Software installation on modern Ubuntu

Dear Ubuntu users and developers!

In August I tried to start discussion ubuntu-desktop mailing list about software installation, but got only few positive results.
Problem importance was lowered and bugs are not fixed.

I post this here for discussion and for your support.

It is important, because of many Ubuntu newbies start to learn Ubuntu with software installation (you can search AskUbuntu for real-life examples).

I’m using Debian since 3.1 and using Ubuntu since 6.06. So let me write about software installation.

As far I can understand here are two methods of software installation:

  1. apt (apt-get + apt-cache), dpkg, gdebi, aptitude - for advanced users
  2. synaptic, Ubuntu software-center, gnome-software and Muon - for newbies.

Nowadays gnome-software and mate-welcome were added to the newbies’ list.
But they have very small lists of software.
IMHO gnome-software is too simplified as all modern GNOME - no options here, except of shortcut to software-properties-gtk and no advanced search.
mate-welcome is beautiful and useful for real newbies.

Ubuntu software-center was great, but its development was dropped.

What we have as result?

There is only one mature and functional software manager. It is named Synaptic.
But … it works very strange. I talk about Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS (!) here.
I do not know why apt-xapian-index was migrated to Python3. This migration is incomplete and buggy (see bug 1612948).
Almost every time when I open Synaptic it says “Rebuilding search index”. We have bug about this (see bug 1685376).
It takes a lot of time even on SSD (on HDD it is really painful). I launched Synaptic to find some package by name, or description, or section, or status and I always need to wait when it finished rebuilding index.
If I try to download changelog of some package it complains about privileges (see bug 1522675).
It shows duplicate entries for packages, installed from various origins (see bug 1533554).

So developers should fix all aforementioned bugs in Synaptic and its friends (apt and apt-xapian-index).
Synaptic is essential package, it is like aptitude on server, but it is on desktop.
For such package every bug which made user’s life harder should be fixed as soon as possible by maintainers or upstream developers. Time for SRU should be minimal.

I did some research and I can conclude the following - the most useful tool is Muon, which originates from KDE (does not really matter if it works stable). I use it as Synaptic replacement.

I have some questions for discussion:

  • What do you think?
  • How do you search, install and remove software on your system?
  • aptitude
  • apt (apt-get)
  • synaptic
  • muon
  • software-center
  • gnome-software

0 voters

  • Which GUI tool is the best for you?
    • synaptic
    • muon
    • software-center
    • gnome-software

0 voters

  • Have you had any problems during software packages installation (by problems I mean real problems, not caused by lack of knowledge)?
  • Do you have ideas how to fix aforementioned bugs?
  • How to raise the importance of the mentioned problems?

With best regards,


I use Synaptic about half the time, the other half I use ‘apt’ (apt-get is deprecated). What bugs me most about Synaptic is the column widths when expanded don’t stick!

Some of us are over the hill and require large fonts, therefore GUI applications have to be aware and expand their columns accordingly or at the very least, allow user to expand column manually, but they must stick!

Other than the foregoing, I have no issues with Synaptic or it’s use of Xapian indexing/search which I find weird that that Xapian isn’t hooked into Synaptic by default.


Being not a very typical user, I mostly use apt (no, @stephen-d-allen, apt-get is not deprecated), Synaptic and Ubuntu/GNOME Software.

Synaptic works okay, since it sees all available packages in the added repositories. The biggest problem with Synaptic is that it doesn’t work (without a workaround) on Wayland - see bug #1731324. This is true also for other common tools which run graphics as root, such as GParted and Gufw.

This is a workaround variant I posted for Gufw as an Ask Ubuntu answer:

It basically applies to the other apps in question as well.

However, I’d guess that many users will be disappointed if there is no generic way in 18.04 to run the mentioned applications without hunting around at various forums for a workaround (or fall back to Xorg login).


Depends who you ask - Many conflicting opinions on apt vs apt-get. Just search Debian via your favourite search engine. Even the wiki recommends aptitude over apt-get saying apt-get is deprecated. So I guess the author of the last revision favours aptitude. :man_shrugging:

I’ve found gnome-software to be so buggy that I replaced it with software-center on my 16.04 installation in the first week of it’s release. I’ve experienced hangs and freezes with gnome-software when populating the available software list. I’ve never had these issues with software-center which I’ve found to be every bit as reliable now as it was when I first used it on 12.04. Granted I often use apt (or apt-get) to install software when I know what package I’m looking for, but when browsing by category or searching via topic software-center is my go to application. I’ve never used muon, but I have used synaptic, aptitude, gdebi, and dpkg under certain circumstances.


First off, a general comment: the poll is missing my favorite GUI: the terminal :wink:

Yeah actually, that’s the truth of the matter. It’s really preference, or perhaps need. Despite what some people (ahem @tsimonq2 who actually went around making changes to code bases and wikis alike with nothing other than s/apt-get/apt/g) may think, apt isn’t the replacement for apt-get. It can be considered a different terminal front end, in much the way that aptitude is a different terminal front end. Most importantly, they all three have value.

To back up that statement, consider some sources not so easily editable as a wiki page:

  • The Debian Reference Manual suggests aptitude as “the most versatile [their emphasis] APT-based package management tool.” However, it also offers a tip that there is an “apt(8) command intended for interactive usage. Use the apt-get(8) and apt-cache(8) commands in the shell script.” (tl;dr they all have value)
  • The Debian Administrator’s Handbook refers to apt as “the most recommended interface” but certainly explains the value they all have, including synaptic and wajig.
  • The apt man page (source link) has a section meant to describe the differences that refers to apt as an “end-user tool” but suggests apt and apt-cache for scripts.

So “the wiki” needs to be edited. Someone went looking for proof of deprecation and couldn’t find it because it’s just not there. However, where is this wiki page at?


Yeah, I was a tad hasty with that [deprecated] remark.

Back in the 2014 time frame or perhaps earlier, (memory plays tricks sometimes) I seem to recall a debian developer or perhaps a few, saying ‘apt-get’ was deprecated in favour of ‘apt’, for the average user. Guess I conflated that to mean deprecated entirely.
Agree that ‘apt-get’ is more suited for scripting purposes.

I had been using ‘aptitude’ in terminal almost exclusively before the introduction of the ‘apt’ front end tool. I know others preferred apt-get due to its speed over ‘aptitude’ which was a fair critique.

@stephen-d-allen Right, well, it is confusing. And when you have people just wiping any trace of apt-get from the digital universe and replacing it with apt, it’s a lot like rewriting history. It would be nice to make sure whatever wiki page you were referring to gets edited. I’d be happy to take it upon myself if you can only link to it (I couldn’t find anything).

I’ll take a look when suitably motivated, hopefully I saved it.

And it may well be misleading. As an example, apt upgrade and apt-get upgrade do not function identically. The former will install new packages if needed to satisfy dependencies of upgraded packages, while the latter won’t.


Muon has problems with apt-xapian-index.
Just launched it to do quick package search, but it started to update Xapian index which was fresh.

So I reported new bug about that (see bug 1741767).

The way I install/update/deinstall my software is via apt-get.

However, my first choice would be the software center if it was good enough. Unluckily there some obvious problems with gnome-software like the mentioned limited software catalogue. Was not a big fan of the old Ubuntu software center either as it was very laggy and slow to use.

I hope there will be more improvements at the gnome-software center in the future. A gui tool for installing new software is essential. Users should be able to install their software with a few clicks without fussing with the terminal or searching for ppas to get and up-to-date (and often more stable) version. The terminal is a great tool, of course, but it is not everyones thing.

Today I have had problems with Muon again. It continues to Rebuild Searching Index.

How to make this ugly bug 1741767 triaged and fixed?

AskUbuntu will not help.
On launchpad I have only one reply - from Launchpad Janitor (bot).

Where should I ask to help fixing this bug in Muon / apt-xapian-index?

The same with any bug, follow the process here, I’m afraid screaming for a fix is generally seen as bad practice :wink: But there’s specific steps you can make so as to make the bug more useful for developers. There’s a heck of a lot of bugs around to fix and developers have limited time and expertise…but useful bugs make their job easier :slight_smile:

If this is a problem on, say, Fedora or Arch as well, then you can probably assume it’s not a Debian/Ubuntu packaging bug and you can forward the bug upstream, because it’s marked Confirmed, this means that it will be on the Muon developers’ bug tracker.

1 Like

It is not screaming.

I discovered bug, I reported it with complete comprehensive steps to reproduce.
Then I retested that it is not fixed. And afterwards I informed upstream as you suggested.
I have already participated in about 600 bugs. All this on my spare time.

Triage team should work more effective and active. I do not have time to search and kindly entreat them to perform their actions in all internet, IRC and so on.

IMHO it seems that today noone needs stable mature tools as Synaptic/Muon but want to invent new glossy Snaps/FlatPacks for Apple’s foolish noobs.

Kindly reminder from the mean, mean moderators:

We all want the same thing here.

We all know that Bug Squad needs more volunteers. Some things never change.
We all know what it’s like to be frustrated. We have all been there.
We all know what it’s like be proud of great work…that nobody else seems to notice.

We all want the same thing here.

Let’s all take a step back, and then get back on the considerate and respectful train…so that we can parse the problems and identify achievable solutions.

We all want the same thing here.


Perhaps it comes across like that.

It should be obvious to people trying to help out in ‘our’ environments that we all do what we can, when we can, in whatever way we can - to move things forward.

That ALSO means that there are huge amounts of people out there talking to the rest of us in a ‘second’ tongue.

Consequently what then gets written - sounds right in the author’s mind - but looks ‘off’ to others.

I’ve seen posts from you to various mailing lists - and that’s how they appear to me (an English person with rather poor language skills in other languages - though I do try to understand other cultures).

I totally understand what you’re saying each time, but often it comes over as somewhat aggressive.

Hope that all comes across in the spirit it is meant - one of being of the same mind in the end.

Most of the bugs that I’ve reported which have come to a useful end are ones in which I’ve pro-actively found the person who can actually help - or they have come to me (see for an example) , I reported it - no huge bug heat - but it would undoubtedly have affected people - but it is now fixed.

Bear in mind I am almost exclusively running whatever dev version of Xubuntu we are at - that’s where most issues get sorted. Which is understandable. Other than LTS (5 for Ubuntu main, generally 2 or 3 years for flavours) all releases are only live for 9 months.


Apologies if the words I used were too harsh and I appreciate all the work you’ve put into bug management on Launchpad! :smiley:

This is the problem (that and perhaps a lack of developers to fix the bugs).


The move away from Software Centre and the use of Synaptic Package Manager appears to be sound, however, I have had bad experiences when following “Missing recommends.” The latest experience was when I installed recommended hplip packages into a working hplip, only to end up with lost communication with my HP printer and scanner. I had to purge and reinstall hplip to get the printers going again. So my feeling is that Synaptic is not all that reliable.

It may be separate issue - something like bug 1782137.
Synaptic itself is very reliable, bug apt-xapian-index is buggy.