Brief: This detailed guide shows you various ways to install applications on Ubuntu Linux and it also demonstrates how to remove installed software from Ubuntu.
When you switch to Linux, the experience could be overwhelming at the start. Even basic things like installing applications on Ubuntu may seem confusing.
Don’t worry. Linux provides so many ways to do the same task that it’s only natural to feel lost, at least at the beginning. You are not alone. We’ve all been at that stage.
In this beginner’s guide, I’ll show you the most popular ways to install software in Ubuntu. I’ll also show you how to uninstall the software you install.
I’ll also provide my recommendations about which methods you should be using for installing software on Ubuntu. Sit tight and pay attention. This is a long and detailed article, which will give you lots of helpful information.
How to install applications on Ubuntu and how to remove installed software
I’m using Ubuntu 16.04 with the Unity desktop environment in this guide. Apart from a couple of screenshots, this guide is applicable to all other flavors of Ubuntu.
1.1 Install software using Ubuntu Software Center [Recommended]
The easiest and most convenient way to find and install software in Ubuntu is by using the Ubuntu Software Center. On Ubuntu Unity, you can search for Ubuntu Software Center in Dash and click on it to open it:
You can think of the Ubuntu Software Center as like Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store. It showcases all the software available for your Ubuntu system. You can either search for an application by its name or just browse through various categories of software. You can also opt for the editor’s pick. It’s your choice.
Once you’ve found the application you’re looking for, simply click on it. This will open a page inside the Software Center with a description of the application. You can read the description, see its rating and also read reviews. You can also write your own review if you want.
Once you’re convinced that you want the application, you can click on the install button to install it. You’ll have to enter your password in order to install applications on Ubuntu.
Could it be any easier? I doubt it.
Tip: As I mentioned in the things to do after installing Ubuntu 16.04 article, you should enable the Canonical partner repository. By default, Ubuntu provides only software that comes from its own repository (verified by Ubuntu).
But there’s also a Canonical Partner repository, which is not directly controlled by Ubuntu and includes closed-source proprietary software. Enabling this repository gives you access to more software. Installing Skype on Ubuntu is achieved by this method.
In the Unity Dash, look for Software & Updates.
And in here, under the Other Software tab, check the options for Canonical Partners.
1.2 Remove software using Ubuntu Software Center [Recommended]
We just saw how to install software using the Ubuntu Software Center. How about removing software that you installed using this method?
Uninstalling software with the Ubuntu Software Center is as easy as the installation process.
Open the Software Center and click on the Installed tab. It will show you all the installed software. Alternatively, you can just search for the application by name.
To remove the application from Ubuntu, simply click on the Remove button. Again you’ll have to provide your password here.
2.1 Install software on Ubuntu using .deb files
.deb files are similar to .exe files on Windows. They’re an easy way to allow software installation. Many software vendors provide their software in .deb format: Google Chrome is an example.
You can download the .deb file from the official website.
Once you’ve downloaded the .deb file, just double click on it to run it. It will open in the Ubuntu Software Center and you can install it in the same way as we saw in section 1.1.
Alternatively, you can use the lightweight program Gdebi to install .deb files in Ubuntu.
Once you’ve installed the software, you’re free to delete the downloaded .deb file.
Tip: A few things to keep in mind while dealing with .deb files:
- Make sure that you’re downloading the .deb file from the official source. Only use the official website or GitHub pages.
- Make sure that you’re downloading the .deb file for the correct system type (32-bit or 64-bit). Read our quick guide if you need to know if your Ubuntu system is 32-bit or 64-bit.
2.2 Remove software that was installed using .deb
Removing software that was installed from a .deb file is the same process as we saw earlier in section 1.2. Just go to the Ubuntu Software Center, search for the application name and click on Remove to uninstall it.
Alternatively, you can use Synaptic Package Manager. It’s not usually the case, but it may happen that the installed application is not visible in the Ubuntu Software Center. Synaptic Package Manager lists all the software that is available for your system and all the software that’s already installed there. It’s a very powerful and very useful tool.
Before the Ubuntu Software Center came into existence to provide a more user-friendly approach to software installation, Synaptic was the default program for installing and uninstalling software on Ubuntu.
You can install Synaptic Package Manager by clicking on the link below (it will open the Ubuntu Software Center).
Open Synaptic Manager and then search for the software you want to uninstall. Installed software is marked with a green button. Click on it and select “mark for removal”. Once you do that, click on “apply” to remove the selected software.
3.1 Install software on Ubuntu using apt commands [recommended]
You might have noticed a number of websites giving you a command like “sudo apt-get install” to install software in Ubuntu.
This is actually the command-line equivalent of what we saw in section 1. Basically, instead of using the graphical interface of the Ubuntu Software Center, you’re using the command-line interface. Nothing else changes.
Using the apt-get command to install software is extremely easy. All you need to do is to use a command like:
sudo apt-get install package_name
Here sudo gives you “admin” or “root” (in Linux terminology) privileges. You can replace package_name with the name of the desired software.
apt-get commands have auto-completion, so if you type a few letters and hit tab, it will list all the programs that match those letters.
3.2 Remove software on Ubuntu using apt commands [recommended]
You can easily remove software that was installed using the Ubuntu Software Center, the apt command or a .deb file using the command line.
All you have to do is to use the following command – just replace package_name with the name of the software you want to delete.
sudo apt-get remove package_name
Again, you can benefit from auto-completion by pressing the tab key.
Using apt-get commands is not rocket science. It’s actually very convenient. With these simple commands, you can get acquainted with the command-line part of Ubuntu Linux and it does help in the long run. I recommend reading my detailed guide on using apt-get commands to learn more about it.
4.1 Install applications on Ubuntu using a PPA
In section 1, you came across the term “repository”. A repository basically contains a collection of software. Ubuntu’s official repository has programs that are approved by Ubuntu. The Canonical partner repository contains software from partnered vendors.
In the same way, a PPA enables a developer to create their own APT repository. When an end user (i.e. you) adds this repository to the system (sources.list is modified with this entry), software provided by the developer in his/her repository becomes available for the user.
Now you may ask what the need of PPAs is when we already have the official Ubuntu repository?
The answer is that not all software automatically gets added to Ubuntu’s official repository. Only trusted software makes it onto that list. Imagine that you’ve developed a cool Linux application and you want to provide regular updates to your users, but it will take months before it can be added to Ubuntu’s repository (and it may not be added at all). A PPA comes in handy in those cases.
In addition to that, Ubuntu’s official repository often doesn’t include the latest version of a program. This is done to secure the stability of the Ubuntu system. A brand new software version might have a regression that could impact the system. This is why it takes some time before a new version makes it to the official repository – sometimes months.
But what if you don’t want to wait till the latest version comes to Ubuntu’s official repository? This is where a PPA can save the day. By using the PPA, you’ll get the newer version.
Typically PPAs are used with three commands. The first adds the PPA repository to the sources list. The second updates the cache of your software list to make your system aware of the new software available. And the third installs the software from the PPA.
I’ll show you an example by using the Numix theme PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:numix/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install numix-gtk-theme numix-icon-theme-circle
In the above example, we added a PPA provided by the Numix project. And after updating the software information, we added two programs available in the Numix PPA.
If you want a GUI application, you can use the Y-PPA application. It lets you search for PPAs and add and remove software in a better way.
Tip: The security of PPAs has often been debated. My advice is that you should add PPAs from a trusted source, preferably the official sources.
4.2 Remove applications installed using a PPA
I’ve discussed removing PPAs from Ubuntu in detail before. You should refer to that article to get more insights into handling PPA removal.
To quickly explain it here, you can use the following two commands.
sudo apt-get remove numix-gtk-theme numix-icon-theme-circle
sudo add-apt-repository --remove ppa:numix/ppa
The first command removes the software installed via the PPA. The second command removes the PPA from sources.list.
5.1 Installing software using source code on Ubuntu Linux [Not recommended]
Installing software using the source code is not something I would recommend to you. It’s tedious, troublesome and not very convenient. You’ll have to fight your way through dependencies and whatnot. You’ll have to keep the source code files on your system, else you won’t be able to uninstall the software later.
But building from the source code is still some people’s preferred method, even if they don’t develop software of their own. To tell the truth, the last time I used source code extensively was 5 years ago when I was an intern and I had to develop a program using Ubuntu. I’ve come to prefer other ways to install applications on Ubuntu since then. For normal desktop Linux users, installing from source code should be avoided.
I’ll be brief in this section and just list the steps for installing software from source code:
- Download the source code of the program you want to install.
- Extract the downloaded file.
- Go to the extracted directory and look for a README or INSTALL file. Well developed software may include such a file to provide installation and/or removal instructions.
- Look for a file called configure. If it’s present, run the file using the command ./configure – this will check if your system has all the required software (called ‘dependencies’ in software terminology) to install the program. Note that not all software includes a configure file, which is, in my opinion, bad development practice.
- If configure notifies you of missing dependencies, install them.
- Once you have everything, use the command make to compile the program.
- Once the program is compiled, run the command sudo make install to install the software.
Do note that some software provides you with an install script and just running that file will install the software for you. But you won’t be that lucky most of the time.
Also note that programs you install using this method won’t be updated automatically like programs installed from Ubuntu’s repository or PPAs or .deb files.
I recommend reading this detailed article on using source code in Ubuntu if you insist on using source code.
5.2 Removing software installed using source code [Not recommended]
If you thought installing software from source code was difficult, think again. Removing the software installed using source code could be an even bigger pain.
- First, you have to keep the source code you used to install the program.
- Second, you should make sure at installation that there is a way to uninstall the program. A badly configured program might not provide a way to uninstall the program and then you’ll have to manually remove all the files installed by the software.
Normally, you should be able to uninstall the program by going to its extracted directory and using this command:
sudo make uninstall
But this is not a guarantee that you’ll have this method all the time.
You see, there are lots of ifs and buts attached to source code and not that many advantages. This is why I don’t recommend using source code to install software on Ubuntu.
A few more ways to install applications in Ubuntu
There are a few more (not so popular) ways you can install software on Ubuntu. Since this article is already way too long, I won’t cover them here. I’ll just list them below:
- Ubuntu’s new Snap packaging
- dpkg commands
- Using AppImage
- pip : used for installing Python based programs
How do you install applications on Ubuntu?
If you already use Ubuntu, what’s your favorite way to install software on Ubuntu Linux? Did you find this guide useful? Do share your views, suggestions and questions.