How to install Linux software from source

If you're curious about installing Linux apps from source, Jack Wallen questions if that's the best route.

How to install Linux software from source If you're curious about installing Linux apps from source, Jack Wallen is there to get you started and make you wonder if that's really the route for you

One of the many great things about Linux is that you can install an application directly from the source. Why would you want to do that? In some cases, it means you can customize the installation to meet very specific needs. Say, for example, you want to install an app that includes options and features not found in the default installation. Or say you want to install the software with it being optimized for your specific hardware. These sorts of things can be successfully done when installing from source.

But how do you accomplish such a feat? Well, it's not always so straightforward. And, you could find yourself caught in a dependency loop. However, in most cases, the software includes a readme file that outlines precisely how to install the app from source (including the dependencies you need).

Although installing an app from source may sound a bit daunting to many users, generally speaking, there's a standard procedure with the process that can be completed with a few quick commands.

SEE: IT pro's guide to working smarter with Linux (Tech Pro Research)


What are those typical source-installation commands? When you download a source package, extract the downloaded file and change into the newly created directory. Issue the command ls to see if there's a readme file. If so, give it a read, and you'll probably find easy-to-follow installation instructions.

Often, the installation process works with the following commands: ./configure, make, and make install or cmake and make. However, there is no guarantee that will wind up successful. In fact, chances are, you'll find yourself in a dependency nightmare, where you must first manually install all of the missing dependencies before the software can be installed. And that is one of many reasons why installing with a package manager is far more advisable than installing from source.

But when you really want to get your fingers dirty, start with that readme file, where you should find all the necessary information for successfully installing that app in question. Good luck.

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Image: Jack Wallen

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website