A Beginners Guide To Flatpak
A while, we have written about Ubuntu’s Snaps. Snaps are introduced by Canonical for Ubuntu operating system, and later it was adopted by other Linux distributions such as Arch, Gentoo, and Fedora etc. A snap is a single binary package bundled with all required libraries and dependencies, and you can install it on any Linux distribution, regardless of its version and architecture. Similar to Snaps, there is also another tool called Flatpak. As you may already know, packaging distributed applications for different Linux distributions are quite time consuming and difficult process. Each distributed application has different set of libraries and dependencies for various Linux distributions. But, Flatpak, the new framework for desktop applications that completely reduces this burden. Now, you can build a single Flatpak app and install it on various operating systems.
The users don’t have to worry about the libraries and dependencies, everything is bundled within the flatpak app itself. Most importantly, Flaptpak apps are sandboxed and isolated from the rest of the host operating system, and other applications. Another notable feature is we can install multiple versions of the same application at the same time in the same system. For example, you can install VLC player version 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 on the same system. So, the developers can test different versions of same application at a time.
In this tutorial, we will see how to install Flatpak and how to use it in GNU/Linux.
Flatpak is available for many popular Linux distributions such as Arch Linux, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, Red Hat, Linux Mint, openSUSE, Solus, Mageia and Ubuntu distributions.
To install Flatpak on Arch Linux, run:
$ sudo pacman -S flatpak
Flatpak is available in the default repositories of Debian Stretch and newer. To install it on Debian, run:
$ sudo apt install flatpak
On Fedora, Flatpak is installed by default. All you have to do is enable enable Flathub as described in the next section.
Just in case, it is not installed for any reason, run:
$ sudo dnf install flatpak
On RHEL 7, run:
$ sudo yum install flatpak
On Linux Mint 18.3, flatpak is installed by default. So, no setup required.
On openSUSE Tumbleweed, Flatpak can also be installed using Zypper:
$ sudo zypper install flatpak
On Ubuntu 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish), simply run:
$ sudo apt install flatpak
On Ubuntu older versions, add the following repository and install Flatpak as shown below.
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexlarsson/flatpak
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install flatpak
The Flatpak plugin for the Software app makes it possible to install apps without needing the command line. To install this plugin, run:
$ sudo apt install gnome-software-plugin-flatpak
For other Linux distributions, refer the official installation link.
Getting Started With Flatpak
There are many popular applications such as Gimp, Kdenlive, Steam, Spotify, Visual studio code etc., available as flatpaks. Allow me to show you the basic usage of flatpak command.
First of all, we need to add remote repositories.
Adding Remote Repositories
Enable Flathub Repository:
Flathub is nothing but a central repository where all flatpak applications available to users. To enable it, just run:
$ sudo flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
Flathub is enough to install most popular apps. Just in case you wanted to try some GNOME apps, add the GNOME repository.
Enable GNOME Repository:
The GNOME repository contains all GNOME core applications. GNOME flatpak repository itself is available as two versions, stable and nightly.
To add GNOME stable repository, run the following commands:
$ wget https://sdk.gnome.org/keys/gnome-sdk.gpg
$ sudo flatpak remote-add --gpg-import=gnome-sdk.gpg --if-not-exists gnome-apps https://sdk.gnome.org/repo-apps/
Applications in this repository require the 3.20 version of the org.gnome.Platform runtime.
To install the stable runtimes, run:
$ sudo flatpak remote-add --gpg-import=gnome-sdk.gpg gnome https://sdk.gnome.org/repo/
To add the GNOME nightly apps repository, run:
$ wget https://sdk.gnome.org/nightly/keys/nightly.gpg
$ sudo flatpak remote-add --gpg-import=nightly.gpg --if-not-exists gnome-nightly-apps https://sdk.gnome.org/nightly/repo-apps/
Applications in this repository require the nightly version of the org.gnome.Platform runtime.
To install the nightly runtimes, run:
$ sudo flatpak remote-add --gpg-import=nightly.gpg gnome-nightly https://sdk.gnome.org/nightly/repo/
To list all configured remote repositories, run:
$ flatpak remotes Name Options flathub system gnome system gnome-apps system gnome-nightly system gnome-nightly-apps system
To remove a remote, for example flathub, simply do;
$ sudo flatpak remote-delete flathub
Here flathub is remote name.
Installing Flatpak Applications
In this section, we will see how to install flatpak apps.
To install a Flatpak application, simply do:
$ sudo flatpak install flathub com.spotify.Client
All the apps in the GNOME stable repository uses the version name of “stable”.
To install any Stable GNOME applications, for example Evince, run:
$ sudo flatpak install gnome-apps org.gnome.Evince stable
All the apps in the GNOME nightly repository uses the version name of “master”.
For example, to install gedit, run:
$ sudo flatpak install gnome-nightly-apps org.gnome.gedit master
If you don’t want to install apps system-wide, you also can install flatpak apps per-user like below.
$ flatpak install --user <name-of-app>
All installed apps will be stored in $HOME/.var/app/ location.
$ ls $HOME/.var/app/ com.spotify.Client
Running Flatpak Applications
You can launch the installed applications at any time from the application launcher. From command line, you can run it, for example Spotify, using command:
$ flatpak run com.spotify.Client
To view the installed applications and runtimes, run:
$ flatpak list
To view only the applications, not run times, use this command instead.
$ flatpak list --app
You can also view the list of available applications and runtimes from all remotes using command:
$ flatpak remote-ls
To list only applications not runtimes, run:
$ flatpak remote-ls --app
To list applications and runtimes from a specific repository, for example gnome-apps, run:
$ flatpak remote-ls gnome-apps
To list only the applications from a remote repository, run:
$ flatpak remote-ls flathub --app
To update all your flatpak applications, run:
$ flatpak update
To update a specific application, we do:
$ flatpak update com.spotify.Client
Getting Details Of Applications
To display the details of a installed application, run:
$ flatpak info io.github.mmstick.FontFinder
Ref: app/io.github.mmstick.FontFinder/x86_64/stable ID: io.github.mmstick.FontFinder Arch: x86_64 Branch: stable Origin: flathub Date: 2018-04-11 15:10:31 +0000 Subject: Workaround appstream issues (391ef7f5) Commit: 07164e84148c9fc8b0a2a263c8a468a5355b89061b43e32d95008fc5dc4988f4 Parent: dbff9150fce9fdfbc53d27e82965010805f16491ec7aa1aa76bf24ec1882d683 Location: /var/lib/flatpak/app/io.github.mmstick.FontFinder/x86_64/stable/07164e84148c9fc8b0a2a263c8a468a5355b89061b43e32d95008fc5dc4988f4 Installed size: 2.5 MB Runtime: org.gnome.Platform/x86_64/3.28
To remove a flatpak application, run:
$ sudo flatpak uninstall com.spotify.Client
For details, refer flatpak help section.
$ flatpak --help
And, that’s all for now. Hope you had basic idea about Flatpak.
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