Out of the box, newer releases of Ubuntu offer snaps for universal packages. Snap packages are an amazing step forward for both desktop and server use cases, as upgrades and security concerns are greatly eased. But there’s another universal package format: Flatpak. Flatpak was developed by the Free Desktop Project and offers an outstanding alternative to snaps for the desktop. With these types of universal packages, it becomes incredibly easy to install third-party applications without having to add repositories or deal with dependencies.
But if you’re wanting to make use of both Flatpak and snaps on Ubuntu, you’ll have to first install Flatpak support. I’m going to show you how to get Flatpak up and running on Ubuntu. I’ll be demonstrating on a daily build of Bionic Beaver desktop (Ubuntu 18.04).
The first thing we must do is add the necessary repository. To do this, open up a terminal window and issue the command:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexlarsson/flatpak
You will be prompted to hit Enter on your keyboard. Do that and the repository will be added. Update apt with the command:
sudo apt update
Install flatpak with the command:
sudo apt install flatpak
We want to make this as easy as possible, so we’re going to install Flatpak support for GNOME Software. To do this, open up a terminal window and issue the following commands:
sudo apt install gnome-software-plugin-flatpak
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
Restart your system and log back in. Once the system restarts, open up your browser and point it to Flathub. Find an application you want to install, click its associated INSTALL button, and when prompted select Software Install (default) from the drop-down (Figure A).
Once the installation completes, you will find the application launcher in your desktop menu. Fire up the application and enjoy.
The future of app installation
These types of universal packages are the future of app installation on Linux. Being limited to only one type means you might miss out on certain apps or at least an ease of installation you won’t find with standard packages. Give both snaps and Flatpaks a try and see if you don’t want to have them both on your Ubuntu machine.