Run Linux Based Programs on a Chromebook with rollApp

Chromebooks can run a ton of software in a browser, but they miss out on some popular open source and Linux programs. You can install Linux on your Chromebook, but there’s another way. rollApp lets you run these programs remotely in a browser. The web platform will integrate with existing cloud storage. Here’s how to get started.

Goodness of Linux Apps on your Chromebook | Photo credit: MEDION Pressestelle via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA
Goodness of Linux Apps on your Chromebook | Photo credit: MEDION Pressestelle / CC BY-SA

Creating an Account

One thing I like about rollApp is you can use your existing credentials from Google, Facebook, or Amazon. That’s one less password to remember.

createaccount

amazonlogin

After you log in to rollApp, you’ll then connect your cloud accounts. In this example, I’m connecting my Box account. If you have 2FA on, rollApp supports the connection. I had no problems adding my Dropbox or OneDrive, both have 2FA on.

cloudstorageconnect

boxconnected

You need two-factor authentication! Check out our guide on how to enable it on critical websites.

Premium Versus Free Pricing

rollApp’s free version lets you read, but not change files. That level is good for trying out the program or opening a file you can’t read. If you want to change or print the files, you’ll need to pay the $6.99 monthly or the $71.88 yearly fee. I rarely need rollApp to change files. When I do, I just pay the monthly fee. The Premium version also lets you print from rollApp, but that’s a feature I also rarely use.

Launching Apps

Since it exists in the cloud, rollApp keeps adding programs. The Quick Launch bar has the most popular apps like OpenOffice.

startingwithrollapp

It also remembers your recent apps. You can also add apps from the Chrome Web Store. Using the Chrome Web Store lets you create an icon for the app. Then you can add it to a folder or your shelf on the Chromebook.

gimpinchromestore

Want a Chromebook app icon? You can put any app on the shelf if you follow these instructions.

The apps open in a window separate from the web browser. If you didn’t realize your Chromebook can’t run Linux apps, you would think the app is running natively. That is until you lose your Internet connection.

Opening Files

Once you connect your cloud-based storage, those file systems are accessible from any rollApp. Here I’m using GIMP to access files from my OneDrive. If the file is on your Chromebook, opening it requires an extra step.

gimpopen

Head on over to the home icon from the rollApp and select choose file from your computer. That uploads the file and opens it in the suggested application. That feature is part of their RollMyFile service. If the default app isn’t the one you want, save the file and then open it in another program.

rollmyfile

Don’t have an app to open a file? RollMyFile has a few competitors for opening up and converting files.

Features and Limitations On a Chromebook

We covered how to run Linux or Windows programs before on a Chromebook. With Linux, you need to make some modifications to your Chromebook to get it to work. You also need to know how to install Linux programs. rollApp does it all for you.

Programs like Parallels Access or Chrome Remote Desktop let you remote into another computer and run software remotely. rollApp is similar, but it does it all in the cloud. That’s great if you’re concerned about security or you have a slow upload speed on that remote system. Since rollApp runs on any platform, you can switch from your Chromebook and pick it up on any browser or mobile device.

These apps don’t run offline, so you’ll need to keep your internet connection. If you lose it while working, rollApp keeps your program open for 15 minutes. Hopefully, that’s enough time to save your work.

Linux GRRM Meme

The list of apps keeps changing at rollApp. Right now they promise programs like Audacity and Handbrake, but they aren’t available as of this writing. Most popular Linux programs are included like GIMP.

Another feature of rollApp is it lets you host a file on their server with read-only access. You can embed an OpenOffice document on your website and share it with others. That’s great for presentations.

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