A tour of Software Center 3.1| Natty's new Software Manager | New User series #2

Posted in:Rationale

It has been some time since Ubuntu introduced their App store interfaced 'Ubuntu Software Center' geared towards new users featuring one-click app installations. I'm pretty sure the Software Center did play a major role in convincing some Windows users to turn to Ubuntu. Unlike Windows, they don't have to hunt for the latest software packages from the internet or illegally copy it from friends. The Software Center in Ubuntu itself features around 33,000+ packages ready to be installed in addiiton to other third party applications compatible with Ubuntu available from other websites.

Actually the concept of a Software Center isn't new to the Linux world. Most of the Linux distributions have a well maintained software repository which contains only packages approved by the maintainers, so reducing the security risks on users. What Ubuntu did was to craft a custom new user front end for this repository. And it won the race in pulling in new users too.

First Look and Interface ubuntu natty_html_4d7ab5b1.png

The main screen has a list of sections of applications named 'Departments'. Below it is two bars which features some applications bannered under 'Featured' and 'Whats New'. I consider these two as just space fillers. Nothing much of it!

The right side pane got two buttons, 'Get Software', 'Installed Software' and 'History'. Installed Software sections gives a glimpse of applications that are currently installed on the system. History gives us information about what applications are installed and removed, divided down to the level of the package name.

Installing New Applications

There are two main ways to install applications available on the repository If you know the exact name of the package, you can type it down in the search box located in the top right corner. But, if you want to install a package for a specific use, but dont' know it's name, it is better to look in the 'Departments' section and further into the respective sections.

Both of these methods will take you to a page listing the matches found. ubuntu natty_html_3c5b6b7f_0.png

Clicking on the 'More Info' button will take you into the dedicated page for that application which has a short description, screenshot, reviews, ratings and finally an Install button for the application.

ubuntu natty_html_m137fed3f_0.png ubuntu natty_html_m21ddade3_0.png

Clicking on Install button will ask you to provide the system password and after that the downloading of the package begins with a progress bar. At the same time a button will appear just below the 'History' in the left side pane named 'In Progress'. It will show the progress of downloading and installation of the software much more clearly.

ubuntu natty_html_m7b763633_0.png Managing Third Party Software Sources

When you browse many Ubuntu specific websites or our previous posts, you might have come across the term PPA. It stands for Personal Packaging Archives. Software projects hosted in Canonical's free hosting service provides tools to create PPA's for the same. It is intended to store ready to grab packages for that software. Users can add the PPA details to their own machines and install it from it. This is one way you can install third party packages.

Compared to PPA's, the second way is more insecure - Directly installing .deb files without any authentication. Any hacker can package some malicious code into a .deb file to hijack the system.

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To install a new PPA, go to Edit--> Software Sources. Under the Other Software tab click the Add button and type down the PPA line you want to add.

Installing .deb file is a walk in the park! Just clicking it will open it in Software Center(previously it was in Gdebi) and do the rest for you!

Test Drive

Did you ever think about running an application without permanently installing it into your hard disk? The New Software Center in Natty provides a way to do this via 'Test Drive'. When you are in the descriptive page of an application, below the screenshot there will be a button named 'Test Drive'. However for the Test Drive to work, a package should be installed, which is not currently being shipped with Natty. For that, you will have to wait for 'Natty+1' or Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Icelot! Still it is worth a try.

Install the package using the following command:

sudo apt-get instal qtnx
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