Ubuntu’s Snap Apps Website Gets Much Needed Improvements

Brief: Ubuntu has updated its Snap Store website making it more useful for the users by adding developer verification, categories, improved search. 

Canonical, Ubuntu’s parent company, is pushing aggressively for the adoption of its universal packaging system Snap. And in the same bid, it has improved the user interface and user experience of its online Snap application store.

Snap applications are a new kind of s self-contained, containerized applications. They contain most of the dependencies inside it and are confined from the operating system and other applications through security mechanisms. In other words, Snaps are more secure by design but they are bigger in size and take longer to load than the regular Linux applications.

To the end users like you and me, growing Snap adoption will result in more applications coming to Linux in the form of Snap apps (also called Snaps).

While Snaps can be found in the Software Center, there is a web-store listing all the Snaps. This Snap Store is part of the Snapcraft website, the platform for Snap development.

Snap Store

In my opinion, Snap Store should be a standalone website like Flathub, the online store for Fedora’s Flatpak universal packages.

Snap Store UI and UX improvements

Snap Store UI and UX change

A few months ago, I had a quick chat with Alan Pope, Snap Advocate at Ubuntu. I provided a few suggestions for the improvement of the online Snap store. I am glad that some of my suggestions have been taken into account in this revamp of the Snap store.

Let’s see what has been changed on the Snap Store.  

Verified applications

Actually, it is more of verified developers rather than verified applications. You’ll notice that some of the applications on the store have a green tick on their developers’ name. This green tick implies that the application has been developed by the company behind the software.

Verified Snaps
Verified Snaps

Still confused? Let me clarify. A few weeks back you came to know about a Notepad++ Snap application. But this Snap application was not developed by the original developer behind Notepad++. It was created by someone else not affiliated with Notepad++.

Creating Snap applications is not very complicated and this is why we have plenty of ‘unofficial’ applications on the store. The verified tag distinguishes the apps developed by the owner of the software/brand from the crowd. So when you see a PyCharm Snap app on the website, you can see that it has been developed by JetBrains, the company behind PyCharm.

Does this mean the non-verified applications are unsafe? Not really. The verified tag adds an extra layer of trust on the popular applications. This is what we have suggested when crypto-miner was detected in one of the Snaps.

All the applications listed on the Snap Store are also present in the Software Center as well. It would be more useful if Ubuntu can implement the verification feature in the Software Center.

Note: You’ll see that there are two verified accounts called Canonical and Snapcrafters. When both seem to belong to the Ubuntu itself, then why two separate accounts? The difference between the two is analogous to the main and universe repositories. 

Snaps owned by Canonical are created by Ubuntu team and people are paid for creating and maintaining those Snaps (like Main repository). Whereas the Snapcrafters is a community of people maintaining some snaps (like Universe repository). If you are interested, you can read more about the repository system in Ubuntu here.

Applications divided into Categories

Snaps divided into categories
Snaps divided into categories

Snap Store finally has applications listed into separate categories. This helps when you just want to browse applications based on the type. At present, these are the categories on the Snap Store:

  • Featured
  • Developers
  • Games
  • Social Networking
  • Finance
  • Video
  • Music
  • Productivity
  • Utilities
  • Graphics
  • Server

I wonder if ‘verified’ should be added as a category to list out all the verified Snaps.

Smarter search

The search option has also been improved on the Snap Store. Earlier, you could search applications by their name only. But now, you can search by type or usage of applications as well.

For example, searching for ‘graphics’ will result in all the graphics related Snaps even if they don’t have graphics in their name. 

Improved search on Snap Store
Improved search on Snap Store

Install applications from the Snap Store

If you are using Ubuntu 16.04 or later versions, you can install applications from the Snap Store. Actually, you get the option of “View in Desktop Store” and if you click on it, the same application will be opened in the Software Center.

Installing Snaps from the Snap Store
Installing Snaps from the Snap Store

Offline Snap download is not available on the Snap store yet.

What do you think of the new Snap store?

These new improvements surely provide a better user experience on the online Snap Store. What do you think? Will these new changes make you use the web store more often? What other changes would you like to see on the Snap Store? Do share your views in the comment section below.

Similar Posts

  • *sigh* Another Snap post…

    Snaps are a security nightmare, regardless of the fact that they’re “containerized”.

    Firstly, viruses are no longer the #1 cause of infections on computers– malware is. And Snaps are vulnerable to malware just like any other application. They may be isolated from the operating system, but they can still be infected.

    Secondly, since Snaps carry their own dependencies, you could apply security updates for the shared libraries of your OS and still have Snap apps that use bundled libraries that are vulnerable. This is bad. It makes security auditing diificult, at best.

    Finally, having “unofficial” Snap versions of apps is not a good thing. It’s why we’ve already had Snap packagers bundling cryptocurrency miners without the user’s knowledge. There’s no real accountability.

    I suppose I should give some credit to Canonical for adding developer verification. But based on the screenshot, this seems like the “Verified” feature on Facebook or Twitter. It’s not verification of every developer that publishes apps to the Snap store.

    Personally, I would rather have a verification check mark for apps that are packaged by the original developer. 3rd-party packagers shouldn’t have every app they publish show up with the “Verified” check mark.

  • thanks a lot for the information on snaps. have tried some and it works fine.
    Installing is same easy as from the Ubuntu Software centre , later the snaps are included in the “Show Applications” view, starting from there as well.
    There are some + and – points :
    – in the “show applications” view, you can’t see what are snaps or what not, look same like the app from software centre; propose to make a small “S” to indicate the snap
    – in the disc summary, it looks like each snap creates its own “disk” , and the list of discs becomes large, also it seems that in the start up each snap has its own start command, (It would not surprise me that it delays the start of Ubuntu as well?)
    – for sure the snap program is slower in loading than the same program from the Ubuntu Software center, especially on somewhat older PC. Does it also takes more RAM?
    + main advantage seems to be the containerization for increase security, but that would only apply to those apps that use the internet.
    Still not convinced on the advantage of snaps.

  • Snaps are unusable on a high DPI screen like on the Dell XPS 13 because they don’t respect your theme/settings – their menus appear unusably tiny. They need to fix this before aggressively pushing snaps.

  • Is there anything great using snap instead of flatpack ? Moreover , how good is it too have these instead of regular packages ? Like, isn’t it the opposite of what a package manager and crossed libraries are designed for ? Don’t we risk to abandon this modele from something like that, and thus closing too the windows system ?

    • Well, one advantage is that you can download Snap packages and install them offline. Allowing anyone to create Snaps is not as secure as the maintaining packages but the ‘containerization’ kind of helps there.