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Ubuntu AppStore Goes Online

One thing that GNU/Linux misses the most is marketing. We never get to know about the new and useful tools which are being added due to the lack of PR muscles. Recently Ubuntu made yet another incredible move which makes the application installation process of Windows look ancient. Ubuntu silently took its apps on-line by launching ‘Ubuntu App Directory’ (the name can be more attractive like Ubuntu App Shop).

The ‘Ubuntu App Directory’ allows you to browse the apps available in Ubuntu’s official repositories and install them with one click. With this move Ubuntu is now catching up with Fedora and openSUSE which already have such online resources where you can search and install applications with one click.

Ubuntu Can Learn From Android
The Ubuntu App Directory can evolve into something similar to Android Market by adding more feature like enabling users to remotely install apps on their machines. All you need is to log into your Ubuntu One account from the PCs and it should ‘remember’ the apps that you installed on that machine. Next time when you reinstall Ubuntu if should offer to install all that apps which were installed in the previous version.

It can also allow users to browse the app on the web interface and then clicking on the app will install the app on the machine with the same Ubuntu One ID so even if you are not around your PC you can remotely install apps.

Ubuntu App Directory

I am not sure what plans Canonical has for Ubuntu App Directory (UAD) and given the limited resources they have I am not certain when and if these features will be included in the near future.

Overview
The home page of the App Directory shows you the main categories such as Accessories, Games, etc. Clicking on any of these categories will show all the apps listed in that category. You can also browse the apps that you are looking for. The Browsing doesn’t work just with the name of the app, you can also search by key words.

The search results are not as refined as they should be, but I trust it will improve with time. I search for image editing and came across this page which did not show GIMP. Searching for GIMP also did not return the desired result.

Ubuntu App Directory

The App Store allows you to search withing the last 4 versions of Ubuntu, going back till Lucid. Another area of improvement could be that the directory detects which version you are running and shows you the apps for that version. At the moment Natty seems to be the ‘default’ OS selected in the ‘Available version’ section. If you are planning to install any app using the online shop, make sure to select your current version.

I think it may help users more if the app also displays the icon of the app and a little description like the Android market does. The online App Store may also detect what apps are already installed on the ‘current’ or logged system.

How It Works?
Once you browsed the app that you want to install on your PC just click on the app (select the right version of the OS) and you will be redirected to the installation page. Here all you need to do is click on the Install button and it will launch the Software Center where you can install the app.

ubuntu App Directory

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Conclusion
Ubuntu App Directory is a commendable initiative by the Ubuntu team to offer painless app installation experience to Ubuntu users. It’s also an attempt to keep up with other distros which already offer such services. The app shop needs a lot of work and the user feed-back can certainly help the developers. Try it and share your thought in the comments below. What more do you expect from the Ubuntu App Directory?

Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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