For my work I develop and run a lot of software on remote clusters. Mostly I'm just using bash/vim over ssh and run only a terminal emulator and web browser locally. I was considering getting a lightweight chromebook for travel, etc. However, I've never actually used one and don't know anyone who owns one.

Does anyone know if a chromebook would be a suitable option, given the following requirements?

  • Can ssh into a remote machine with a fully-capable terminal
  • Can connect to a remote VNC server
  • (bonus) supports X11 forwarding over ssh
  • (bonus) has a local terminal emulator that can e.g. run bash and do some basic linux filesystem manipulation

As to the last point, I'd prefer if there was a local terminal that allowed me to define aliases, run ssh, etc; as opposed to having a completely separate ssh client like PuTTY.

Is the chromebook right for my use case? Or should I just get a cheapo normal laptop?

  • @Ramhound I'd prefer answers to guesses ;) There is in fact clients for each, I'm wondering more if they're usable and satisfy the above requirements.
    – chase
    Jan 29, 2014 at 19:48
  • Question seeking an opinion are no on topic. Your asking if a product is right for your case. Only you can decide that. Determine if it will meet YOUR requirements then make a decision.
    – Ramhound
    Jan 29, 2014 at 19:55
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    @Ramhound, thanks for your input. I asked if the specific requirements are satisfied. This is a question about technical facts, not a solicitation for opinions. But maybe that's just my opinion ;)
    – chase
    Jan 29, 2014 at 19:57
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    The bash term emulator will not happen on Chromebook. The closest you might get is a website that emulates Bash. There are Separate VNC clients for chromebook. X11 is going to be a tough one because they have a access system for anything where you need direct ports like SSH or FTP
    – PsychoData
    Jan 29, 2014 at 20:15
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    People call me crazy, but I'm a data scientist and I use a Chromebook in exactly the way you described. I've put my Chromebook in developer mode and I connect to a computational server with a lot of horsepower over SSH. Once there, I mostly use command-line tools (Vim!) and a few powerful web applications (iPython notebooks!). May 8, 2015 at 13:39

5 Answers 5


The chrome book can support your use case natively, but it is a bit limited. There are some apps you can install that give more full features.

Inside the browser you can install a ssh client or use a limited, built-in shell by doing CTRL+ALT+T to open up a CROmium SHell (CROSH for short) . The terminal can only ssh into other machines and a few other things, a lot of the things that you expect from your standard bash are definitely missing.

That said, the chrome book is great for web browsing and just ssh-ing to other computers

Some Crosh commands

  • 1
    So, you're saying there's no user-accessible posix layer underneath? Unlike e.g. Android, which has local terminal emulators. Sounds a bit limited but still could be better than dropping $1k on a MacbookAir just to do some remote work ;)
    – chase
    Jan 29, 2014 at 19:54
  • None that I have found. There may be a shell emulator app in the chrome store
    – spuder
    Jan 29, 2014 at 19:59
  • Chromebook Shell and Commands I've also read about ways of rooting your chromebook and having real linux shell
    – PsychoData
    Jan 29, 2014 at 20:06
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    I think you mean Ctrl-Alt-T to open a Crosh shell. and the "The terminal can only ssh into other machines, no cd, ls, touch, vim, ect..." part would be a Shell not an SSH client
    – PsychoData
    Jan 29, 2014 at 20:08
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    This answer is outdated as crosh does not support ssh any longer.
    – jsejcksn
    Sep 6, 2015 at 1:19

Check out "Secure Shell" A great SSH client for chromebooks. Supports saved sessions, private keys Made by google's chromium team, but is in beta. Works great for me though

There are plenty of other options you can go with as well, but I like Secure Shell. Also, anytime you need new programs for a chromebook the place to go is the Chrome web store

  • Thanks, do you know if it supports Kerberos authentication?
    – chase
    Jan 29, 2014 at 19:57
  • As far as i understand, thats something server side? I've never used it before.
    – PsychoData
    Jan 29, 2014 at 20:01
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    Secure Shell can also function somewhat as a local terminal emulator by setting up a connection to localhost!
    – user394804
    Aug 26, 2016 at 20:26
  • Thats a neat idea dorito, I hadn't thought to try that
    – PsychoData
    Aug 30, 2016 at 13:48
  • does it support 256 color terminals? Dec 25, 2016 at 14:28

By default you have an ssh-command in the very limited CTRL-ALT-T-shell.

Preferably you want to use a chrome-extension like this one and make it open in a seperate window, so browser-shortcuts (like <CTRL-W> or <CTRL-N> are not in the way).

Another very interesting possibility - and this makes your Chromebook among the best Linux laptops - is enabling developer mode and using Crouton so you can run an XFCE-desktop in parallel with ChromeOS (switchting between the two running instances is as easy as CTRL-ALT-F1/F2. Once you enabled developer mode, there is also a real Linux-shell available (even without Crouton).


Once you do the Control+Alt+T to open the prompt, then just enter shell and you get a standard bash prompt, with all the usual bells and whistles. From there, you can ssh to your heart's content.

  • 1
    Simply the best answer Oct 5, 2017 at 9:16
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    I agree, this is what I use. I can't remember if you need developer mode to run this though (if so, it may be worth adding)?
    – Ian
    Oct 6, 2017 at 14:04

I like you do most of my work on remote systems, I use my local system to do some local tasks but nothing extensive.

Based on this requirement I chose to get an Acer C7, which had an internal spinny disk giving a fair amount more storage for reading photos off SD cards and do some backing up.

I did use the SSH client in the browser but overall I found it to be of limited use. Later I found that the whole system was better suited for me once I put Chrubuntu on there. In the end however the Earthing problems with the Acer C7 led to me getting an Asus X200CA, which suits me far better. As with Chrubuntu there's a whole suite of programs to use rather than what you can do through the browser. I'll admit the OS in a browser is VERY capable compared to what I thought was possible.

Since you're on Super User I suspect your needs will be greater than that which Chrome OS can cater for. Think, "can I do this on my phone", if not then you may struggle on Chrome OS (obviously there are exceptions to this).

Linux doesn't take that long to start up with systemd (not my choice of init, but..) so you may find a regular linux install using systemd will suffice for your travels and the Asus X200CA is perfect for out and about work, I use it when on-call, it's perfect for that.

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