Installing Software in Ubuntu

If you’ve been using Ubuntu Linux for a while now it’s quite likely that you have installed packages on your system. There are several ways to install packages on Ubuntu – some simple, others a little more complicated. Let’s look at some of the options you have at hand.

Synaptic Package Manager

Using the Synaptic Package Manager is perhaps the most popular approach to installing software on Ubuntu. Synaptic is a graphical front end for the command line utility apt. And it’s a great graphical application at that – stable, easy to use, and comes bundled with every installation of Ubuntu, thereby making it a very popular choice.

To access Synaptic go to the Ubuntu menu -> System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager. You will be asked to enter your password to access Synaptic, as it is an administrative application. Once you do you’ll be presented with a collection of some fantastic software.

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The application is designed to be easy for novice users to use. You can search for software or navigate through the application categories and pick and choose which applications you want to install. When you select an application it’s dependencies are also selected for you. Once you have selected the applications you want to install hit the Apply button so that Ubuntu can begin downloading and installing the applications for you.

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The way apt and therefore Synaptic works is that you feed in sources, which are essentially server addresses so that Ubuntu can download the applications’ binary from there. You can add or edit the source by going to Settings -> Repositories in the Synaptic menu. Be careful what you do here. You could break the installation process if you enter the wrong data here.

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Command Line – Apt

The command line approach is the good old Linux way of doing things. It offers less jazz than the graphical alternative, but it’s a great option, especially if you want to be able to install stuff remotely. Synaptic is a graphical wrapper on top of apt, a tool that’s been around on Debian Linux way before Ubuntu was unveiled to the world. There are a few commands related to apt that you should familiarize yourself with.

The most important command is perhaps apt-get. To install applications execute the command # sudo apt-get install package-name. To have apt-get update it’s repository information run # sudo apt-get update. If you want apt to search through it’s database for a certain application you can run the command # sudo apt-cache search package-name

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To add repositories you need to edit the file /etc/apt/sources.list. Again, add new sources carefully, as you might break the installer’s database by making a wrong entry.

dpkg

Ubuntu is based on Debian Linux. Prior to the days of apt user would use the dpkg set of tools to install applications. This is the Debian equivalent to RPM, for readers familiar with Red Hat’s package installation system. Unlike with apt and Synaptic you need to download the package yourself. Once you do you need to execute the command # sudo dpkg -i package-name to install an application.

Web Browser

This is a method of installation I came across recently. It’s a very cool way to install applications. Enter the URL apt://package-name followed by the Return key. This will launch Synaptic which will in turn ask you if you want to go ahead and install the application.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Joe July 4, 2012, 7:42 pm

    This must be a really old version of Ubuntu… Ubuntu doesn’t even come with the Synaptic Package Manager anymore. It has its own App Center now, much like Apple’s App Store.

  • Ross McKillop July 4, 2012, 11:35 pm

    Joe –

    Yes, it is an old tutorial that I just noticed was never published. Looks like I have to download the latest Ubuntu and update this content… Thanks!

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