Saturday, March 15, 2008

Downloading Software for Ubuntu

Using Linux as my primary home operating system has changed my expectations about what I want my computer to do, particularly in the realm of adding new software. As a Windows user, when you think you need a new software program, you go out on the web to read about it, check Consumer Reports, reviews, etc. to see if it's worth purchasing, then you either:

  1. Order it from Amazon (or some other seller), which means you wait a few days.
  2. Go to a store and buy it, which means you pay the full retail price, OR
  3. Download the software after buying it over the web.
That applies to "shrink wrapped" programs (like Adobe Photoshop or Dreamweaver), but even in the case of free software, that too, involves some work with Windows. My method is as follows:

  1. Go to Google and type in the name of the program or the type of program I'm looking for.
  2. Navigate to the appropriate download page.
  3. Select the correct version of Windows.
  4. Download & install the software, which almost always fights with your antivirus/firewall software, and involves agreeing to a bunch of legalese that no one really reads.
That's the current Windows way of doing things.

With Linux, you can do the same thing, go to the web site, download the product, and install it. (Doing it this way can involve a lot of command-line activity and scary-sounding procedures like "recompiling the Linux kernel," which at this point in my Linux life, I don't really like getting into). One of the absolute coolest features of Debian and Ubuntu is the Synaptic Package Manager, which allows you to peruse a list of available software programs, and to download them. There are so many programs and applications available on the list that you often have to search. Here's a screenshot:

I still sometimes catch myself doing things the "old" way when using Linux, only to find that the program I'm looking for is already available through Synaptic.

I think Microsoft and Apple would do well to consider this sort of arrangement. Since I use Windows at home and at work, I find myself wanting this feature. Suddenly, the old "search - click - download" procedure seems archaic!

3/22 Update: I just came upon this page: How to Install ANYTHING in Ubuntu.

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