Get the Best New and Updated Software for Ubuntu

Brave Web Browser on Ubuntu Linux on an iMac computer


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

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. Click 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.

The first tab is called Ubuntu Software and it has four checkboxes:

  • 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.

The Other Software tab has two checkboxes:

  • 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 an Add button. This button lets you add other repositories (PPAs).

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 (12.04/14.04) 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.

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.

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Get Deb

Get Deb provides a lot of packages that aren't available in the main repositories such as mind mapping tools, novel writing tools, Twitter clients and other plugins.

You can install Get Deb by opening the Ubuntu Software And Updates tool and clicking the Add button on the Other Software tab.

Enter the following into the box provided:

Click the Add Source button.

Now download the security key.

Go to the Authentication tab and click Import Key File and choose the file you just downloaded.

Click Close and Reload to update the repositories.

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Play Deb

Whilst get deb provides access to applications, play deb provides access to games.

To add the Play Deb PPA click the Add button on the Other Software tab and enter the following:

Click the Add Source button.

You will get access to games such as Extreme Tux Racer, The Goonies, and Paintown (Streets Of Rage-esque).

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To get an up to date version of LibreOffice add the LibreOffice PPA.

This is one PPA that is worth adding especially if you need some of the new functionality within LibreOffice or better integration with Microsoft Office.

Click the Add button in Software & Updates and add the following into the box:

If you have just installed Ubuntu 15.10 then you will be using LibreOffice 5.0.2. The current version available in the PPA is 5.0.3.

The 14.04 version of Ubuntu will be significantly further behind.

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Does anybody remember Silverlight? Unfortunately, it hasn't gone away yet but it doesn't work within Linux.

It used to be the case that you needed Silverlight to watch Netflix but now you just need to install Google's Chrome browser.

Pipelight is a project which makes it possible to get Silverlight working within Ubuntu.

To add the Pipelight PPA click the Add button within Software & Updates, Other Software tab.

Enter the following line:

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

But it is 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.

You know the drill by now, click that Add button on the Other Software tab and enter the following: