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Finding and Installing Ubuntu Applications

This chapter discusses some of the useful programs available for your Ubuntu system, how to find more, and how to install them.
This chapter is from the book

In addition to those installed by default, Ubuntu offers a wealth of other applications to help you make the most of your computer. Different people use their computers in different ways, and it is for that reason that we wanted to help you discover how to enable your Ubuntu computer to do even more.

Chapter 3 includes a brief introduction to the Ubuntu Software Center as one way to install or remove software. Here we cover this and other methods as well. Work done using one tool to add or remove software is recognized by the related tools, so it is okay to mix and match which ones you use.

Additionally, we show you just a few of the thousands of additional applications that you can install on your Ubuntu system. Each section showcases one application, starting with the name of the package you need to install and what Windows/OS X equivalents might exist.

Using Ubuntu Software Center

Like other tools discussed later in this chapter, Ubuntu Software Center installs software from the online Ubuntu software repositories.

To launch Ubuntu Software Center, click the Dash Home icon in the launcher at the left of the desktop. In the search box at the top of the menu that appears, type Ubuntu and the search will begin automatically. Click the Ubuntu Software Center icon that appears in the box. When it is run for the first time, and occasionally afterward, it will take a few moments to initialize itself and the list of available and installed applications. Once this is complete, you will see the main screen shown in Figure 5-1.

Figure 5-1

Figure 5-1. Ubuntu Software Center main screen

We introduced the basics of the Ubuntu Software Center earlier in Chapter 3. Let’s look at some of the other aspects now.

Ubuntu Software Center Account

Some features require an Ubuntu Software Center account, mainly those that require money or allow tracking (which will automatically reinstall previous purchases). When required, it is noted in the section. This account is the same as the Ubuntu Single Sign-On account that is required for using Ubuntu One and other Ubuntu services that are available online like the Launchpad bug tracker described in Chapter 9. If a feature requires an account, a window will pop up to make signing up simple, as in Figure 5-2.

Figure 5-2

Figure 5-2. Create an Ubuntu Software Center account or sign in.


Click Turn On Recommendations at the bottom of the Ubuntu Software Center window (Figure 5-1) to allow the program to send nonidentifying information about the software you have already installed. This information is used to generate suggestions for you based on statistical trends. The software you have installed is compared to the software other people have installed on their machines as recorded in an anonymous database, and suggestions are given to you. This works kind of like Amazon’s “people who like the book you are looking at now also like . . .” feature and is quite convenient. Although the database used for this feature is anonymous, people who care deeply about their privacy and don’t want to take chances are not forced to use it; this is why you must choose to turn it on rather than it being enabled by default.

You need to create an Ubuntu Software Center account to use this feature.


Click a category name at the left of the Ubuntu Software Center window to sort the listed software by category. Some categories are further broken down into smaller subcategories, such as the Games listing shown in Figure 5-3. Note that books and magazines are now available instantly in their digital format via the center.

Figure 5-3

Figure 5-3. Many sorts of games are available.

You can also sort packages from the top of the window using the buttons, as in Figure 5-4. Click the arrow next to All Software or Installed to limit

Figure 5-4

Figure 5-4. More about software sources coming up

what is displayed by whether it is provided by the Ubuntu community, by Canonical partners, or available only for purchase. Click the All Software or Installed buttons to alternately show all available packages or only those currently on your machine. Click History to list all changes, installations, updates, and removals of software that have occurred on your machine.


Type search terms in the search box at the upper right to find related software. The search is a live search, meaning that the results are updated as you type; you do not have to hit Enter first, and you can change the terms and get new results instantly, as in Figure 5-5.

Figure 5-5

Figure 5-5. It was not necessary to finish typing “word processing” to get results.

Learning More about a Package and Installing It

Click on a title to learn more about it (Figure 5-6). Notice the line that says Free at the left (more on that in the next section) and has an Install button on the right. Click Install to install the software.

Figure 5-6

Figure 5-6. Most package listings include screenshots and valuable information.

At the bottom of the information section is a link titled Developer Web Site, which opens the software developer’s Web site, giving you easy access to more information to assist your decision. Further information about a package—the specific version of the package, its size and license, and more—is included below this and just above the Reviews section.

Scroll down to read reviews and ratings, if any have been posted for the package (Figure 5-7). You can sort the reviews using the drop down boxes just above the first review.

Figure 5-7

Figure 5-7. Users tend to be honest in their software reviews.

No-Cost Software

Most of the software available from the Ubuntu Software Center is free, as in it will not cost you anything to download and install it (and is also free in the licensing sense as well). These are marked Free, like Stellarium is in Figure 5-6. You pay nothing for this software and it is completely legal for you to copy it, use it, share it, and so on.

Software for Purchase

Sort using the For Purchase category (Figure 5-4) to display only the packages that require payment. Most of these are digital versions of books and magazines, although some professional software packages are also available, such as games and utilities offered by Canonical partners (Figure 5-8). These are marked differently, with a price in the spot where others are marked Free and a Buy button where others are marked Install. Also, many of these come with proprietary software licenses, so do not assume you can legally share packages you pay for.

Figure 5-8

Figure 5-8. Compare this package information screen with Figure 5-6.

You need to create an Ubuntu Software Center account to use this feature.

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