Mozilla Firefox on ChromeOS — via Flatpak
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
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.
Issues with Mozilla Firefox on ChromeOS
Workarounds for issues with Firefox on ChromeOS
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
widget.non-native-theme.scrollbar.styleand set it to
4and voila, wider scrollbar!
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!