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How to install Audacity on your Chromebook

· By · 2.5 minutes to read

Chromebooks are decent, capable machines, used in many places especially the education market: but they’re a little let down when it comes to audio editing software.

Fear not, though: it’s really easy to install Audacity onto your Chromebook and get some great audio editing software that will let you do almost everything you need to.

Three steps to install Audacity on ChromeOS

Turn on Linux support on your Chromebook. Most recent Chromebooks have this. Click the clock in your taskbar, the Settings cog, then search for “Linux” and enable it. This’ll take five minutes or so, so have a nice cup of tea.

You’ll now have a Terminal console blinking at you in all its green scariness. It also appears in “Linux apps” in your launcher if you want it again. Type:

sudo apt-get install audacity

to install the program. ('sudo’ means 'do this as a super user’; 'apt-get’ is the advanced packaging tool that Linux users use to install programs).

It’ll ask you if you want to install lots of things. Type “Y” (a capital y) to agree, and hit enter.

Your screen will fill with exciting nonsense like

Preparing to unpack .../27-notification-daemon_3.20.0-4_arm64.deb ...  
Unpacking notification-daemon (3.20.0-4) ...  
Setting up libgme0:arm64 (0.6.2-1) ...  

Don’t panic, your machine isn’t leaving you. This is Linux installing a set of programs and libraries. After a while, it’ll stop (in my experience, it stopped with an error, but it was far enough along not to matter).

(This installs v2.2.2 of Audacity, not the latest one. There’s not much you can do about that.)

You should now have an Audacity icon in your launcher (in the “Linux apps” group). Go on, try clicking it and see if it works. If your machine has a high-density screen, some of the buttons might be really quite small and difficult to read, but it works.

Using Audacity on your Chromebook

Linux on a Chromebook is a bit like a “machine inside another machine”, so in order for it to see your audio files, you’ll need to use the Files app on your Chromebook and pull an audio file into the new “Linux Files” folder in “My files” so that the Linux machine inside your Chromebook can see it. Once you’ve loaded it, try playing it - there’s an output volume in Audacity itself, which you might need to use.

You can load audio files, edit like you normally would, and export files from Audacity too - and it exports MP3 without having to fiddle with any additional files, too.

When you export files, they’ll again go into the “Linux files” area of your Chromebook. In the Files app, you can pull them out of there and do whatever else you want to do with them.

What Audacity doesn’t yet do

So, you can edit, play back, and export perfectly happily on Audacity.

The one thing you can’t do, yet, is to record. The “machine inside another machine” hasn’t, yet, got audio capture enabled, so it literally can’t see your microphone.

There is, apparently, a way to enable this, which works perfectly with a USB microphone too: but I had no luck with it. (I’m using ChromeOS v83 on an ARM-based Chromebook, if it matters). That said, you can record on Android apps or on other devices, and just import the audio files in.

You might find it’s a little slow: that’s probably due to the slow processor in your Chromebook. But it works, and works nicely-enough.

Good editing!

James Cridland is the Editor of Podnews, a keynote speaker and consultant. He wrote his first podcast RSS feed in January 2005; and also launched the first live radio streaming app for mobile phones in the same year. He's worked in the audio industry since 1989.


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