Install flatpak applications on Ubuntu

Snap, flatpak, app image, the battle for the sandboxed app format is raging on. With every Linux user and developer having their two cents worth as to their preference. Personally, I think they’re all good in different ways. But being as they are all Linux based if you use a distribution that doesn’t provide one out of the box (I.e Ubuntu shipping with snap package support.) You can easily install mechanisms to support others. Here we are going to look at installing flatpaks into Ubuntu and derivatives, although it should be noted it’s installed by default in Linux Mint as opposed to snappy.

What is Flatpak

Flatpak is one of the new generations of sandboxed package format application distribution systems. They are not tied to any single distribution meaning apps can be run on any Linux distro with the flatpak runtime installed. All required dependencies are included in the package and through the sandboxed app it connects to features and services of the host system.

The pros of using flatpaks include:

  • Non Distribution specific installation, resulting in no dependency errors
  • Updates directly from the developer rather than compiled and packaged through the distributions software channels.
  • Sandboxed away from the main system.
  • Greater control over permissions used by the software
  • More developers are using newer packaging systems because of the ease of distribution across many different distributions.

The use of flatpaks does come with some costs though. Source code is not always available to view and modify through this method of distribution. And platform runtimes are required for example KDE and GTK apps download part of a baseline runtime to enable applications to connect. On certain apps, I’ve seen this mean extra installation of over 1GB over files. This is reasonable for using many flatpak apps but excessive for only using a few. Where the required files are probably already installed as part of the OS.

Install flatpak applications on Ubuntu

Setting up

To set up simple add the PPA by opening a Terminal and adding:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexlarsson/flatpak
sudo apt update
sudo apt install flatpak

Next, Install the Flatpak Software plugin to add applications without the command line.

sudo apt install gnome-software-plugin-flatpak

And finally add the flat hub repository:

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

Reboot your system and your all set.

Installing Flatpak applications

Flatpaks from the dl.flathub repository are now installable through the Software app. Simply open the software centre and search for an application. If multiple options for the same application appear. It means it’s installable as a .deb file, snap or flatpak. Find the version you want to use. Installing a flatpak version is a simple as clicking on the install button.

Install from flathub.org

Screenshot-from-2019-06-14-13-21-19.png

Head over to  Flatpak store https://flathub.org/ and find an application you want to install for an example Blender. Clicking on the install button will download the repository for blender opening this file through the browser downloads or file manager will then open the software centre and give an option to install the application.

blendersoftwareinstall.png

Managing via the terminal

The flathub also gives commands for installing via the terminal in the case of blender.

flatpak install flathub org.blender.Blender

and the following to run

flatpak run org.blender.Blender

Removing a Flatpak

Flatpaks can be removed via the software centre by simply clicking the remove button.

blenderuninstall

To remove via the terminal type:

flatpak uninstall org.blender.Blender

Some more useful flatpak terminal commands

Update all flatpak apps and runtimes

flatpak update

Show all installed flatpak

flatpak list

Repair flatpack installs

flatpak repair

When removing flatpak associated runtime files don’t get removed with the apps as they can be shared with other apps. To remove unused runtimes simply enter:

flatpak uninstall --unused

As the runtimes are quite large snapshots of different parts of a system this can free up quite a bit of space and is advisable to do regularly.

What’s your prefered method of installing apps? Do you have some good Flatpak apps to recommend? Let us know in the comments.

 

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