Chrome OS has always been based on Linux, but with its new beta support for Linux apps, the system has been opened to a wealth of powerful new applications otherwise inaccessible. The problem is, unless you’re already a Linux guru, you likely have no idea what those Linux apps are. Google is looking to fix this by making Linux apps you can install discoverable from the Chrome OS app launcher.
In a new commit posted last night to Chromium’s Gerrit source code management, we see our first signs of returning behavior for Chrome OS’s app launcher. From the handy search tool, you will be able to search for Linux apps beyond just the ones you already have installed.
Apps are searched for using Debian’s Advanced Package Tool (or APT), which works from a list of online repositories cached to your computer. By default, Chrome OS’s Linux apps support does not include many repositories, but it’s possible this could change as the feature leaves beta.
This search and install behavior is a return to an older feature that we no longer see today in Chrome OS. Currently, to install Android apps and Chrome apps, you need to use the Play Store and Chrome Web Store, respectively.
Previously, it was possible to install web apps and Android apps directly from the launcher, but this capability was removed with Chrome OS version 70. According to the relevant bug, the removal was labeled as being tied to the new “touch-friendly launcher.” Code related to searching for web apps was even removed entirely, while the Android app searching was planned to “lie dormant.”
Being able to find and install new applications directly from the app launcher is a very handy feature in my book. Perhaps this commit is a signal that we’ll soon have the ability to search for new Android apps from the Chrome OS launcher re-enabled, in addition to Linux apps.