How to Install Third Party Software in Ubuntu Software Center

After written thousands of Linux articles, one of the complaints that I always heard about Linux is that you have to use the command line to install applications. Most people don’t like Windows, but they were afraid to move to Linux because of the command line. In Windows, they can install an application by double clicking the exe file, but in Linux, they have to use the command line. So is it true that the command line is the only way to install applications in Linux?

The answer is NO. Most Linux distro comes with its own package manager where you can search for the applications you want and install them in a few clicks. In Ubuntu, the equivalent of a package manager is the Ubuntu Software Center, though it is more of a marketplace than a package manager. However, as good as these package managers seem, there is one problem: they only contain applications that are in their repository. If you want to install a third party application not in the default repository, you won’t be able to find and install the application from the package managers.

In Ubuntu, here are a few ways to install third party software from the Ubuntu Software Center.

The good (and bad) thing about Linux is that there are many ways to install an application. You can compile from source, install from repository, or install using the deb/rpm package. Ubuntu supports the deb format and Ubuntu Software Center is the default handler for deb file. That means, after you have downloaded the deb file, all you have to do is to double click it and it will open up in Ubuntu Software Center. You can then view the application detail and install the application.

This is by far, the easiest way to install third party application in Ubuntu. However, not all applications are available in the deb format. This brings us to the next method: installing via PPA.

A good number of applications are hosted in Launchpad. This means that you can easily add the PPA and install the application in your computer. The classical way of installing application via PPA in the terminal is to use the commands:

This is basically a three steps process:

  1. Add the PPA to your repository.
  2. Update the system
  3. Install the application

In Ubuntu, we can replicate the above three steps using GUI.

1. Add PPA to your repository

Open the “Software & Updates” application in Ubuntu. Click the “Other Software” tab, follow by the “Add” button.

ubuntu-software-center-add-ppa

Copy the PPA (should be in the format: “ppa:developer/xyz“) and paste it into the field. Click “Add Source”.

ubuntu-software-center-add-source

Once the PPA is added, you can close the “Software & Updates” application.

Note: Other than Launchpad PPA, you can also add other repository here. It should be of the format like “deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu raring main“.

2. Update the system

Open the “Software Updater” application. It should automatically update the system. If not, click “Check now”.

ubuntu-software-center-repo-update

3. Install the application

Now, you can open Ubuntu Software Center and search for the application that you want to install.

ubuntu-software-center-install-app

You can also click the arrow beside the “All Software” tab to narrow down to the particular PPA so as to make your search easier.

ubuntu-software-center-select-ppa

Until Ubuntu Software Center comes with the ability to add PPA and refresh the repository within itself, we still have to depend on three different applications to install third party PPA application in Ubuntu Software Center. Personally, I prefer to use either the .deb file or the command line in the terminal as they allow me to be more productive. What about you? Do you prefer to use Ubuntu Software Center, or the command line?

4 comments

  1. Still the issue remains, that many applications are not offered in a format, that fits your distro. Like one developer makes a .rpm-file, but not a .deb-file and vice versa. Or you got Ubuntu 13, but the application is only available for Ubuntu 12.04. Another example would be software, that is available for win, osx and linux, but they only have a beta for linux and you have to install it from source. Sometimes you find something cross platform compatible, as it is written in java (or python now and then), but its buggy though and crashes from time to time…

    …but I still stick to (K)Ubuntu :P Most stuff doesn’t make problems – the rest can be seen as “general computer problems” that occour on all plattforms *g*

  2. @lexon222:
    There is no issue where none exists. You install the file that is appropriate for your distribution. If you are using Ubuntu-based distribution, then you use a .deb file to install the package. RPM files are for Fedora based distributions. The two file types are not interchangeble.

    If only a beta or a source version of a package is available, you always have the choice of not installing it until it goes gold.

  3. Every single distro should be able to install deb-file and rpm-file regardless of the distro is base on Debian or Red Hat file systems. That it will be a step ahead on Linux World.

  4. @ Michael O.
    Most of the time a user can install a rpm package on a system that uses deb, and vice versa. Of course it’s not automatic (I wish it were), you need to use alien, a command line tool to convert rpm to deb.
    That being said, you are right. It should be easy, if not automatic.

Comments are closed.

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