The Complete Guide to the Ubuntu Software Centre

Install apps easily through Ubuntu's shop

Ubuntu Software is a graphical tool that makes it possible for you to install software on a computer running the Ubuntu operating system. To get the most out of Ubuntu Software, learn how to add extra repositories within Ubuntu. This guide highlights the features of Ubuntu Software as well as the pitfalls.

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

How to Start Ubuntu Software

There are two ways to start the Ubuntu Software app:

  • Click the suitcase icon on the Ubuntu Launcher.
  • Press the Super key (Windows key) on the keyboard, then 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. To find the menu at the top, hover the mouse over Ubuntu Software. Below the menu, you'll find a toolbar with options for All Software, Installed, and Updates. On the right is a search icon.

Ubuntu Software

In the main interface, a list of categories displays toward the center of the page, below a featured app. Below that, you'll find special app categories such as Editor's Picks and Recent Releases.

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

Search for Applications

The easiest way to find applications is to search by either the application name or keywords. Select the search icon (the magnifying glass) in the upper-right corner of the Ubuntu Software window. In the search box that appears at the top of the screen, type the name of the application you want to find. A list of potential applications appears in real-time as you type.

Search icon in Ubuntu Software

Browse the Categories

If you want to see what's available in the repositories, expand the list of categories under the All Software tab. Then, select the drop-down arrow in the center of the screen, below the list of popular categories. The list expands to show the complete set of available categories.

Expand button in Ubuntu software

Selecting a category displays 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 the 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.

Show a List of Installed Applications Using Ubuntu Software

To see what is installed on your system, use the GNOME Dash and filter using the Applications lens or 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, it displays a list of the applications currently on the system in alphabetical order. As you scroll through, you'll see a divide between user apps and system apps. That divide is a warning not to remove anything below that line because it will break things. That's why the option isn't there. You'll need to remove these apps manually with sudo.

Ubuntu Software installed app

If you select any of the apps that you installed, you can either Launch or Remove the app.

Check for Updates

Ubuntu software aims to be a complete management solution, so 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. When you select the tab, Ubuntu Software checks for updates.

Updates tab in Ubuntu Software

When updates are available, the updates are displayed in the main body of the window, along with the option to install. If there aren't any, a message appears and tells you that the system is up-to-date.

To manually check for updates, select the refresh arrow icon in the upper-left corner of the window.

Applications Lists

When you search for an application or browse the categories, a list of applications displays. The list of applications shows the application name, a brief description, and a rating. 

Ubuntu Software sort

If you're browsing, select the Sort drop-down arrow to sort the list by Top Rated and Name.

Find Information About an Application

To get more information about an application, select its entry in the application list. The application's page in Ubuntu Software shows the app name, along with its rating, a few screenshots, and the option to install it. If you want the software, select Install.

Ubuntu Software app listing

To find out more about the software before installing, keep scrolling. First, you'll find a short description of the app with a list of its features and what it does.

Ubuntu Software listing more info

Below this information are details about the app, such as the version of the software, the repository it comes from, licensing, and when it was last updated.

At the bottom of the page, you'll see the reviews. There's a star breakdown and how many people rated it. You can also see full user reviews.

Don't get too concerned with negative reviews; take into account the trolling factor. Anyone can rate any app in Ubuntu Software at any time and for any reason. They don't need an account, and they don't need to sign in. However, if most of the reviews say an app is broken, beware. Otherwise, take what you read with a grain of salt, and remember, most of these are free to try.

Pitfalls

The Ubuntu Software app is less than perfect. As an example, search for Steam using the search bar. Look at the image below to see what happened. Is Steam not available? It is, it's 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 mention it in the description. Many results are random scripts and nearly unknown utilities that most people don't care about. It makes Ubuntu Software look inaccurate, and the overall selection seems like 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. Since you can only sort by Top Rated or Name, you'll need to rely on the reviews when exploring new apps.

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

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

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

sudo apt install <app name>

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