This is the fourth in a series of posts on using Ubuntu Linux specifically written for that select group of people who are smart but non-geek computer users who are using Linux because they are. Just are.
How to Install and Remove Software
There are a lot of ways to install software, and total geeks can make this really hard on themselves. You may not know this, but a software application usually needs to know how to exist on a wide range of systems and hardware configurations. Even within a given Operating System (OS), there are things the software has to do to compensate for a lot of potential variation. So, inside the software it may be like this:
Command: Do something.
OK, if I’m on hardware configuration A, do it this way.
OK, if I’m on hardware configuration B, do it this way.
OK, if I’m on hardware configuration C, do it this way.
OK, if I’m on hardware configuration Z, do it this way.
However, if you want, you can (in theory) “make” software from its original computer code (software is computer code transformed into a “executable” or “binary” file) in such a way that it does not have to do this. You cam “compile” the software to work specifically on your hardware and with exact other software you use. So instead of the above, you get this:
Command: Do something.
Not that you will ever do that, but it is kind of cool to consider the idea of compiling every piece of software on your computer to use, and assume the existence of, your specific hardware configuration. Well, there are people who think that is cool. While you are at it you can eliminate all those menu options you need to keep resetting (like what font you use, or how zoomed in something is) to just the way you like it.
But that is a lot of work. What you really want to do is to click a box and have the software installed automatically. And that, of course, is how it will work in Linux for you.
Open the System | Administration | Synaptic Package Manger thingie. (On your configuration you might have the “Administration” menu on top.)
You will need to enter your password because the system assumes you are about to mess with it, and you better be you. Enter your password.
On the current version of the package manager, there are two ways to “search” .. one is visible as a search box on the top of the screen. Ignore this.
Hit the “search” button and a search window comes up.
Enter something. Try “spreadsheet.” And hit OK or Enter.
Now there will be a search in the Distro’s repository for software that is listed there with the word “spreadsheet” in the name or description.
Now you can use the search box if you want. Search for “gnumeric” (that’s the name of an excellent spreadsheet) … the package manager will now narrow down the choices to those with “gnumeric” in the name or description.
Notice the little reddish round thing next to some of the software. That is the Ubuntu logo and is Ubuntu’s way of telling you that it likes this choice, that it is a primo choice, one that Ubuntu likes or trusts for some reason. This is often a clue that you want this particular choice.
If Gnumeric is not already installed, go ahead and install it. You’ll notice that there are several different items called “gnumeric.” Which one do you chose? Well, use your head. “doc” is obviously documentation. “common” might be good, “common” is a nice, safe sounding word. The one that says “gnumeric” and nothing else is a very likly choice.
Usually, the name of the software you are looking for by itself is the best choice. “Common” is a package designed to include all the “common” (to different versions) parts and that can be a good choice. Often, by reading the description you can figure out which choice to install. Usually, though, the choice with only the name of the software by itself is the one you want.
In any event, if you pick any one of these choices, pick “mark for installation” and there will be a window telling you what is actually going to be installed. Quite often, when there are several possible choices, and you pick one, the “things to be installed” thingie will include many of the other choices you were trying to pick among.
Go ahead and set up Gnumeric for installation. If it is already installed, maybe pick a related package like the one for “plugins” … don’t worry if you need the plug ins or not, just install it.
Now go back and clear the quick search box and hit enter to get back to the spreadsheet list. Scroll up and down and look at the list. Look at all those files that start with “lib.” You will almost never pick “lib” files (which are “library” files) as your software to install, but often they will be installed for you.
You’ll see some entries for “python” this and “python” that. Python is a computer programming language named after Monty Python that is used for a lot of purposes. Python is also a good way to interface with a spreadsheet if you are a total geek.
I just noticed that under spreadsheets is an item called “symphony” as in Lotus Symphony, and old time package produced by IBM. Apparently it is gone open source. I’m not recommending that you install it, but I sure am. Why? To play with it. I’ll let you know how that goes.
If you have not marked anything yet, go ahead and do so. A safe benign thing to install might be a “calculator” (if you don’t want to mess with spreadsheets). Use the search button to find calculators. (The button, not the quick search.) Click on a couple, read the descriptions, scroll around, pick one, select it for installation.
I decided to install “Speedcrunch.”
Notice that if you chose a few items to install, and poke around with the search function, and so on, the package manager remembers your choices. Eventually you have enough looking around so you pick Apply” (and then Apply again) and the software will now install, usually with no required interaction by you, in the background. Later, you’ll notice that it is all installed and you never had to reboot or mess around with a lot of dialog boxes.
What I just showed you is the hard way, but the best way, to install software. There is an easier way that you can use as well, easier mainly because all those different choices are not given to you. Only the approved “liked” by Ubuntu version. To get to this, close the synaptic package manager and find the “Add/Remove Applications” choice in your menu system. The software choices are divided into categories similar to the Ubuntu Gnome menu choices. Feel free to browse around and pick some stuff and install it.
By the way, when you are looking around at the software, you’ll notice a lot of it starts with the letter “K” in a way that is obviously rather forced. Spelling “Contact” with a “K” (to get “Kontact”) makes sense for a program that handles contact lists, but an app that puts a ruler in your screen might be named “Kruler” … that’s a bit more contrived. These are mostly applications designed to work under KDE which is a different “desktop” than Gnome. These applications will, of course, run under Gnome so you can certainly install them.
How to remove software: Make like you are installing it, to find the checked box indicating that the software is already installed. Then un check the box and then pick “apply.”
For a list of all the posts in this series, CLICK HERE.