Signal Messenger is a great way to securely talk to friends and family. The messaging service offers users an end-to-end encryption protocol to make sure only the folks involved can have access. It also recently got a huge bump by Tesla’s founder Elon Musk’s support on Twitter.
So what’s the problem?
Signal is readily available for mobile for iOS and Android. It’s also available for desktop for Windows, Mac, and even Linux. Unfortunately, there’s no web client and that leaves Chromebooks users without a native solution.
But you said there’s an Android app? Yes. That’s correct, but the Android client is not optimized for Chromebooks and you will be unable to install it through the normal means of the Google Play Store.
Linux has you covered
Despite this omission, Signal can be installed with a workaround by utilizing the Linux app environment Google recently added to Chrome OS. This adds a virtualization layer that allows you to run full Linux desktop apps as “native” ones on your Chromebook.
We recently did a full tutorial on how to activate the Linux runtime. If you haven’t done that already head over and check that out here. You’ll need that in order to move forward with our Signal install.
Set up and Install Signal Desktop on your Chromebook
The next few bullet points will walk you through the process of adding Signal to your Chromebook. Please note that all commands for the Linux terminal are in italics and you will need to remove the quotations from each when using them on your machine.
- First, let’s start with making sure your Linux environment is up to date with this command: “sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade”. Leave off the quotations.
- Type “y” for yes if you have updates and run those if needed.
- Once that’s complete, run this command to add the public software key for Signal: “wget -O- https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt/keys.asc |\ sudo apt-key add -“
- Now you will add the updates repository to your system: “echo “deb [arch=amd64] https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt xenial main” |\
sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/signal-xenial.list”
- Last, you’ll update your software to load the Signal repo and finally install Signal: “sudo apt update && sudo apt install signal-desktop”
Enjoy your private messenger
That’s it. Signal Messenger should now be available in your application tray with the rest of your apps. Once you launch it the first time you’ll be asked to sync your account via QR code from your phone. Afterward, you are good to go.
Two things worth a quick mention. Your contacts will sync but due to the encryption, you will not have any previous history from other devices. Second, the sandboxed Linux environment currently doesn’t have access to cameras on Signal. So video calls are not compatible with Chromebooks for this reason.