The Complete Guide to the Ubuntu Software Centre

Install apps easily through Ubuntu's shop

Ubuntu Software Center, as it was, is gone on all currently supported versions of Ubuntu. It was replaced by Ubuntu Software. This guide has since been updated to reflect the current Ubuntu Software application, rather than the discontinued Ubuntu Software Center.

Introduction

Ubuntu Software is a graphical tool which makes it possible for you to install software on a computer running the Ubuntu operating system.

In order to get the most out of Ubuntu Software you should read this guide which shows how to add extra repositories within Ubuntu.

This guide highlights the features of Ubuntu Software as well as some of the pitfalls.

Starting Ubuntu Software

To start the Ubuntu Software app, either click on the suitcase icon on the Ubuntu Launcheror press the super key (Windows key) on your keyboard and search for "Ubuntu Software" in the GNOME dash. When the icon appears, select it.

Ubuntu Software Center icon

The Main Interface

The image below shows the main interface for Ubuntu Software.

Ubuntu Software

There is a menu at the very top which appears by hovering over the words "Ubuntu Software". 

Underneath the menu is a toolbar with options for All Software, Installed, and Updates. On the right is a search icon.

In the main interface, there is a list of categories towards the center of the page, just below a featured app. Below that, you'll find special app categories listed out, like Editor's Picks and Recent Releases.

The whole experience is designed to feel familiar to anyone who has used a mobile app store, like Google Play. If you've used GNOME Software on another distribution, Ubuntu Software will seem very familiar. That's because, following the switch to GNOME, Ubuntu abandoned its own software center in favor of the GNOME Software app, which they simply re-branded.

Searching for Applications

The easiest way to find applications is to search by either the application's name or by keywords. Select the search icon(magnifying glass) in the upper right corner of the Ubuntu Software window. A search box will appear at the top of the screen. Type the name of the application that you're looking for.

Search icon in Ubuntu Software

A list of potential applications will appear in real-time as you type.

Browsing the Categories

If you just want to see what is available in the repositories, you can expand the list of categories under the All Software tab.

Select the small down arrow in the center of the screen, just below the list of popular categories. The list will expand to show the complete set of available categories.

Expand button in Ubuntu software

Selecting a category brings up a list of applications the same way searching for applications does.

Some categories contain sub-categories that you can access with the Show drop-down menu. Selecting a sub-category filters your results to only display apps in one you chose.

Show dropdown menu in Ubuntu Software

For example, the Games category has sub-categories for arcade, board games, card games, puzzles, role-playing, simulation, sports, and more. The top picks include Pingus, Hedgewars and Supertux 2.

Showing a List of Installed Applications Using Ubuntu Software

To see what is installed on your system you could use the GNOME Dash and filter using the Applications lens or you can use Ubuntu Software.

In Ubuntu Software select the Installed tab.

Installed tab in Ubuntu Software

Ubuntu Software doesn't display installed software in categories. Instead, you'll see a long list of the applications currently on your system in alphabetical order. As you scroll through, you'll see a divide between user apps and system apps. That divide is there mostly to give you a warning not to remove anything below that line because it will probably break things. That's why the option isn't there. You'll need to remove them manually with 'sudo.'

Ubuntu Software installed app

If you select any of the apps that you have installed, you'll have the option to either Launch or Remove the app.

Check for Updates

Ubuntu software aims to be a complete management solution, so it's only natural that it includes the ability to check for updates and update your Ubuntu PC.

Select the Updates tab at the top of the Ubuntu Software window to see your system's current update status. As soon as you select the tab, Ubuntu Software will check for updates.

Updates tab in Ubuntu Software

When there are updates available, they'll be displayed in the main body of the window, along with the option to install them. If there aren't any, you'll see a message occupying that same space and letting you know that your system is up-to-date.

You can manually check for updates by selecting the refresh arrow icon in the upper left of the window.

Applications Lists

When you search for an application or browse the categories a list of applications will be revealed.

The list of applications shows the application's name, a brief description, and a rating. 

Ubuntu Software sort

If you're browsing, In the top right corner of the screen there is a drop down showing how the list is sorted. The options are as follows:

  • Top Rated
  • Name

Finding out More About an Application

To get more information about an application, select its entry within the application list.

Ubuntu Software app listing

You'll arrive on the application's page within Ubuntu Software. At the top, you'll find the app's name, along with its rating, a few screenshots, and the option to Install it.

If you know you want the software, press Install.

To find out more about the software before installing, keep on scrolling.

First, you'll find a short description of the app with a list of its features and what it can do.

Ubuntu Software listing more info

Below that will be details about the app. You can find out which version of the software you're getting, the repository it's coming from, licensing, and when it was last updates.

Finally, at the bottom of the page, you'll see the reviews. You'll get a "star" breakdown and how many people rated it. You can also see full user reviews.

Before you get too concerned with negative reviews, you really need to take into account the "trolling" factor here. Anyone can rate any app in Ubuntu Software at any time for any reason. They don't need an account. They don't need to sign in. They can just write anything. Certainly, if you see a boatload of reviews saying that an app is broken, beware. Otherwise, take what you read with a serious grain of salt, and remember, most of these are free to try out for yourself.

Pitfalls

The Ubuntu Software app is less than perfect. 

As an example, search for Steam using the search bar. Look at the image above to see what happened. Is Steam not available? Actually, it is, just at the bottom of the list.

Ubuntu Software flawed search

Ubuntu Software doesn't seem to have any way of differentiating the popular Steam app from other apps that happen to mention it in their descriptions. Many of the results are random scripts and nearly unknown utilities that the majority of people wouldn't care about. It makes Ubuntu Software look inaccurate and the overall selection seems like a pile of junk and random "hacker projects," which plays directly into the perception that Linux isn't a mainstream desktop OS.

Because of the flawed rating system, it's hard to sort out the best apps when browsing too. Since you can only sort by Top Rated or Name, you'll be relying on those reviews when exploring for new apps. When you can't rely on the ratings, you're pretty much lost.

To make matters even worse when searching or browsing, you'll see results from every repository installed on your system, including Snaps. This often results in confusing duplication.

Ubuntu Software is also completely useless when it comes to installing system components and lower-level packages. You won't always need to do this sort of thing. In fact, it's quite uncommon on modern Linux, but as soon as you start customizing things, on a slightly deeper level, it will come up.

When it comes down to it, Ubuntu Software only works well when you already know which app you're looking to install. For most people, that completely defeats the purpose, especially when you can open up a terminal and type:

sudo apt install <app name>

For anyone serious about using Ubuntu as their main OS, it's still recommended that you install Synaptic or learn to use apt.

Finally

This guide is item 6 on the list of 33 things to do after installing Ubuntu.