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How To Find Software On Obscure Linux Distributions

It’s rather difficult to find software on obscure Linux distributions but there are quite a few different ways to¬†remedy this problem. The first (and arguably best) solution is to supplement missing apps you need with portable, executable apps instead. These executable apps are known as AppImages.

AppImages

AppImages aren’t a new thing by any means, but they’re one of the best inventions in the Linux community in recent memory. The basic concept is to bring a windows-like “EXE” to the Linux platform. When a user downloads a program packed inside of one of these files, it will run right away, with no need to install any software. Obviously, AppImage didn’t invent executable binaries on Linux. There are already portable binary files. That said, AppImage finds a way to make these binaries better.

A regular, non-AppImage binary file can run on any Linux distribution (if the right libraries and etc are installed on the system). AppImage files have each and every library and file packed right into an “environment” so that users can get it and go. Here’s how to get these files on your Linux PC.

Finding AppImages

First, find an AppImage on the Probono AppImage directory. Out of all of the resources online, this one seems to be the most reliable, and plentiful. In this example, we’ll be using Audacity.

On the BinTray page, click “files”. What follows is a massive list of Audacity images. Find the most recent one, so that your AppImage program is as up-to-date as possible. Don’t download this file with the browser. Instead, right-click on the link and click “copy”, to save the direct URL. Then, open up a terminal window.

Download the Audacity app with wget

Note: don’t have wget? Search for it with your package manager and install it first. Then, start the download.

cd ~/Downloads
wget https://bintray.com/probono/AppImages/download_file?file_path=Audacity-2.0.5.glibc2.15-x86_64.AppImage

The reason we downloaded this app with wget, is because the AppImage permissions must change. It’s much easier to do this when you’re already in the terminal. To update permissions, use the chmod command:

sudo chmod +x Audacity*.AppImage

The permissions are updated. Now, open Downloads in your Linux PC’s file manager, and double click on the Audacity AppImage. The App will instantly open, ready to use.

FlatPaks And Snap Packages

Another solution to find software for unpopular, and less-supported Linux distributions is to use Flatpaks. This technology (much like AppImage) is “distro-agnostic”, meaning: no Linux distribution is favored over the other, and your Linux distribution probably supports it. Suffice it to say, Snaps and Flatpaks are designed to be installed on everything.

These two solutions are the Linux community’s latest attempt to make a “universal” package format that anyone can use, anywhere. With the help of these two technologies, highly sought-after software is finding it’s way onto all major Linux distributions as well as on obscure ones.

If you find yourself using a lesser known Linux distribution that doesn’t enjoy the same sort of software support that an Ubuntu or Fedora user enjoys, do give these a try.

Linux Software On GitHub

One of the best ways to find additional software for an unpopular Linux distribution is to head over to Github. There are tons of projects pushing code to it at all hours of the day. As a result, most Linux projects host their source-code there. This means that if you’re in need of a program, and there’s no native package for your version of Linux, you’ll still have the ability to compile the software from source, and even make your own install-able package with it!

Understand that not every Linux project uses Github. Regardless, this website is (by far) the most popular project management service. This means there’s a good chance you’ll find what you need there.

Read The Documentation

On lesser-known Linux distributions, the developers themselves often realize that software is going to be harder to come by. As a result, the developers work very hard to fill this gap. The best example of this is the Solus project. This Linux distribution is new, and has an entirely new package format. As a result, some programs just aren’t there (like they would be on Ubuntu). It is because of this the Solus project has a “Third party” section that users can go to and find programs they may need. Additionally, Solus allows any user to request a program for the third-party section.

Your Linux distro may be similar. Look into how packages are made, and see if there’s a “third party” section. It may also be a good idea to look for a “request packages” feature section on the website. Though some developers might ignore your requests, it can’t hurt to reach out.

Conclusion

In the past, being on a Linux distribution that wasn’t mainstream was a death sentence. Software was hard to come by, and if you did manage to find the software you need, the packages were slow to update. These days, the Linux community is trying very hard to make installing programs on Linux a more agnostic process. When everyone embraces solutions like Flatpak, Snaps and AppImages, the days of going without certain apps will be a thing of the past.

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