Here are Linux app distribution methods explained


Linux is still quite fragmented as an ecosystem. Not only are there countless distros or distros, but also a number of different ways to install apps on your system.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular ways to install and get apps on your Linux system, talking about the pros and cons in an effort to educate you further.

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It should be noted that you can easily install any of these application distribution methods on your Linux, regardless of your distribution.


Perhaps one of the oldest ways to install apps on your Linux, this method is to add the app developer’s repository to one of your system’s app sources. This will then allow you to install apps directly from said sources and even get app updates from them.

It was a pretty easy way to install apps because it took the guesswork out of compiling the code for yourself and installing the app on your system, which many geeks and noobs alike don’t. were perhaps not very accustomed.

The biggest drawback of PPAs is of course trust. Adding a repository of random developers as an application source on your system can be risky because these developers haven’t been exactly vetted and there’s nothing stopping them from adding malicious code to their software.

So, most Linux applications need a few packages on a system to work properly. These packages or libraries are called dependencies. These can often be shared between different applications if your operating system does not already have them present.

The absence of one or more dependencies necessary for an application means that it will simply not work. Luckily, there are some fairly easy ways to fix this problem, like sudo apt-get install -f. Seeing this problem, Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu, decided to do something about it in 2016.

Snap solves this dependency problem by including the necessary dependencies directly in the app, instead of building those dependencies into the underlying operating system through a traditional app install process like apt-get.

The advantage of this method is of course that apps are less likely to break during installation, as they were designed to come with everything they need to work.

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This strength is also its greatest misdeed. This is because Snaps take up a lot of space on your system as they come with everything they need and may not need your system’s libraries. They also tend to start up a little slower than apps installed using other methods.

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Plus, being corporate-led means it might not get a warm welcome. Linuxers are extremely anti-establishment.


DEBs are files managed by the Debian package management system. Think of these files as executables, much like .exe or .msi on Windows or .DMG for Mac users. These are simple to install and work like those other mainstream operating systems. Just download the file, double click and accept the terms and it is installed.

The disadvantage of this method is that you have to download the packages and install them manually. No one guarantees that the source you use for this application is secure. To be fair, this is also the argument against the other operating system using these installers.


AppImage is a format for distributing portable software on Linux without needing superuser permissions to install the application. Essentially, you download the AppImage and it comes with everything it needs and doesn’t leave its “container”.

These might be the most ideal method of distributing apps, but they are a bit tricky to integrate into the system. This means that they often stand out visually. They don’t follow the system theme, design language, font, so they often look out of place.

Perhaps every Linuxer’s favorite poster right now, Flatpaks borrow some of the strengths of these other Linux app distribution methods while minimizing the drawbacks that everyone hates about these other methods.

Flatpaks provide a sort of sandbox environment where users can run application software in isolation from the rest of the system.

This method also allows the developer to package their application once and make it available on different distributions instead of having to build and modify for each version of Linux. It also makes troubleshooting much easier.

As such, Flatpaks often have the latest versions of applications, a problem that has plagued Linux distros and its distribution methods for some time now.

However, Flatpak sandboxes are not as closed as other methods. Flatpaks are able to reference system runtimes, allowing them to ship only with the dependencies they will need, those that are too old or too new for the application to use.

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There are also concerns about the security of these applications, as they are also precompiled binaries.


This kind of fragmentation in Linux application distribution can be confusing to anyone trying to break into the whole Linux ecosystem, sometimes even daunting. However, a more useful way of looking at it is that you always have somewhere to look for your apps.

Indeed, these methods are generally interoperable between different distributions. The most popular apps are also available in various distribution methods, so it doesn’t matter which method you prefer.


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