You can now replace the Ubuntu Software Center with something else — something faster. Let me introduce you to App Grid, arguably the best software center alternative.
The introduction of the Ubuntu Software Center back in Ubuntu 9.10 was a very welcome addition as it made searching for software a lot easier and user friendly — there was no longer a need to sift through lots of confusing package names.
While I personally have very few complaints about its design, I do tend to complain about its speed. It’s pretty slow at times, which feels very abnormal when you’re already on a computer with a fast processor and an SSD and all other applications just fly. App Grid is a vast improvement in this regard.
Before We Start
Before I begin, I have to mention that App Grid is a closed-source application. I know that a lot of Linux users use Linux through a conscious decision because they believe in the open-source initiative, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if that means that you refuse to run closed-source applications as such, App Grid is not for you.
About App Grid
App Grid is written completely from scratch, so it doesn’t have anything to base itself on. In other words, it was able to be designed with speed in mind, and it’s certainly speedy. While the Ubuntu Software Center may take up to 5 seconds to load (in my system configuration — I’m sure it can be much slower on other computers), App Grid loads in roughly 1 second. You’d think that after using the Ubuntu Software Center as the default for the past five years, Canonical would’ve worked a bit harder on making it faster. But since Ubuntu 12.04, it hasn’t really received any major updates.
Once App Grid is loaded, you’ll see a listing of some of the most highly rated software. Along the top you’ll also see that you can search for specific software, as well as check out Categories and States, and you have an easy way to go back to the Top Rated ones. You can even sign into Ubuntu One, which can be used to save preferences and a list of installed applications, and to make software purchases.
Each listed application shows a screenshot, the full name, a description, the main package’s name, and a rating. I really like that it also displays the package name (in gray) so that people who are looking via package name can still do so with ease. All of this information still comes from the same sources that the Ubuntu Software Center uses, but it’s a different client to show and manage it all.
As you can see in this page for Geany, a lightweight developer text editor, you’ll see multiple screenshots, a description, its reviews, and other miscellaneous information. It’s easy on the eyes and intuitive.
App Grid also tries to make its use simple, which it achieves for the most part. It can be a bit confusing sometimes as scrolling changes randomly between horizontal and vertical scrolling, but future updates may make that experience more consistent. Besides this, the design is very nice and easy to understand.
To install App Grid, just run this command:
sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:appgrid/stable && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get -y install appgrid
This command will add the needed repository, update your package lists, and then install App Grid.
Will You Stick With The Ubuntu Software Center?
App Grid is a very interesting Ubuntu Software Center replacement that will hopefully pick up some steam in the near future. Like many other software areas, we need some more competition in the Software Center area, as there are loads of potential features and other improvements that just haven’t been added yet. More competition would also spur innovation toward better designs that could make them even easier to use. While it’d be better if App Grid were open-source, hopefully this will start some of that.
For more great applications, check out our Best Linux Software page!
Are you happy with Ubuntu Software Center? What improvements would you recommend for it or App Grid? Let us know in the comments!