Get the Best New and Updated Software for Ubuntu

Add extra software repositories to Ubuntu and get the latest releases

This article shows you how to enable extra repositories within Ubuntu as well as how and why you would use personal package archives (PPAs).

Software and Updates

Brave Web Browser on Ubuntu Linux on an iMac computer

Let's begin by discussing the repositories that are already available within Ubuntu.

Press the super key (Windows key) on your keyboard to bring up the Ubuntu Dash and start searching for Software.

An icon for Software & Updates will appear. Select this icon to bring up the Software & Updates screen.

There are five tabs available on this screen and if you read a previous article showing how to update Ubuntu you will already know what these tabs are for but if not we will be covering them again here.

Ubuntu Software & Updates

The first tab is called Ubuntu Software, and it has a series of checkboxes. The main ones are:

  • Canonical-supported free and open-source software (main)
  • Community-maintained free and open-source software (universe)
  • Proprietary drivers (restricted)
  • Software restricted by copyright or legal issues (multiverse)

The main repository contains officially supported software whereas the universe repository contains software provided by the Ubuntu community.

The restricted repository contains non-free supported software and multiverse contains non-free community software.

Unless you have a reason not to, we would make sure all these boxes are ticked.

Ubuntu Other software

The Other Software tab has a list of checkboxes. The primary ones are.:

  • Canonical Partners
  • Canonical Partners source code

The Canonical Partners repository contains closed source software and to be honest there isn't much of interest in there. (Flash player, Google compute engine stuff, Google Cloud SDK, and Skype.

At the bottom of the Other Software tab is the option to Add... new software sources. Pressing it will let you add PPAs to your system graphically.

What Are Personal Package Archives (PPAs)?

When you install Ubuntu for the first time your software packages will be at a specific version as tested prior to release.

As time goes by that software remains at the older version except for bug fixes and security updates.

If you are using a long-term support release version of Ubuntu (16.04/18.04) then your software will be considerably behind the latest versions by the time the support ends.

PPAs provide repositories with updated versions of software as well as new software packages not available in the main repositories listed in the previous section.

Are There Any Downsides to Using PPAs?

Here is the kicker. PPAs can be created by anyone and therefore you should be very cautious before adding them to your system.

At the very worst somebody could provide you with a PPA full of malicious software. This isn't the only thing to watch out for however because even with the best intentions things can go wrong.

The most likely issue you are going to come across is potential conflicts. For instance, you might add a PPA with an updated version of a video player. That video player needs a certain version of GNOME or KDE or a specific codec to run but your computer has a different version. You, therefore, update GNOME, KDE or the codec only to find other applications are set to work under the old version. This is a clear conflict which needs to be carefully managed.

Generally speaking, you should steer clear of using too many PPAs. The main repositories have a lot of good software and if you like up to date software use the latest version of Ubuntu and keep updating it every 6 months.

How to Add a PPA With Graphical Tools

You can easily add PPAs to your Ubuntu system in one of two ways. You can use the graphical tools provided with Ubuntu, or you can work in the command line. There's no real advantage to either, so pick which you're most comfortable with.

This section covers the graphical method. After it, you'll find a list of some of the top PPAs along with the way to add each via the command line.

  1. Press the Show Applications icon in the lower left of your screen.

  2. Use the search function at the top of the screen to search for Software & Updates.

    Ubuntu search for Software & Updates
  3. Locate the Software & Updates icon, and select it.

  4. When the window opens up, select the Other Software tab.

    Ubuntu Software & Updates
  5. At the bottom of the window, press Add...

    Ubuntu Other software
  6. Locate the APT line of the PPA you want to add. It will begin with 'deb' followed by a web address. Copy that line.

    Ubuntu PPA copy APT line
  7. Now, paste the APT line from your PPA into the window that opened after pressing Add.

  8. Press Add Source in the lower right of the window to add your new PPA.

    Ubuntu add PPA

The Best PPAs

This list highlights the best PPAs available at the moment. You don't need to rush into adding all of them to your system but take a look and if you think one will provide added benefits to your system follow the instructions to install provided.

LibreOffice

To get an up to date version of LibreOffice, add the LibreOffice PPA. It isn't always necessary to have the latest version of LibreOffice, especially if you're only typing up text documents. The version that came with Ubuntu is probably alright.

If there is a new feature that you want or a major upgrade, you can enable the LibreOffice PPA, direct from the office suite's developers. The PPA is continually updated with the latest releases and bug fixes.

To add it to your system, open a terminal window, and run the commands below. Then, install it normally.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa
sudo apt-get update

Cinnamon

So you have installed Ubuntu and you realized that you would much prefer to have Mint's Cinnamon desktop environment rather than GNOME.

It can be so much trouble to download the Mint ISO, create a Mint USB drive, backup all your data, install Mint and then add all those software packages you just installed.

Save yourself the time, and add the Cinnamon PPA to Ubuntu. In a way, you'll get the best of both worlds. You can still have access to the latest Ubuntu releases, as opposed to Mint's long-term model, and you'll get the latest Cinnamon desktop as it's made available. Enable the PPA with:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:embrosyn/cinnamon
sudo apt-get update

Lutris

When it comes to gaming on Linux, Lutris is a huge deal. It revolutionized Linux gaming by including simple graphical installers for Windows games that are just as easy to use as their Windows counterparts.

Lutris lets you effortlessly organize both your game library and the tools you use to run those games, including Wine. Lutris works with Wine as well as Steam and multiple popular emulators.

With Lutris, gaming on Linux becomes just as easy as it is on Windows, and you'll be able to access and play all of your games from the same place. Add the official Lutris PPA to Ubuntu with the commands below.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lutris-team/lutris
sudo apt-get update

NVIDIA Drivers

Gamers know that having the latest graphics drivers is important for maximum performance. On Linux, having outdated drivers can cause some serious problems. That's why you should always ensure that you have the latest drivers for your NVIDIA card.

It's awkward and often problematic to use the manual installers from NVIDIA. That's why the Ubuntu graphics team maintains a PPA complete with all current releases for the popular Linux distribution. You can add the PPA once, install the drivers, and they'll be kept updated along with the rest of your system. Add it with:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa
sudo apt-get update

Kodi

Kodi is the go-to media center application across every platform. It's capable of nearly everything you can think of, including turning your PC into a media center. That's why it's the basis for popular Raspberry Pi media center operating systems.

Kodi is also great for creating and working with both audio and video playlists, and playing them in high resolution with maximum control over how the content is played and which settings are applied.

Ubuntu does have Kodi in its regular repositories, but it's almost always outdated. The Kodi developers provide a PPA with the latest versions of Kodi updated regularly. Add the PPA from the command line with:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update

VLC

It'd be hard to find a multimedia player more popular than VLC on any platform. On Linux, it's easily become a standard. VLC is a lightweight multi-tool that works flawless with your music or video libraries. It can play DVDs and even stream over your local network.

Like several other entries on this list, you can get VLC in the default Ubuntu repositories, but to get the latest releases with the best support and features, add the repository from the command line with the commands below.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:videolan/stable-daily
sudo apt-get update

HandBrake

HandBrake is a popular and powerful tool for editing, converting, and backing up video on both Linux and other platforms. HandBrake lets you easily edit and convert your videos for your mobile devices, and it enables you to make digital backups of your physical DVDs.

If you plan to use HandBrake on your Ubuntu PC, it's more than worth adding the PPA. While you will find HandBrake in the main Ubuntu repository, the version in the PPA comes straight from its developers and will always be current. Add it with the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:stebbins/handbrake-releases
sudo apt-get update

Oibaf Xorg/Mesa + AMD Graphics

AMD graphics card drivers were in something of a state of flux for a number of years that's finally smoothed out into something fairly remarkable. The mainstream AMD drivers for gaming and daily use are mostly open source, and they come straight from your distribution's repositories. However, the code that brings improvements comes both from the Linux kernel and Mesa, mostly.

Oibaf has been maintaining his own Mesa PPA for years that not only includes some additional features not found in the mainstream Ubuntu builds but the latest AMD graphics support as well. If you plan on gaming with AMD on Ubuntu, this Oibaf Mesa repository is a must. Add it via the command line with:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:oibaf/graphics-drivers
sudo apt-get update