How to Install Software on Linux

If you want to install software on Linux computers, the software manager (called a package manager) makes it very easy. But first, there are a couple of terms and concepts you should know. Nothing complicated, just slightly different from the Windows world. Software applications are called “packages” in the Linux world. So, when we mention a Linux package, we are talking about a software program or application. The terms are used interchangeably.

Debian based systems (DebianUbuntuMint) use a package manager (software manager) called apt to install and uninstall programs. Most of the time, you’ll use the apt manager to install and remove packages from your system. There are, however, a few instances when you will manually setup some packages. We’ll go over those shortly.

Software (packages) are installed from the internet, so you have to have a working internet connection to get new and updated versions of packages. There are five commands you need to know to successfully manage your system:

  1. apt-cache search [search term] (helps you find programs you want or need)
  2. apt-get install [package name]
  3. apt-get remove [package name]
  4. apt-get update
  5. apt-get upgrade

Always Update First

To ensure you have the newest, latest, and greatest information about the repositories that contain the packages you want or use, always use the apt-get update command before performing any management tasks. This command tells the system to go on to the interenet and download the latest list of packages that are available including information about updates, patches, and new versions that have been released.

It doesn’t matter if you just did this yesterday or even a couple of hours ago. It’s always best to do it again and again right before you manage your packages or do updates.

To update your apt package manager, use the following command:

apt-get update

Searching for a Package

The syntax to search for a package is:

apt-cache search [package name]

For example, let’s say I want to find the firefox pacakge. I would use this command:

apt-cache search firefox

This returns a list of all the packages that contain the word firefox. In this case, there are about a page and a half of listings. When choosing a package, Occam’s razor is usually the best thought process to apply: the simplier the better. Among the two pages of solutions, is a simple listing: firefoxx – Safe and easy web browser from Mozilla. This is the right listing.

Here’s a big hint: don’t be afraid to use Google to figure out which package you really want. Search for something like “ubuntu 10 apt-get” and the name of the software you want to install. (Don’t forget to put the version of the operating system you have in the search!)

How to Install Software on Linux

Since we now know that firefox is the package name for the FireFox web browser. Thus, we can install it with this command:

apt-get install firefox

 Removing Software

If, at any time, we want to uninstall the Firefox browser from our system, we can remove the package with this command:

apt-get remove firefox

Getting Upgrades

Upgrades under Linux are extremely easy. At anytime you want to check for, download, and install updates, simply use this command:

apt-get upgrade

As stated before, you want to run the apt-get update command before doing maintenance on the system. This is especially important when you do upgrades. You can even combine the commands into a single line by executing:

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade