Easy access to third-party software with deb-get

Geek Boutique

© Photo by Artem Gavrysh on Unsplash

© Photo by Artem Gavrysh on Unsplash

Article from Issue 265/2022

Deb-get gives Debian and Ubuntu users easy access to third-party software.

Searching for third-party repositories, and configuring your computer to use them, requires time and attention. Wouldn't it be simpler if you could access all these packages with a single tool? A new command-line utility called deb-get [1] makes it easy to find and install third-party .deb packages for Debian and Ubuntu systems. deb-get allows a user to quickly set up and update software that is not available in your distro's repositories. According to the developers, the goal of the deb-get project is to provide "…apt-get functionality for .debs published in third-party repositories or via direct download."

The inspiration for deb-get is the Software Boutique, which deb-get lead developer Martin Wimpress worked on through his contributions to the MATE desktop. The Software Boutique is a curated collection of best-in-class software for users who are weary of the bloat and information overload of conventional package management systems. The idea is, you are not shopping at a supersized department store – you're shopping at a much smaller boutique. Although deb-get doesn't have the glossy graphic interface of the Software Boutique, it shares the goal of offering a curated software collection.

Both Debian and Ubuntu maintain extensive package repositories with thousands of packages for a wide range of uses; however, there are several reasons why a .deb package might only exist in a third-party repository. For instance, the package might not have been added to the official repositories yet. Or, even if some version of the software is in the official repository, a newer version might be available directly from the developer. And, as most Linux users know, one reason why a package might only be on a third-party site is because license restrictions do not allow it to be included with a Linux distro – either by the developer's choice or because the restrictive license violates the policies of the Linux distribution.

If you are thinking, "this sounds like another way to put non-free software onto a Linux machine," you are partly correct. Although some of the packages available through deb-get are free software, others indeed come with licenses that do not conform to free software principles. If you are a user who only works with free software, you might not be interested in deb-get. However, an awful lot of third-party, non-free software ends up on Linux systems, and that is because many users just want results and are not so invested in free software as a way of life. If occasional access to useful, third-party apps helps these users get comfortable with Linux, I feel that it is a step in the right direction.

As of this writing, deb-get comes with many useful packages from a whole host of software makers, such as WhatsApp for Linux, Spotify, Raspberry Pi Imager, and even NordVPN. In short, you can think of deb-get as an alternative to apt or apt-get for third party software not normally found in the repositories of Debian and Ubuntu-based distributions.

Installing deb-get

How does one go about getting and installing deb-get? GitHub has you covered:

$ sudo apt install curl
$ curl -sL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/wimpysworld/deb-get/main/deb-get | sudo -E bash -s install deb-get

Or, if you prefer, simply download the .deb file from the Releases [2] page and install it with your package installer by double-clicking or by using dpkg or apt from the command line.

Using deb-get

Using deb-get will feel very familiar to anyone who uses apt-get from the command line. You will need to know the package that you intend to install. Look for a list on the Wimpy's World GitHub page or use the list command from the command line:

$ deb-get list

deb-get outputs a list of available packages (Figure 1). From there the commands are a mirror image of apt-get, in that you can update, install, upgrade, reinstall, remove, purge, clean, search, etc., in order to manage your software collection.

Figure 1: The list command outputs a list of the applications available through deb-get.

For instance, let's say that you would like to install WhatsApp for Linux [3], but you don't know if it is available using deb-get and don't know the package name for it. You can run deb-get list to find that it is called whatsapp-for-linux. Then simply run the following command to install the package (Figure 2):

$ deb-get install whatsapp-for-linux
Figure 2: Installing an application using deb-get.

At this point, check your application menu, and you will see the program is available.

Want to keep your deb-get installed software up-to-date like the rest of your software? Simply run:

$ deb-get update && deb-get upgrade

You will see that when you run this command, it will update ALL of your apt-get installed software at the same time, meaning that this one command will take care of all of your system and package updates at once. It really is as easy as apt-get, but it opens up your machine to a broader set of software.


Keep in mind that deb-get is designed to work with third-party software, which in some cases might not be as heavily tested and checked as the software in the Debian or Ubuntu repositories. It pays to do your homework and know what you are downloading before you install any third-party tool. However, if you find yourself regularly installing programs that you don't find in your distribution's repositories, perhaps deb-get is a good fit for you.

Personally, I find deb-get to be a great little tool, saving me time that I would otherwise be wasting searching for the .deb packages of programs that I often use. My hope is that, in the future, perhaps this tool can end up being integrated into the Ubuntu Software Center or otherwise given its own GUI so that new users will have an even easier time installing their favorite programs. But even if that never happens, I am glad to have a useful tool that makes my life a little bit easier.


  1. Wimpy's World deb-get GitHub page: https://github.com/wimpysworld/deb-get
  2. deb-get Releases page for .deb downloads: https://github.com/wimpysworld/deb-get/releases
  3. WhatsApp for Linux GitHub page: https://github.com/eneshecan/whatsapp-for-linux

The Author

Adam Dix is a mechanical engineer and Linux enthusiast posing as an English teacher after playing around a bit in sales and marketing. You can check out some of his Linux work at EdUBudgie Linux (https://www.edubudgie.com).

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