Do you know Flatpak? It's a new software installation method that is universal for all GNU/Linux distros. Nowadays, many popular free software already published in Flatpak format such as GIMP, Inkscape, Blender, and more! For desktop users, this means we now have one standard way to install apps in different distros. For app developers, this means reducing their jobs to deliver one app to all desktop distros. With Flatpak, the GNU/Linux user will install software from Flathub, the central repository where developers publish their Flatpak apps. This article discusses how to install Flatpak with GUI on Linux Mint 19 as an example. Happy exploring!

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Glossary


In short, there are some terms which are frequently apperaring:
  • Flatpak: with uppercase 'F', refers to the whole Flatpak framework.
  • Flatpak apps: programs which are distributed in Flatpak way.
  • flatpak: with lowercase 'f', the command line of Flatpak installation system. It's similar to apt-get.
  • Flathub: https://flathub.org, the site where users download Flatpak apps.
  • Flatpak apps developer: the developer that publishes their app in Flatpak way.
  • Identifier: name of program in Flatpak format such as org.developer.AppName.
  • .flatpakref URL: special URL address to download and install a Flatpak app. 
  • .flatpakrepo URL: special URL address to add new repository.

Apps Available


What applications already available? Plenty! Here's some:
  • LibreOffice
  • GIMP
  • Inkscape
  • VLC
  • Kdenlive
  • TexStudio
  • games like Xonotic, Runescape, Teeworlds ...
  • and many more!

Distros Supporting Flatpak


These GNU/Linux distros have Flatpak support by default. Using one of them, you can easily install Flatpak apps from Flathub by click.
  • EndlessOS
  • Linux Mint
More distros support Flatpak as well but they need manual configurations: Ubuntu | openSUSE | Fedora | Mageia.

Trying Flatpak/Flathub in Mint 19


This article tries to demonstrate how to use Flatpak/Flathub in Mint 19 "Tara". But because Flatpak is universal, this demonstration is applicable to another distros as well. You will use Software Manager (GUI) to install Flatpak apps.


Installing with Software Center


Open up your Software Manager. There, you should find "Flatpak" category. Open it. Now, you see a list of strange xxx.yyyy.Zzzz names. Those are all Flatpak apps. Those are apps you can click and install. Search any Flatpak app here with search bar on top. For example, there, Krita is called org.krita.Krita while LibreOffice is called org.libreoffice.LibreOffice.


Installing with Flathub Website


Alternatively, and perhaps you will like this better, you can visit Flathub website to search and install Flatpak apps from it. Any INSTALL click will open your Software Center automatically. Awesome, no?

  • Go to https://flathub.org
  • Find an app you like such as FocusWriter.
  • Press INSTALL button there.
  • Your browser asks you to open it with Software Manager > OK.
  • Software Manager appears with FocusWriter app page > press INSTALL.
  • All done!



One Serious Problem


To be honest, Flatpak apps are huge. In first use, you can check this, you can visit some apps in the Software Manager to look the "Size:" field. What do you see? All is huge, really, even the small Geany (normally 3MB) is 900MB there. Another example, see Kdenlive, normally it is +/- 90MB, but it is 800MB there. Wow.

Why? Because each Flatpak app depends to certain library bundle ("Platform") and particularly Geany depends on "GNOME Platform" while Kdenlive depends on "KDE Platform". Installing Geany, thus, automatically pulls the huge GNOME Platform. Note: of course, if you already have the Platform, another apps depend to that will be small in size as the Platform does not need to be installed twice. So some common Platforms are:
  • org.gnome.Platform 
  • org.kde.Platform
  • org.freedesktop.Platform
Anyway, this tutorial talks about using Flatpak, regardless it's huge or not. In the next article, I will show some command lines to use with Flatpak. Happy exploring!

to be continued...



This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


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