Google has finally begun officially bringing support for its dedicated in-house Android development tool -- the aptly named Android Studio IDE -- to Chrome OS as indicated in a number of reports.
The change not only means that users will finally have a relatively easy time getting the application installed in Chrome OS's Linux environment. It also means that Android developers will soon be able to build apps for Android-based hardware from start to finish on ultra-portable, relatively inexpensive Chrome OS devices.
Google refers to the process as a "one-click" installation, which may not be unfair with consideration for how difficult it could be prior to the search giant's decision to bring it in an official capacity to the OS. But there are a few steps to the process.
Android Studio for Chromebooks is still in a beta format and users will probably want to have some experience with app development before using it on those gadgets as a result but that isn't the only pre-requisite worth considering.
Google’s recommendation for any Chrome OS machine to run Android Studio starts with 8GB RAM and an Intel Core i5 processor or better. In particular, the company recommends a ‘U-series’ processor or better. We conducted our test for this guide using a device with just 4GB RAM and an Intel Core m3-7Y30 and things seemed to work but that won’t likely hold up with larger projects.
4GB of storage space is recommended at minimum, with extra space needed for any assets the user will be working with and depending on the scale of the project. Since most Chromebooks with the required processor will ship with at least 32GB to 64GB of onboard storage, that shouldn't be an issue for most users.
For screen specifications, Google recommends a 1280 x 800 resolution display or better. That will help ensure that, at minimum, users are able to develop apps that will look consistent with other experiences on modern handsets. Effectively, it meets the minimum resolution seen on some of the most budget-friendly gadgets available -- although there are some with lower resolutions
Setting up for the “one-click” installation
The first step to installing the new Android Studio and opening up the world of Android app development possibilities on Chrome OS is to ensure that Linux apps can be installed, to begin with. That’s an easy process that starts with clicking or tapping on the clock found at the bottom-right-hand side of the Chrome OS UI before selecting on the gear-shaped settings icon on the resulting menu.
The Chrome OS settings application will open up from there and typing “Linux” into the search bar at the top of that page will bring forward the only setting that’s needed. To the right of the Linux settings card, a square-shaped button labeled “Turn on” will activate Crostini Linux and a subsequent UI will prompt users to install requisite files.
“Installing” Linux takes a few minutes due to the over 300MB of files needed to use the feature and, once completed, a terminal may pop up in its own window. That can be closed out.
Users will also notice a dedicated folder in the “Files” application. That’s found under the “My Files” directory and marked with an appropriately-designed penguin icon.
The second step
Once the Linux environment is activated, other options will become available under that section of the Settings app. That includes the ability to completely delete the Linux installation among other things we aren't covering here. The second step to install Android Studio on Chrome OS is to download and install of the app itself. As Google’s somewhat inaccurate description implies, that’s a relatively straightforward and easy process.
Now, there will be some secondary set-up and other steps to follow related to the act of actually setting up the IDE and using it. We’re not going to cover that here either since that can be a complex topic on its own that would require its own walkthrough. For those who have used Android Studio previously, setting up will be familiar since its similar to how that works on other platforms.
It does also bear mentioning that the device emulator that might ordinarily be used for testing purposes isn’t quite ready yet and neither USB support or debugging are completely intact as of this writing. Chrome OS itself comes with Android so that won’t automatically be a problem but it’s worth knowing that the term “beta” definitely still applies here since that will be a necessary feature for many.
Installation of Android Studio on Chrome OS can be accomplished by navigating to the appropriate page of Google’s aptly-named Developer site at the “developer.android.com/studio/preview” URL and tapping or clicking on the square-shaped green download button. As of this writing, that’s going to read “Download 3.5 Beta 1” but that will change as new releases are launched and the tool is updated.
The relatively massive 740MB ‘.deb’ file download is the second of three waiting periods and this one can be a bit longer depending on variations in internet speeds from user to user. It isn’t of any vital importance where, exactly, within the Chrome OS file directory that’s placed as it will install to the appropriate Linux destination, regardless of where it’s put.
As of Chrome 74, users can create their own folders under the My Files directory but we downloaded it to the default “Downloads” folder.
After the file finishes downloading, users will need to "right-click" the .deb file by either clicking their touchpad with two fingers or by pressing the "alt" key while clicking on it. A long-press will also work for those using their touchscreen instead. That will call forward the context menu, now including an option to "Install with Linux (Beta)." As with the Linux folder, that's accompanied by a penguin icon.
Clicking or tapping on that option will start the installation process. Interestingly, there doesn't appear to be any UI indicating that's being installed and it's going to take a while to unpack everything -- it took almost an hour on our machine but that may not be typical.
It will be easy to tell when that's finished installing though since the terminal application users will have seen added with the activation of Linux itself will no longer sit alone in the app launcher. Instead, that will be in a folder alongside Android Studio, marked in a Chrome Canary Channel-like yellow. Tapping or clicking on that will run the app, which ran just fine on our HP Chromebook x2 on initial inspection.
Android Studio may not run on every device that's not officially supported for the beta or even all that well when under load on the device used here but it does seem to be more stable than the 'Beta 1' label might imply.