Innovative Linux Package Managers

AppImage, Flatpak, and Snap

Article from Issue 265/2022
Author(s):

The traditional package management systems on Linux are now somewhat outdated, but AppImage, Flatpak, and Snap see some interesting new management systems enter the fray.

When Linux set off on its successful journey back in the 1990s, some innovative software management solutions also emerged. As early as in 1994, the Debian Package Manager dpkg was introduced, and the Red Hat Package Manager RPM followed suit in 1997. Since then, numerous other package management systems for various distributions have seen the light of day.

What they all have in common is that they not only maintain centralized software repositories with applications, but they also let users install, update, and uninstall applications in a largely trouble-free way. All of the popular candidates can handle dependencies and conflicts and keep the respective system in a consistent state. This is why individual installation routines for applications with a jumble of different dialogs, which are commonplace on other operating systems, do not exist on Linux.

At the same time, the known tools are flexible enough to include additional software archives beyond the repositories provided by the distribution developers and again offer the advantages of centralized package management. The built-in package managers on traditional Linux distributions work on the command line. However, graphical front ends such as YaST or Synaptic quickly emerged for less experienced users, helping them to handle software administration conveniently at the push of a button.

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