How to Install FlatPak on Ubuntu

For many years people have talked about “universal installers” for Linux. We have app image, snap packages, and now Flatpaks. Much like the other tools, Flatpak is a technology that makes it very easy to install software no matter the Linux distribution. This is a great tool because for too long the Linux platform has been plagued with the fact that there are too many types of installation formats.

The difference between snaps and why some would want to use Flatpak in its place is clear: the entire Gnome foundation is behind this technology, and soon it will be possible to get the entire Gnome desktop (and more) in Flatpak format. However, this isn’t the only benefit.

The real reason Flatpak stands out is because the developers of this software put the Linux desktop first. This can’t be said for snaps, as Canonical tends to focus more on servers. With this technology it is easy to see tons of software from many developers popping up in a very short time.

This guide will focus on the installation of Flatpak on Ubuntu. If you run a different Linux distribution, instructions on how to install the Flatpak technology are here.

Note: all Flatpak package installation instructions apply to all Linux-based operating systems including Ubuntu.

Flatpak is available for Ubuntu 16.10 by adding a PPA to the system. To add this PPA, open a terminal window and do the following:

The PPA will add a new software source to Ubuntu. Next, update the software sources with the update command.

Finally, install the Flatpak technology to Ubuntu:

For some reason there isn’t any ability within Flatpak to search across all repositories in a simple manner. Instead, if the user wants to find a specific package to install, they’ll only be able to list every package on an individual repository. To list all available installable packages in a Flatpak repository, do the following:

This command will print out every single app available for installation. From here, pick an app from the list and run this command to install it:

Note: for more help with Flatpak commands, run flatpak --help.

Gimp

flatpak-gimp-download-page

The best way to look at Flatpak is that it’s a great way to deliver bleeding-edge software updates as soon as possible. This might not sound like much, but when talking about a Linux distribution that takes forever to release updates, this could be very useful.

Take Gimp for example: a great graphical editor for the Linux platform and one that with each version gets better features. The developers have decided to deliver their program nightly (updates every single night) via Flatpak.

To install Gimp as a Flatpak, follow these instructions:

Pitivi

flatpak-pitivi-download-page

There are many video-editing choices on Linux. When searching through package repositories, users will likely come up with at least 3 or more options. Pitivi is no different. It’s an advanced video editor with tons of great features and an easy-to-use user interface. And like most software on this list, it benefits from fast updates – something only a Flatpak can provide.

Telegram

flatpak-telegram-website

Telegram is a great message app and one of the few mainstream services to take Linux seriously as a platform. Downloading Telegram and getting it running on Linux is moderately easy but something not a lot of people want to do as it requires extracting packages.

Luckily, there’s a Flatpak for that. Fedora users has taken it upon themselves to serve up the official Telegram chat client in the form of a Flatpak. This means it’ll always have up-to-date binaries, and installing Telegram on new machines can be just a few commands away.

Libre Office

flatpak-libre-office-setup-page

Libre Office, like Gimp, gets updated with new features quite often. A lot of the time most Linux distribution providers are pretty slow to push out these changes. That’s why The Document Foundation has taken it upon themselves to distribute their software via Flatpaks. This will ensure that everyone can get the latest version of the open-source office suite as soon as possible without hassle.

With the Flatpak technology installed on the system, Ubuntu is now set up to install packages from all different types of sources. Though not a lot of developers are on the Flatpak train just yet, more and more projects are using it every day. To keep up with apps that are available with this new technology, head over to this page and check on it every so often, as new apps get added every day.

Would you use Flatpak? How do you feel about it? Tell us below!

3 comments

  1. 
The thing about Snaps and FlatPak is that neither one offers a wide selection of packages. Any
    distro’s repository offers thousands of packages more than Snaps and FlatPak combined.

    
It is ironic that, in their quest to consolidate the process of package installation,, the developers of
    FlatPak and Snaps have succeeded in fragmenting it. There has been a pre-existing “universal
    installer” in use, called AppImage. Instead of contributing to the development of AppImage,
    FlatPak/Snaps developers, in true Linux tradition, decided to create their own products. So now we
    have three competing “universal installers”, none of which is likely to become “THE UNIVERSAL
    installer” used by all distros. I would not be surprised if in the near future, other developers did not
    start forking AppImage and FlatPak, or developing other competing “universal installers.

    
I am not at all surprised at Canonical for creating Snaps since they are forever trying to create their
    own private, proprietary versions of as many Linux Apps as they can. Democracy and freedom are
    great most of the time. However, they have proven to be Linux’s greatest shortcomings as far as
    those outside the Linux community are concerned. Developers do not contribute to existing projects
    but instead either fork them or create their own parallel ones. Do we really need three competing
    “universal installers”? Do we really need 1000+ distros? Do we really need dozens of office suites,
    media players or photo managers?

  2. The reason why linux distros are slower to publish apps is that distros test those apps first. You may get new app versions faster using flatpak, but is that really good? No it is not, because it is 100% sure that apps will be more buggy when they are not tested well. You really do not want to use the latest version of the application in the every day use because latest versions are always also the most buggy versions. I rather use the well tested traditional packages distrubuted by linux distro than use buggy apps distributed by flatpak.

    Another thing which worries me in flatpak is what will happen to accessibility in Linus. The state of accessibility in linux is not so good. I fear that if things like flatpak gets more common then state of accessibility will be horrible. This is not good if you are blind etc. Linux distros like debian try to make sure that system is as accessible as possible. If people will start to use flatpak for the distribution of apps then I am sure it will completely destroy the accessibility. If developers start to distribute their apps using flatpak, then it is 100% sure most of the apps will not be tested to work with Orca screen reader. There is lots of developers who do not care aboutaccessibility, or know how to make app accessible. It is mostly linux distros which make sure system is accessible. Also, systems like flatpak put apps into sandbox, so apps do not see each other. I am sure that will brake accessibility when app can not works with screen reader, or app distributes its own libraries and other dependencies which do not work with screen reader.

    This does not not look good at all. This will make life of blind userrs like a nightmare and system complete unusable.

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