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.
Installing Flatpak on 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:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexlarsson/flatpak
The PPA will add a new software source to Ubuntu. Next, update the software sources with the update command.
sudo apt update
Finally, install the Flatpak technology to Ubuntu:
sudo apt install flatpak
How to list packages
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:
flatpak remote-ls name-of-repository --app
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:
flatpak install --user nameofapp
Note: for more help with Flatpak commands, run
4 great Flatpak to check out
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:
wget http://126.96.36.199/keys/nightly.gpg flatpak remote-add --gpg-import=nightly.gpg nightly-graphics http://188.8.131.52/repo/ flatpak install nightly-graphics org.gimp.GimpDevel master
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.
wget http://flatpak.pitivi.org/pitivi.flatpakrepo flatpak remote-add --from=pitivi.flatpakrepo pitivi flatpak install pitivi org.pitivi.Pitivi master
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.
wget https://jgrulich.fedorapeople.org/telegram/keys/telegram.gpg flatpak remote-add --gpg-import=telegram.gpg telegram-desktop https://jgrulich.fedorapeople.org/telegram/repo/ flatpak install telegram-desktop org.telegram.TelegramDesktopDevel
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.
wget http://download.documentfoundation.org/libreoffice/flatpak/latest/LibreOffice.flatpak flatpak install --user --bundle LibreOffice.flatpak
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!