By nature the Ubuntu Software Center is a stripped-down, easy to use program. Meant to be more accessible to the average user than the standard Linux package manager, the Ubuntu Software Center breaks applications down into categories for easy browsing. Whether you’re looking for a game, an office application or an e-book reader, you can find software easily and install it in one click.
But are there any tweaks out there to make the software center work better? As it turns out, there are.
Use The Fastest Downloading Server
One simple tweak which could increase your downloading speeds dramatically, is to change the server from which you’re downloading packages. Ubuntu, by default, uses either the primary server for your country or region, or the default Ubuntu servers, to download packages from. For some, a local server could offer faster download times. This is particularly true if you go to a university that happens to host repositories.
Let’s find out if that’s true for you. In the Ubuntu Software Center, click “Edit” followed by “Software Sources“. Among the options you’ll see a “Download From” drop-down box:
Click this, then click “Other…“. You’ll be presented with a shocking number of servers. If one is near you, go ahead and pick it. If you’re not sure which is going to be fastest, click the “Select Best Server” button:
This will test all servers and connect you with the fastest one. Depending on where you live, this could give you a big speed boost. This is particularly useful during times when the primary Ubuntu servers are slow, such as when a new edition of Ubuntu comes out.
Easily Install Add-Ons
It’s easy to miss, but with Ubuntu 10.10 the Software Center added a quick way to install add-ons for your applications. For example, if you install Firefox you’ll see the following options:
To install these add-ons simply click their checkmarks, then scroll down and click the “Apply Changes” button at the bottom. If add-ons you always install are offered this could be a huge time saver!
Clickable Installation Links
This one can be a huge time saver. It’s possible, when writing an article about Ubuntu, to provide your readers with a single-click link for Ubuntu software installation. These links will automatically open in the Ubuntu Software Center when clicked by Ubuntu users. The problem is that lots of bloggers ignore this advice, instead offering cryptic “sudo apt-get install” instructions.
Don’t worry; there’s a solution. Aptlinker can make installation commands into clickable links. Just install this Chrome extension and any “sudo apt-get install” command will automatically change into a link. Installing a program is as simple as clicking the link!
Find more information on this by reading 4 Chrome Tools Every Ubuntu Users Should Check Out.
Browse By Software Source
Looking for a program in a repository you added? Perhaps a PPA? Don’t worry; the software center has you covered. Click the arrow to the left of the “Get Software” menu item in the left panel. You’ll see your custom software sources:
You can do the same thing with the “Installed Software” item, to see which software you’ve installed from which sources. This is a handy way to keep track of which sources you can perhaps remove from Ubuntu.
Use Synaptic Instead
Not sure any of this is giving you the flexibility you need? Time to call in the big guns, then. Synaptic is the ultimate package manager, giving you the ability to add or remove just about anything on your system. It’s not as user-friendly as the Ubuntu Software Center, but it is a great deal easier to tweak. Check it out; it’s in the “System” menu under “Administration”.
The Ubuntu Software Center is a great piece of software, and it’s only getting better with time. Ubuntu 11.04 is rumored to include software reviews from users and more, so stay tuned!
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