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Getting Started With Flatpak and Flathub

One of the best parts of using a GNU/Linux system is the inclusion of a package manager. The package manager makes it easy to browse, install, and remove a variety of software on your system.

However, not all GNU/Linux distributions use the same package manager, and each distribution may use different versions of a software application (or different libraries that the application relies on). If you are a person that needs to use multiple machines with different distributions, this can cause compatibility problems.

A variety of solutions has been created to address cross-distribution compatibility issues (e.g., AppImage and Snappy). One nice implementation that is gaining popularity is Flatpak.

Note: If you are not familiar with the GNU/Linux command line interface, review the Conventions page before proceeding.

Installation

Some GNU/Linux distributions come with flatpak installed, e.g., Fedora. For others, you will need to install flatpak from the distribution's repository.

For Debian, you can do this with the following command:

# apt install flatpak

Basic Commands

Here are several basic flatpak commands to get you started.

Note: These commands use the --user option. This limits the scope of the commands to your user account. To have the commands affect all user accounts (i.e., act system-wide), you can leave off the --user option.

flatpak install --user ex_app_identifier...
Install a Flatpak app.
Here, ex_app_identifier can be a local file (e.g., org.videolan.VLC.flatpakref) or a remote file (e.g., https://flathub.org/repo/appstream/org.videolan.VLC.flatpakref).
Flatpak apps installed in this manner can be accessed via ${HOME}/.local/share/flatpak/exports/bin/ and their data is located in ${HOME}/.var/app/.
flatpak run --user ex_app_identifier
Run a Flatpak app (e.g., flatpak run --user org.videolan.VLC).
flatpak list --user
List installed Flatpak apps.
flatpak info ex_app_identifier
Show information about an installed application or runtime. Add the -M option to show an application's permissions.
flatpak uninstall --user ex_app_identifier...
Remove a Flatpak app.
flatpak uninstall --user --delete-data ex_app_identifier...
Remove a Flatpak app, along with its data in ${HOME}/.var/app/.

Remotes

Flatpak supports the concept of a remote source, i.e., a repository. At present, the most popular Flatpak remote is Flathub.

You can add Flathub as a remote source for flatpak with this command:

flatpak remote-add --user --if-not-exists flathub 'https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo'

Once you have configured a Flatpak remote, like Flathub, you can benefit from the following commands:

flatpak remotes --user
List configured flatpak remotes.
flatpak remote-delete --user ex_remote_name
Delete a flatpak remote (e.g., flatpak remote-delete --user flathub).
flatpak remote-ls --user ex_remote_name
Show remote's available runtimes and apps (e.g., flatpak remote-ls --user flathub).
flatpak remote-ls --user ex_remote_name | grep ex_string
Search a flatpak remote for a string (e.g., flatpak remote-ls --user flathub | grep 'VLC').
flatpak install --user ex_remote_name ex_app_name...
Install an app from a flatpak remote (e.g., flatpak install --user flathub org.videolan.VLC).
flatpak update --user
Update installed Flatpak apps.

Documentation

For more on Flatpak, peruse the flatpak man page in the Linux User's Manual (man 1 flatpak) and check out the online documentation.

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