Back to Recipe Page

SOFTWARE- installation and use:

Software is what the OS needs. Linux distros comes with a wide variety of programs - Office, Games, Internet, and Multi-Media and Graphics. The bigger the Linux distribution, the more the programs you will have at the beginning. Almost all of the programs are FREE and or OPEN SOURCE in Linux, so you will have thousands of programs to chose from. This is the big difference between MS Windows and Linux. MS Windows programs like MS-Office or Adobe Premier or Photoshop cost money and you cannot get into the program to adapt it to you (ie. not open).

Another difference is that you cannot go to a store to purchase Linux software. Linux software comes from you CD/DVD or over the Internet.

You run the software either from the clickable icon or from a pull-up list, just as in Windows.

What is different is HOW you INSTALL software.

In Windows most of us will just shove in a CD and read the screens and wait till everything installs pressing ‘enter’ whenever a question comes up. This is called installation by Wizard which is very much a Windows thing.

In the early days of Linux, there were few Wizards or installation managers to install software. Today most programs install easily and the process is relatively painless using a SOFTWARE MANAGER or SYNAPTIC. The software manager works through the Internet and each Distro has its own PROGRAM LISTS called REPOSITORIES. It is easy to INSTALL or REMOVE new software this way.

SYNAPTIC is a little different but uses similar software lists as the software manager BUT you will see more DETAIL. Most beginners will avoid synaptic until they become more familiar with Linux.

However, in most cases, you have to be the administrator to install new software. This is a safeguard to protect your system.

3 types of Linux software


1. In my opinion, the easiest and FASTEST system to install software is that offered by Debian operating systems – UBUNTU being the most popular.

You go to the ADD/REMOVE software program manager and search for the software you need and then select it for installation and the program will ask you some simple questions and everything will be downloaded from the Internet for you and installed.

You can also use the synaptic software management program to get even more programs. It is automatic too !

There is ALSO the APT-GET system which uses the Command Line Interface (CLI). This is for more advanced users.,, but is still fairly easy.


2.The second type of software is called the an RPM file; this is a compiled binary. Red Hat was the originator for this type of file. Fedora, and SUSE use this almost exclusively.

The most popular and ‘debugged’ software is found in the form of .rpm files. These are binary data ready to run on a PC environment. Fedora Core (Red Hat) and Mint and SuSE and can handle .rpm files via a Software Manager programs of some kind.

Installation starts either from the use of the Installation Manager or simply by clicking on the Linux .rpm file then following the screen directions, much like in Windows Wizards.

Using this technique, Linux keeps tabs on what software is available, which version is used and when the time comes, the UNINSTALLER. In a way, this is easier than in Windows.

Having said this, IN THE OLD DAYS there is one thing that will stop installation – a needed Library file is missing or needs to be updated. You will have to make sure all of these library files are installed FIRST before the original program will run. This can be very aggravating and time-consuming. Today, this has been virtually eliminated through the use of Program Managers

If the library file isn’t there then it will be available on the Internet. A Google search will find where to download it. Look for an RPM file to make life easier. PBONE.COM is a great source of these files.

There are some programs, like Open Office and Mozilla and Opera that run in Windows and run in Linux, but they will be different binaries.

Compiling Programs from Source Files

The third method is the Compilation technique. This is not for your average user.

Although binary files may be available, the CUTTING EDGE software will be in "tar-ball" or tar files. Tar files are usually compressed files which contains all the source code needed to assemble the software into binary or executable files.

To do this you need a compiler !

Your OS must have a compiler in order to make this work. GCC is an example compiler program. It is available from the software program manager.

See the README file in the source code.Brfotr you do any compiling.

The normal compile command pattern is :



sudo make install (in Ubuntu systems)

In the old days not too long ago, only a few computers could do this and it was a very long and difficult. Today compilers are faster and readily available. These are c-compilers (‘c’ is a language for writing programs )

Remember, now we are talking about the so-called BLEEDING-EDGE programs. These are hot off the Internet and use the most up-to-date libraries. So most of you will not be interested enough to do this.

The advantage of compiling from Tar files is that they will match your computer the best possible way. BUT the compiled programs will run smoother and faster on your computer.

GENTOO Linux uses ONLY compiled programs ! Of course to install all of the programs you may want in GENTOO may take several hours.