Need Viber on your Chromebook? For now, Linux is probably the answer

Over the weekend, I received a message from a reader who was desperately trying to get Viber working on his Chromebook. What is Viber you ask? Yeah, I wasn’t exactly familiar with it either but over 1 billion people around the globe depend on Rakuten’s messaging platform for chat, calls and even video conferencing. The app itself looks really inviting and it appears to offer similar features to WhatsApp and many other chat apps.

Where Viber stands out is its ability to make voice calls internationally for quite less than standard phone plans and calling cards. You can chat with people on the Viber app or you can make calls that are referred to as “Viber Out” by adding money to your account balance and dialing just as you would with most applications. The one shortfall of Viber is that it does not offer a web-based interface like WhatsApp, Android Messages, Hangouts and the list goes on. I don’t know the reason for this but it is likely due to the fact that Viber prides itself as the “most secure” messenger on the planet.

That’s not to say Viber isn’t cross-platform. In order to use Viber, you will have to install the Android or iPhone application, link your phone number and then, you can install the desktop client on your Mac, PC or Linux device and sync them with a QR Code. Sadly, that does not include Chrome OS because there isn’t a web client. If your go-to device is mobile, this is really a non-issue but with so many people now working from home, installing Viber on a desktop can be a big productivity boost for tan eams using the messaging app.

That brings me back to my weekend conversation with the user of an HP Chromebook x360 14. After a little back and forth about the specifics of his situation, he told me he needed Viber for work and really wanted to use it on his Chromebook. My initial question was “why not use the Android app?” After installing and attempting I confirmed what was told to me by my inquisitor. The Viber Android app installs just fine. It even works just as you’d expect. The problems arise when you attempt to minimize the app. My poor Pixelbook Go immediately started freaking out and Viber went into an endless loop of opening and closing from which there was no recovery. My only option was to power down my Chromebook. Not a great experience especially if you’re multitasking and using the app for business purposes.

While I’d love to tell you that the Linux approach is a quick fix for this problem, it’s not quite that straightforward. If you absolutely need Viber on your Chromebook, you can do so and I will gladly walk you through the steps. (It’s super simple, really) The caveat is that you will only be able to use the Linux version of Viber for messaging. Crostini has yet to active microphone access by default (even though you can turn it on with a crosh command, it still doesn’t work for Viber) and camera access isn’t a thing either. Still, if you know this going in and you still want the desktop Viber chat experience, let’s get down to business.

There is a .deb file available for Viber but unfortunately, it throws an error when you try to install it on a Chromebook. Thankfully, we know that Linux on Chrome OS plays fairly well with Flatpaks. To get started, you will need to make sure you have Linux apps enabled and that your container is up-to-date. You can find those steps here. Now we will install Flatpak, the Flathub repo and the Viber Flatpak. You can do so by inputting the following three commands into the Linux terminal.

sudo apt install flatpak
sudo flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub
sudo flatpak install flathub com.viber.Viber

Once the installation is complete, you should have a Viber desktop icon in your launcher and you’re all set. Just open the app and sync it to your mobile device. Honestly, I’m very impressed with Viber and I think I’m going to take it for a test-drive for a few weeks. If you’re interested in trying it out with me, head over to Viber and download whatever versions are applicable to your devices. Stay tuned for more installments of the Command Line. We’ve got a lot more Linux stuff to cover.

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