Ubuntu Software Center Explored

Find out where the Ubuntu Software Center came from, how it works and what alternatives are available.


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Over the years, the methods of installing new software onto Linux systems has evolved a great deal. These days, modern distributions use tools like the Ubuntu Software Center to make software installation as simple as point-and-click.

In this article, I'll explore the Ubuntu Software Center, it's earliest beginnings, how the back-end works and where it still needs some fine-tuning for the future.

It Started with Linspire's CNR

I realize that there are a number of folks who cringe when I mention this, but it's a fact nonetheless: Linspire had a software center long before Ubuntu was even in existence. Before Linspire was acquired by Xandros, which decided to create a software store for multiple distributions, Linspire's original CNR software tool (Click-n-Run Warehouse) was years ahead of its time.

To an experienced Linux user, CNR was nothing more than a source of software discovery based on a front-end to APT. However, to the newer user, CNR represented the smoothest and easiest method of installing software I've ever experienced. Because Linspire ran as root, users could install software with a single mouse click. This differed greatly from the other methods available.

Then in 2007, Linspire lost the critical players who worked on CNR to.... you guessed it, Canonical. It was, in fact, Canonical who snatched up the critical staff members in order to work on what today is known as the Ubuntu Software Center.

Ubuntu Software Management Made Simple

One of the biggest advantages to using the Ubuntu Software Center has to be its ability to make discovering new software titles simple. It also improves the process of installing, removing or even simply checking out the installation history of various applications. In addition, it offers the ability to sync your installed applications across different computers. (I'll explain how to take advantage of this feature further along in this article.)

It's worth noting that the software center isn't perfect for handling every single type of software package available on Ubuntu. Oftentimes, library-specific files are easier to locate using Synaptic instead. But in the end, which application management tool you choose to use with Ubuntu will come down to personal preference.

Installing and Removing Ubuntu Software

The main capability provided by the Ubuntu Software Center is its ability to install and remove software. To install new Ubuntu software, you simply need to follow these instructions:

  • With Ubuntu Software Center open, search or browse to a software title in which you're interested.
  • Depending on how you arrived at the software title you want, either click "more info." then click on "install," or simply click on "install."
  • If the software you've chosen to install is a paid application, click on "buy" instead of "install." With the buy button clicked, you'll be asked to login to an "Ubuntu Single Sign On" page. Once you're logged in and have completed your purchase, the software will then be installed.

To remove your software, simply follow these directions:

  • Click on "Installed" at the top of the Ubuntu Software Center window or simply search for the application to be removed.
  • Click on "remove," and the software you've selected to be uninstalled will then be removed from your system. Paid software also works like this, although it's worth noting that your software's paid status will be reflected next time you wish to install the application. Just make sure you're using the same Ubuntu account when reinstalling said application.

Duplicate Software Installation Across Multiple PCs

Installing the same applications across multiple PCs is very simple using Ubuntu. Simply follow the steps outlined below:

  • With the Ubuntu Software Center open, browse to the top of the window and choose File, "sync between computers." If you're not already logged into your Ubuntu account, you'll be prompted to do so first.
  • You will be presented with a list of computers, choose the machine which has the software you wish to mirror on the new PC. Then highlight each application you wish to install and choose "install" (located on the right side of the page). This will install one application at a time. If you wish to install multiple applications at once, simply highlight and click install for each application.

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Tags: open source, Linux, software, Ubuntu, applications, Canonical

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