Ubuntu’s new “App Center” app has arrived in Ubuntu 23.10 daily builds – no Snap channel commands required to test it out.
The new front-end for installing Snap and Deb package is built using Flutter. Ubuntu made Flutter its ‘default choice’ for app making in 2021. Despite being made with an unconventional1 toolkit the new store looks perfectly in-keeping with the rest of the Ubuntu desktop.
For a closer look at this natty new client, and to learn more about what it can and can’t do, keep reading!
Ubuntu App Center
The “old” Ubuntu Software/Snap Store app (it was called both during its tenure) was routinely criticised by users for poor performance, high memory usage, and inconsistent behaviour. App Center starts afresh; it’s not a fork of GNOME Software.
While it’s too early to say definitively that App Center avoids the aforementioned pain points, my own hands-on testing of it over the past few months is positive in these regards. It feels faster and more responsive than the app it replaces, and it certainly uses less RAM!
Visually, the app is pleasant to look at. The homepage is clean and uncluttered, logically ordered, and uses eye-catching banners to draw interest when scrolling. App listing pages put the install button within easy reach, and relays info on license, download size, confinement, and links to the publisher.
Screenshots (an important factor when perusing stuff to install) are large, clear, and prominent. Clicking on an image opens it in a Lightbox for close-up inspection.
The new App Center also makes it possible to you manage Snap apps within the app itself. The old Snap Store client could purported to do this but it was a little finicky. Not so here; the Manage page lets you check for and apply Snap updates, and see a list of install Snaps.
The creation of Ubuntu’s App Center has its roots in an unofficial, community-made app (which I naturally featured here on the blog at the time). I can’t recall of many instances in Ubuntu’s history where a third-party app has been adopted and made official – which is quite something!
Of course, Ubuntu’s desire to ship its own app store (i.e. one not based on GNOME Software) goes back further. In 2019 I was (politely) asked by Canonical to remove a post I’d published that gave an early-look at a new Snap-only software store they were developing (which, it seems, never came to anything).
App Center Caveats
There are a few drawbacks — though I’m loathe to linger on them too long given that development remains in flux.
The “big one” is that, at the time I write this, there is no support for finding/installing repo/deb software. Search for an app that is available as a deb in the repos (e.g., VLC) and you’ll find no option to install it, only the Snap builds:
The good news is that this is likely only a temporary omission. There’s a code pull-request pending for App Center which sounds like it brings back the ability to install deb/repo software.
Also at at the time of testing (as you may notice in my screenshots) the new App Center lacks an application icon in the Ubuntu Dock (or an entry in the applications grid either). This is a temporary issue for which fixes are, I’m sure, imminent.
There is no Flatpak/Flathub support in Ubuntu’s App Center and there (likely) never will be. Ubuntu has flatly (heh) ruled out adding Flatpak support in this app. They intend to offer a bespoke frontend for installing and managing Snaps and repo software, and those only.
In summary, App Center has landed in Ubuntu 23.10 daily builds. It looks, works, and performs better (already) than the app it replaces — though support for installing non-Snaps is currently MIA.
Those not sold on Snaps as a packaging format will find the new App Center is at odds with their tastes. As it comes pre-installed as a Snap (there’s no deb build of it in the Ubuntu repo that I can see) those who run
sudo apt purge snapd after installation will also miss out on trying it entirely.
But if you’re not sworn off Snaps, the new App Center looks set to provide a stellar experience.
- Flutter can be used to build desktop Linux apps but these aren’t common (yet, I guess) ↩︎