Profile Picture

Spencer B.

President/Lead Developer at the Quaternion Institute. CS student, programmer, and guitarist.

feed | tips | contact

When to Use Flatpak

Calendar icon October 8, 2020

Clock icon 4 min read

Folder icon #flatpak #software #packages #linux #appimage in tech

Introduction

One thing that might not be clear to many newer Linux users is when to use Flatpak as opposed to the built-in package manager.

Flatpak vs Snapcraft

On the surface, Flatpak and Snapcraft appear to serve a similar purpose, so what is the difference between them? In short:

Personally, I see almost no reason to use Snap over Flatpak, even if I could.

Flatpak or Snapcraft vs AppImage

AppImage is another option for installing software that I will not focus much on, the short version is that it:

When to Use Flatpaks

For the most part, Flatpaks and Snaps solve a problem that doesn’t really exist (most of the time). You should almost always try to use your distribution’s package manager instead, as it saves you from almost all of the problems listed above. However, there are a few limited cases when a Flatpak might be useful…

1. Software not in Repos

If you can’t get the software you need otherwise, use Flatpak (or see if there are AppImages). Sometimes package managers don’t show you all of the available software. If you are trying to install proprietary software you may want to check if your package manager has repositories that are not enabled by default that might have the program you need.

2. Software Outdated in Repos

If you dig a bit (or are running Debian), you might be able to find versions of software that were packaged while the World Trade Center was still standing. After searching the internet for solutions to an annoying bug for a while and see that it has been fixed, but not in your distro’s version of the software it’s time to look for a Flatpak.

3. Software Keeps Crashing (and/or is made by the KDE project)

Sometimes software is not tested against the specific versions of libraries that your system is running. This can causes many weird issues that make software inoperable. Flatpaks contain their own libraries, the same versions that the developers are running. KDE makes some pretty great software but Krita and Kdenlive crash very frequently for me, using a Flatpak often solves the problem.

Comments