If you’ve grown sick of the constant issues found in the Windows operating systems, you might be wondering if there’s an alternative other than purchasing costlier Apple hardware. There is. Linux is an operating system that outperforms the competition on numerous fronts (such as performance, reliability, ease-of-use and security). Even better, you can test-drive Linux by installing anything to your drive, so if you don’t like it, you can always go back to Windows with a simple reboot. If you do find that Linux meets (or probably exceeds) your needs, the installation is incredibly simple.
SEE: 40+ open source and Linux terms you need to know (TechRepublic Premium)
But once installed, you’ll probably find the need to install other software. Fortunately, that’s just as easy … depending on the distribution you chose. Up to this point in this series, I’ve focused on elementary OS. But with the last entry, you probably discovered that a serious lack of software for that particular distribution might make it a bit of a challenge to use as your daily operating system.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other Linux distributions to choose from. This time around, we’re going to turn our sights on the perennial favorite, Ubuntu.
Ubuntu Linux has been at (or near) the top of every list of most user friendly operating systems on the planet. Not only is it very user friendly, but it’s also about as stable an operating system as you’ll find. And with a massive amount of supported hardware, it should run on nearly any desktop or laptop you pair it with.
But that’s not the focus this time around. I want to demonstrate just how easy it is to install software on Ubuntu Linux. We’ll take a look at doing this from both the GUI and the command line. Don’t panic, I’m only going to demonstrate the command line to illustrate how easy it is (not because you’ll need it).
With that said, let’s dive in.
How to install from Ubuntu Software on Linux
On the Ubuntu Linux desktop (Figure A), you should see an orange icon in the Favorites bar (left edge of the screen) with what looks like a letter A (for Applications). Click that icon to open the Ubuntu Software store.
With Ubuntu Software open (Figure B), you’ll see there are a few sections to deal with.
At the top of the window, you’ll find three tabs:
- Explore—This is where you find new software.
- Installed—This is where you see all of your installed software.
- Updates—This is where you update your software and system.
The Editor’s Picks section is a listing of curated applications that you might find of interest. Below that are the various categories. Click on a category to display all related software. Say, for instance, you’re looking for productivity software. Click on that category and you’ll see all of the available software related to that category. If this is your first time opening Ubuntu Software, give the categories a moment to populate.
Let’s say you want to install Slack. There are two ways to find this app in Ubuntu Software. You could either click Productivity and scroll down until you see it listed (Figure C), or you could search for Slack on the Explore tab of Ubuntu Software.
Click on the Slack entry and then click Install (Figure D).
You will be prompted for your user password. Type the password and either hit Enter on your keyboard or click Authenticate (Figure E).
Once Slack is installed, close Ubuntu Software and click on the small square of dots at the bottom left of the screen. In the resulting screen (Figure F), type Slack.
When the Slack icon appears, right-click it and select Add to Favorites (Figure G).
You should now see the Slack launcher in the Favorites bar. Click the icon to launch the newly installed application.
How to install apps from the command line in Ubuntu
Installing applications from the command line isn’t hard. The problem, however, is that there are a couple of different ways to install software from the terminal window. The default package manager for Ubuntu (and those based on Ubuntu) is apt, so normally software would be installed with a command like:
sudo apt install slack
Pretty easy, eh?
However, some applications aren’t found in the apt repositories and, instead, are available through a different installation system…called snap. The confusion is that you don’t know which system to use for any given application.
Open the terminal window from the Application Overview (open the overview, type terminal, and hit Enter on your keyboard). Attempt to install Slack with apt like so:
sudo apt install slack
You’ll find Slack isn’t available for installation via apt. So, run the install with snap, like this:
sudo snap install slack
Since we’ve already installed Slack, the command will let you know it’s already installed. Let’s say you want to install the GIMP image editor (which is the open-source equivalent to Photoshop). From the terminal window, issue the command:
sudo apt install gimp
When prompted, type y and hit Enter on your keyboard. The installation will go off without a hitch. Interestingly enough, however, GIMP is available for installation from either apt or snap. I would recommend you always default to apt when given the opportunity (for consistency and ease of system-wide updates).
And there you have it, you’ve installed software on Linux without blinking an eye. Chances are pretty good everything you need to work with can be installed this easily. And given the likes of Ubuntu comes pre-installed with most of the primary tools you’ll need (web browser, email client and office suite), you should be good to go.
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