Saying that once is fine. Saying it every single time I want to help a user install a piece of software is a pain.
As it turns out, that’s a pain I could have avoided.
In my article about minimalist text editors I pointed Ubuntu users toward the repositories. I could have, however, simple told users to click here to install Pyroom. With a link like that readers can install a given program in a single click.
This isn’t just useful for bloggers, however. If you have friends using Ubuntu you can use this same structure to easily share programs with your friends and families, provided that they’re in the Ubuntu repositories. It’s called AptURL, and it’s as easy to use as sharing a link.
Let’s say you were explaining to your friend how to install Thunderbird. The simplest way to do this is to construct an AptURL link and send it to them.
Constructing an AptURL link is very similar to a standard hyperlink, only instead of including an address you need only include “apt:” followed by the name of the package you want to install. So, for installing Thunderbird the link would be “apt:thunderbird“. If you’re sending this link via email all you need to do is use the “link” button on your email client to create a link to “apt:thunderbird”.
Alternatively, if you’re into writing HTML by hand, you’d need to write something like this:
<a href=”apt:thunderbird”>Click here to install Thunderbird</a>
That line looks like this: Click here to install Thunderbird. Pretty cool, eh?
Want the link to install multiple applications? That’s easy enough; just separate the programs with a comman. For example:
<a href=”apt:thunderbird,pyroom,vlc”>Click here to install Thunderbird, Pyroom and VLC</a>
creates a link for installing Thunderbird, PyRoom and VLC.
It’s worth nothing that such links only work for software that’s in the repository. This is good from a security standpoint – I wouldn’t want links to viruses to function – but it does mean that not every app on the web can be installed this way. Still, I think it’s pretty cool.
Using A Link
Okay, so making these links is easy. Are they just as easy to use?
Easier. Over at Boulder Community Computers I recently profiled Thunderbird. At the bottom of the article I included download links for Windows and Mac, and an AptURL link for Ubuntu:
I click “launch application“, type my password, and Thunderbird begins downloading:
Not only is Thunderbird downloaded, but all dependencies needed to use Thunderbird are installed as well. Not that the end-user necessarily needs to be aware of that; the process is elegant enough to leave these details hidden unless I want to see them. Eventually the installation occurs and my software is installed.
And that’s that; I now have Thunderbird on my computer.
I wish Windows and Mac had technology this cool; sadly they don’t. At least I can make use of such links in my Ubuntu articles, not to mention emails to friend and family.
What do you guys think? Is this something you could see simplifying tech support? Do you like it when sites offer such links, or do you prefer to install things from the command line as God intended? Perhaps most importantly, do you have any links to cool software to share?