Installing software on Linux can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, the experience can seem straightforward compared to Microsoft Windows. Much of the software you want can be found in the App Store or package manager of your Linux distribution.
But sometimes the app you want doesn't exist or the version provided is out of date. This is where Windows' dominant EXE format feels handy – there are just so many Linux package formats out there. Fortunately, most distributions use either DEB or RPM.
You can find apps in DEB or RPM format on the following eight websites.
pkgs.org is an easy place to find and download the latest versions of Linux packages without having to deal with popups or spyware. The site has indexed millions of packages in over a dozen distributions. Some of these distributions use DEB and others use RPM. So this is a great one stop shop to get both.
pkgs.org presents the results by distribution so you can search for DEBs that are compatible with your exact version of Debian or Ubuntu. The same goes for RPM distributions like Fedora and openSUSE. Arch Linux is also included as pkgs.org is not limited to DEB and RPM formats.
While pkgs.org makes it easy to find packages, you can only search by package name. RPM Seek goes one step further and gives you several parameters that you can use in your search. In addition to searching by distribution, you can search for files based on the packages that need to be installed to run (called dependencies) or the additional software they provide when they are installed.
Despite the name, RPM Seek isn't limited to RPMs. Debian is one of the distributions you can find packages for — Debian uses DEBs.
Linux distributions manage many computers that are filled with software that they distribute to other people. Hence the name distribution (or distribution). While we typically access this software through a Linux app store, package manager, or command line, it can also be accessed through a web browser.
Considering the DEB format was created for this, Debian is the largest distribution packaging DEBs. Many alternatives are ultimately based on it. So Debian's package list is a great place to search for software. You can download DEBs directly. This method is not recommended because these DEBs often require other DEBs to be installed. However, this fallback is available when you need it.
You are not limited to Debian's website. You can also visit the Ubuntu Packages Search or Linux Mint packages page. You can also find RPMs on the Fedora Packaging Sources page.
Are you looking for an advanced search tool that can help you diagnose problems with your system? RPM PBone Search is a site designed for more thorough systems analysis.
You can provide detailed search parameters that can be used to determine the dependencies of an RPM or what else is missing. You can find RPMs based on the changelog, summary, or description tags of the RPM.
You can also use the RPM PBone search to monitor the size of repositories yourself. You can see when Fedora, openSUSE, or other RPM-based distributions add RPMs to their repos and see the full list of repos they contain.
Most of these search engines have a certain style. There is none of this for RPM Find. This is a website that displays plain plain text and HTML so search results come up in lightning speed.
For many people, website speeds are not particularly important. Slow, bulky web pages load quickly when you have gigabit internet. However, many of us are still waiting for access to basic forms of broadband. In this situation, the fewer things a browser has to load, the better.
As the name suggests, RPM Find is limited to RPMs.
The Open Build Service is a place where anyone can compile and distribute packages for numerous distributions and operating systems at the same time. It streamlines the process so developers can focus on writing code rather than understanding the nuances between how Debian and Arch Linux distribute software.
With the Open Build Service, you can not only build software, but also find software. To do this, go to build.opensuse.org.
Why openSUSE? This is because the Open Build Service started out as the openSUSE Build Service and openSUSE continues to host a public version that anyone can search for packages regardless of what distribution they're using (although much of the software was developed for openSUSE).
One thing that people notice when they install Fedora is that this particular Linux distribution doesn't provide any proprietary software. You won't find a closed source Nvidia graphics card or certain video codecs. If you want them you have to look elsewhere.
This is where RPM Fusion comes in. This is a third party repository that has long been in existence for Fedora users looking for certain software that is excluded from the official Fedora repositories. If the RPMs you're looking for are closed source or open source, but aren't sure for a company like Red Hat (which sponsors Fedora) to distribute, chances are you'll find them here.
Launchpad is from Canonical, the same company that brings us the Ubuntu desktop. Launchpad is a website for developing and maintaining open source software. While Launchpad is primarily a tool for developers, you can also download packages here.
Much of the software on Launchpad is targeted at Ubuntu, so there are plenty of DEBs available on the website. But you have to search to find it. Many projects only offer downloads as compressed TAR.GZ files. On the other hand, some also offer speeds.
Launchpad isn't as widespread as it used to be, so many of the projects here are now hosted elsewhere or abandoned. This isn't the site I would check out first, but it's still worth keeping this in mind for some apps.
Why download a DEB or RPM?
The times for Linux have changed. DEBs and RPMs are no longer the way to distribute apps that are not in a distribution's app store. However, there are reasons to prefer these other formats.
Most of the software included in your distribution is likely already packaged as DEB or RPM.
You can install, remove, or update software with a single method.
These formats take up less space on your hard drive than the newer approaches.
Currently, DEB or RPM versions open faster.
DEB and RPM versions offer more consistency. Sometimes newer formats ignore user topics, have different file dialog boxes, etc.
While most distributions use either of these two formats, there are some that don't. Take Arch Linux and the many distributions based on it, for example.
If you don't want to bother with finding a package specific to your distribution, go for a universal app format like Flatpak, Snap-Bundles, or AppImage. That's a big part of why they exist now. Between Flathub and the Snap Store, there's a good chance the app you want is just a click or command away.
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About the author
(324 articles published)
Bertel is a digital minimalist who writes from a laptop with physical privacy switches and an operating system recommended by the Free Software Foundation. He values ethics over functions and helps others take control of their digital lives.
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