A Scrivener Chromebook Guide with Linux

scrivener chromebook guide with linux

The first Chromebook I bought was about a year ago, and the first thing I realized was that I couldn’t put Scrivener on it. There were Scrivener Chromebook guides online, and most of them talked about installing the Linux operating system, but even after that my processor wasn’t able to support Scrivener.

So, I recently bought a new Chromebook, the HP Chromebook 14 and it feels wonderful to have Scrivener at my fingertips again. It wasn’t the easiest process, because many of the guides online are quite technical, but I want to break it down for everyone in case you have a Chromebook.

Some people might be wondering why I am focusing on Chromebooks.

        1. It’s really the only operating system that has this problem with Scrivener, since you can’t install local software to the OS.
        2. Chromebooks are popular (They expect over 14 million sold by 2017).
        3. Chromebooks offer a cheap solution with powerful processing, meaning a few quick tweaks could save you thousands.

Scriptito is the closest I’ve found to a web app comparable to Scrivener, but I’m not a huge fan of trusting a web app with a huge novel, and it doesn’t come close to the features offered in Scrivener.

A Few Notes Before Starting

Gary Newell guided me through the entire setup process, but he offers just about every possible solution in the book, so I wanted to break it down into simple steps to show you exactly which route I chose and then throw in the installation of Scrivener at the end.

Make sure you avoid any Chromebook with an ARM processor. You can put Linux on the Chromebook with an ARM processor, but these computers don’t support the Linux version of Scrivener. From the looks of it, if the processor is from Exynos, skip it. Go for an Intel-based processor for the best bet.

Install Ubuntu Linux Using Crouton

To start, Linux is an operating system just like Windows or Mac OS. Chromebooks are technically Linux computers. It takes a little while to get used to Linux, but it’s really not all that different from Windows in my opinion. Since I only use the Linux side for Scrivener I don’t have to mess around with it that much.

We are going to install something called Crouton, which dual-boots Chrome OS and Ubuntu Linux on the same computer. What does this mean? They both run at the same time. You don’t lose your Chrome OS, and you can switch back and forth with a simple shortcut.

Switch to Developer Mode

When you switch to Developer mode you clear everything on your Chromebook, so back up your information. You also need this guide with you, so I found that the best way is to bring it up on a smartphone or tablet, since your computer shuts down and you won’t be able to see the guide.

Hold down the following keys to switch to Developer Mode: Esc + Refresh + Power Button.

The power button is in the top right corner, the Esc key is in the left right corner and the Refresh button is an arrow going in a circle. It should be at the top of your keyboard somewhere.

Chrome Os is Missing or Damaged

The screen now tells you that Chrome OS is broken or missing. Not to worry, everything is fine. Press Ctrl + D and the computer tells you that you are about to enter Developer Mode.

Press Enter to proceed. This transition process takes around 15 minutes.

Preparing System for Developer Mode

Once the process completes, a screen appears that says OS Verification is off. This is the screen that will appear whenever you turn on your computer now. You can press Ctrl +D to skip it or wait around 30 seconds. After this screen shows it brings you to your regular Google login screen.

OS Verification is Off

Download Crouton on Your Computer

Click here to download Crouton to your Chromebook. It should go in your Downloads folder, since you have a Chromebook.

Install Ubuntu Linux by Running Crouton

This step looks a bit technical, since it requires you to open a command module, but it’s actually pretty simple if you follow the steps.

Press Ctrl + Alt + T to open the terminal window.

Welcome to Crosh

Type shell into the command line.

Shell in Chrome OS Command

Gary Newell explains how there are various Ubuntu versions and desktops to install, but we are choosing one and sticking to it. We are choosing Ubuntu with the Unity desktop. I tried a few of the other ones and this option seems the most user-friendly to me.

Before you complete the next step, remember that in order to get back to Chrome OS you need to press Ctrl +Alt +Left Arrow. (Save this for later)

Type or paste this command into the terminal:

sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r saucy -t unity -e

Installing Ubuntu Linux

Hit Enter and go work on something else because this takes a while. When the process is finished, the system asks you to create a Username and Password. Write this down and REMEMBER IT. From my experience it’s a pain in the butt to retrieve these credentials.

This loads up the Ubuntu Linux interface. Like I stated before, return to Chrome OS with the Ctrl +Alt +Left Arrow combination.

Ubuntu Linux Desktop

Installing Scrivener

Click here to download the proper version of Scrivener for Ubuntu Linux. There are several links to choose from, but I am using the .deb 64-bit option since I have an Intel processor. Chances are you will have the same, but you can always try the 32-bit option. I would stay away from the .tar files. The reason I’m not giving a direct link is because they keep updating the versions for Scrivener beta for Linux.

You can also checkout the forum area for troubleshooting. It’s all writers working on Linux, trying to help each other out. This is a free beta version of Scrivener, but it seems to work quite well. I’ve had some problems with the spellcheck, but I typically just copy to Word to find those mistakes.

Download the file to your Downloads folder. This automatically puts the file in the same Downloads folder on your Linux interface. So when you switch over to Linux, locate the Files icon on the left hand side. It’s usually the second from the top. Go to the Downloads folder and search for the Scrivener file.

Scrivener File

Right click on this file and select Open With. Choose the GDebi Package Installer. If it isn’t showing, choose the Other Applications option and search for the GDebi Installer.

Gdebi Package Installer

Click the Install Package button and wait for it to install on your computer.

Once it’s done, click on the first Search tab on the upper left hand side of your screen. Type in Scrivener to locate the program. Click on the icon to start it out.

search for scrivener

That’s it! You should have a fully functional Scrivener program on your dual-booted Linux Chromebook. You can always right-click on the Scrivener icon to save a shortcut to your taskbar.

Scrivener Program

Switching To and From Chrome OS and Linux

If you are in Chrome OS, switch to Linux by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Right Arrow. Keep holding the Ctrl + Alt keys and click the Refresh button to open Linux. You might have to type in your password to login.

In order to get back to Chrome OS, press Ctrl +Alt + Left Arrow.

Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions about this Scrivener Chromebook guide. Getting Linux on your Chromebook is the easy part, but Scrivener might take a little testing. Once it’s on your computer you can use all the features such as exporting, creating index cards and of course, writing. You might also be interested in Chrome Extensions for writers.

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.


  1. Good stuff! I love my chromebook and have been wanting to use it for more even if it was intended more as a “netbook” type device.

    I had posted a guide a while back when I was playing around with my chromebook…did you start off with the same experience of having to reinstall after a reboot? It took me a while to get it to “stick”.

    • Hi Chauvie,

      I’d love to see your guide if it’s still published online. I actually didn’t have any problems getting this to stick on my HP Chromebook 14. I also tried a version of this on the original Samsung Chromebook and it certainly wasn’t as easy.

  2. Caseyjp11 says:

    scrivener linux requires the package “aspell”…and also a language package. aspell-en (for english) for spellchecking to work. Once that is installed, your spell check should work exactly the same as any other version of scriv.

  3. firebat620 says:

    I’m really embarrassed to ask this… but would you be open to installing Scrivener for me on a new Chromebook if I pay you? I am not very technologically savvy at all.