) that are certainly useful. Github has been working on Codespaces, an online environment for coding, for some time now, and VS Code looks set to become available online. For now this is only in beta for a limited number of participants and the beta program is full. However, we really like coding locally using Visual Studio Code and terminal commands. Will this work on a Chromebook?

The answer is yes, provided you use a high-spec Chromebook. We tried it on a number of different devices. It doesn't work well with 2 GB of memory. With 4 GB of memory it is just to do. If you really want to program well, you need at least 8 GB of memory. And also an Intel i5 processor. We are currently doing well on a Pixelbook from… Google! New price is more than 1000 euros, but there are also good second-hand copies on Marktplaats for around 400 euros. Pixelbooks are no longer being made for the time being, but there are plenty of alternative high-spec Chromebooks on the market starting at 700 euros. Great deal if you compare it with a very expensive MacBook Pro!

Google is working hard to promote ChomeOS among developers as well. Extensive information is available on how to install Linux (Crostini), then VS Code, NodeJS, Angular and all your other favorite tools. See the link for more information.

ChromeOS is one of the fastest growing operating systems. Chromebook sales have exploded during the Corona pandemic. Google is strongly committed to the further development of ChromeOS and Chromebooks are therefore becoming more and more functional. Do you want to know more about programming on Chromebooks? We are happy to share our experiences!


About the author

Roeland is the HandiHow company owner and lead education developer.


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