Finding apps for Linux is simultaneously simple and complicated. For decades now, you’ve only had to open a package manager or an app store and type the name of the program you’re looking for. Done. Easy.
But as a new Linux user, there’s a good chance you don’t actually know what you’re looking for. And with new software coming out more quickly, experienced users can easily miss out on the latest finds. Fortunately, several websites have surfaced that do a great job introducing you to Linux apps you haven't seen before.
Flathub is a universal app store containing software you can install regardless of which Linux distribution you use. The programs here are available in the Flatpak format, which a number of distros have chosen as their universal app package format of choice.
Fedora Silverblue and Endless OS distribute everything as a Flatpak, and since version 6.0, elementary OS has moved in a similar direction.
Flathub is primarily championed by the GNOME community, so you can find many apps here tailored to that particular desktop. Given GNOME’s position as the default desktop in most Linux distros, this isn’t an issue for most users.
That said, Flathub is hardly limited to GNOME. Many of the apps here are desktop agnostic, especially games. Flathub is also home to a growing amount of well-known commercial, proprietary apps such as Steam, Discord, and Slack.
Installing Apps from Flathub
Flathub places setup instructions at the top of the home page. Some distros come with Flatpak preinstalled. If you’re using GNOME, all you have to do is click the Install button under an app to get the goods.
If you’re not using GNOME, you can follow command-line instructions to add Flathub to the list of sources your distro checks for software. You can also, regardless of the distro, turn to the command line to install and remove programs.
The flatpak command does a great job guessing which program you’re looking for even if you don’t know the proper name. You can also copy and paste installation commands directly from the website.
2. Snap Store
Snap Store is another universal app store that has revolutionized how easy it has become to find apps for Linux. As the default app store for Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distro, the Snap Store likely receives more traffic.
Snap Store uses the snap format, which works across virtually any Linux distro. It comes from Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, which has done extensive outreach to help and encourage other companies to release their software for Linux as a snap package.
As a result, the Snap Store contains a much larger amount of proprietary software. This and other aspects of snap design limit the store’s appearance to free and open-source software enthusiasts, but it’s a great destination for people switching over from macOS or Windows hoping to see if a program they already use is also available for Linux.
KDE Plasma users will also find more of their desktop apps available as a snap than a flatpak.
Installing Apps from the Snap Store
There’s an Install button at the top right of the page containing the app you want. When you click this button, a menu will appear. Ubuntu users only have to tap the button that appears prompting them to open the app in their desktop store.
If you use another distro, this menu will link you to instructions for setting up snapd, which is needed to install snaps. If you’re already good to go, then you can copy and paste the command provided.
The KDE project provides a handy page listing over 200 apps that the community has produced. This software is intended for KDE Plasma, but you’re welcome to use it on any Linux desktop. Some are also available on Windows and macOS.
Even though KDE Plasma is not the most widely used Linux desktop, its community is by far the most prolific when it comes to app creation.
Far from recreating and redesigning the basics, the KDE community also has apps for more advanced functionality, such as office suites and various media creation tools. There’s also KDE Connect, for syncing your phone and PC together, and Kirogi, an app for piloting drones.
The KDE page is great for helping Plasma purists find all the software designed specifically for their desktop, as these are the apps that will integrate best.
Installing Apps from KDE.org
KDE.org doesn’t provide apps directly. Each app contains an Install button that integrates with your Linux app store, such as KDE Discover or GNOME Software. If an app isn’t available from your distro’s repositories, then this button will fail to pull up the app.
Apps that are available via other means contain buttons to other distribution methods. At the time of this writing, there are no links to the Snap Store, but buttons to download via Flathub appear often. The educational children’s app GCompris even includes links to F-Droid, Google Play, and the Microsoft Store.
The GNOME project also provides a list of apps available for the GNOME desktop. Unlike KDE, which provides a comprehensive list of programs old and new, GNOME’s list primarily contains those that adhere to the desktop's current design guidelines.
Everything from the app icons to the theme and layout will feel largely consistent among the software here. If you love the GNOME look and feel, this webpage is the place to be.
GNOME’s catalog isn’t nearly as long as KDE’s, nor will you find software as complex as the likes of digiKam and Kdenlive. But the GNOME team does provide a helpful amount of information about each app. In addition to download links and relevant web pages, GNOME also introduces you to each app’s maintainers, putting names and faces behind the code.
Installing Apps from GNOME.org
GNOME is all-in on Flathub, so each app listed contains a link to that site. Currently, some GNOME Core apps are not yet listed in part because they aren’t yet available on Flathub. But at the moment, the page is very new, and this may all soon change.
An AppCenter for Everyone?
The pages above list all apps that you can install on most versions of Linux. Another site is in the process of making the list. As part of the AppCenter for Everyone campaign, the elementary OS team has worked to make AppCenter apps available to other distros.
Appcenter.elementary.io lists apps available for elementary OS. To get access to some of these on other distros, you can add elementary’s AppCenter Flatpak remote repository to your system.