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Mozilla Firefox on ChromeOS — via Flatpak

Overview

It is easy, on a recent Chromebook to install all your favourite tools!

ChromeOS is full of capability these days, provided you can live with having a G-Suite / Google Apps based world. You have to embrace Google accounts and ID's if you develop apps which end up on Google Play anyway so a Chromebook is as much an ideal development system for mobile apps as an equivalent Apple Mac with its Apple ID and whatnot. On a decent and recent Chromebook you can use Android apps directly from Google Play and Linux apps via the Linux system that is optionally available but very welcome not just for developer computers. Linux apps are a little more complicated to deal with but are worth the trouble.

Before you start!

You can check your Chromebooks Linux capability easily. If it has Linux under System > Advanced > Developers >Linux development environment then you are all set. If not update to the latest ChromeOS to double check and if still you can't see the Linux settings, then it is time to retire your old Chromebook or use it for trips and holidays and not worry about losing it. Assuming you have found that you have a Linux capable Chromebook or got yourself a nice new one, you'll find it quite easy to install the official Mozilla Firefox for Linux Flatpak.

TL:DR — Chromebooks have evolved into decent developer capable computers. Mozilla Firefox for Linux works well on supported Chromebooks and is easy to install.

Mozilla Firefox on ChromeOS via Flatpak

Installing via Flatpak Linux application sandboxing and distribution framework

Contents

Install Flatpak in Linux on ChromeOS

Wait, whats Flatpak?

Mozilla suggest using Flatpak, a Linux application sandboxing and distribution framework, as the base from which to install Firefox on ChromeOS. Flatpak should be able to be enabled on most new Chromebooks once you have enabled the Linux system on your Chromebook. Mozilla also note that you can easily install the Firefox for Android mobile optimised browser too, but that is not same as the desktop browser so it wasn't quite what I needed. So just follow the quick setup instructions for installing Flatpak and then you can install the Firefox Flatpak

Install the Mozilla Firefox Flatpak

Flatpak installs from the terminal, just let it finish!

Once the Flatpak setup is complete, you can install Firefox from a Terminal by typing $ flatpak install flathub org.mozilla.firefox. It can take a little while, and on my Chromebook it put some garbage characters on the screen, but it completed and now Firefox is avaliable from 'Linux applications' in my Chromebook launcher.

Screenshot of Mozilla Firefox Flatpak on ChromeOS
Mozilla Firefox Flatpak on ChromeOS

Issues with Mozilla Firefox on ChromeOS

Workarounds for issues with Firefox on ChromeOS

Scrollbar

The Scrollbar isn't very visible. This is true in all of ChromeOS these days but you can at least adjust it in Firefox.

  • Go to the advanced config page about:config
  • Find widget.non-native-theme.scrollbar.style and set it to 4 and voila, wider scrollbar!
Screenshot of Mozilla Firefox advanced configuration page
Mozilla Firefox advanced configuration page

Touch screen doesnt seem to work

You can avoid this in the old school way by using the space bar to scroll. Using the scrollbars works fine too. This is an irritating issue.

Large App title bar

Go to the Hamburger menu and find> More Tools > Customise Firefox and at the bottom of the window untick 'Title Bar' and its gone!

Screenshot of 'Title Bar' checkbox on Mozilla Firefox
'Title Bar' checkbox on Mozilla Firefox



References

See also: