Universal packages

Universal packages include necessary dependencies

In the previous article I made a description of the different types of Ubuntu repositories with their advantages and disadvantages. Now it's the turn of other types of repositories, that of universal or self-contained packages.

There are many Linux distributions, and depending on which one they are derived from, they use different package formats. Although in the past there were commands that allowed conversion between different formats, this dispersion constituted an obstacle to the number of applications for Linux increasing.

That's why The developers started working on universal packages.

What are universal packages

Universal packages They are packages that without modifications can be installed and run on any distribution. This is possible because they handle dependencies differently.

Dependencies are programs that other programs use to perform functions common to other applications. such as printing or saving a file. If we install The Brave browser and then The Gimp, The Gimp will not install those necessary dependencies that have already been installed with Brave.

Universal packages are self-contained because they are installed with all the dependencies necessary for their operation., it doesn't matter that another program has installed them before. This has the advantage that modifications to the operating system, for example a failed dependency update or malicious software, will not affect universal packages.

From the developers point of view, Universal packages, unlike traditional ones, only have to adapt to one specification. Although Debian and Ubuntu use the same traditional package format, they cannot be exchanged.

Although a different package manager is used to install and update this type of packages than the one that handles traditional ones, depending on the format and the application, the same graphical application can be used. The same goes for updates.

Universal Package Types

The most important types of universal packages are:

  • Snap
  • Flatpak
  • app image

Snap

Snap is the most recent universal package format, it has been with us for 10 years since it was launched in 2014. Its developers thought about it in addition to being used in desktop Linux distributions, in the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile devices and servers. Anyone can create their own app store (Repositories) of Snap packages or upload them to Snapcraft, Canonical's official store.

Although in Snapcraft we find the most common free and open source software titles, It is often the preferred choice for Linux versions of proprietary software and application cloud services.

Flatpak

Although Flatpak was released a year after Snap, it is in practice the successor to a previous project known as xdg-app. Its strong point is the execution of applications within a secure and isolated environment. No administrator privileges needed and do not constitute a security risk to the rest of the system.

Flatpak It is designed to distribute desktop applications and also uses the app store model. The most important one is Flathub.

On Flathub It is where it is easiest to find the latest versions of free and open source software applications

AppImage

He was the pioneer of the “one program, one file” method since he has been with us since 2004. Each Appimage package includes the application along with all the dependencies necessary for its use.

Unlike the other two formats, Appimage is not installed, you simply give the file execute permissions and it is executed by double-clicking each time you want to use it.

There is also no centralized application store and the update consists of deleting the old file and installing the new one
. Although there are unofficial websites and tools that meet that need.

What is the best format? Try them and decide. Keep in mind that in the Linux world there are grudges, prejudices and, with the increasing participation of companies, commercial interests. That is what often determines opinions and not technical criteria.


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