Mar 182015

If you’re a newcomer to Ubuntu (or its derivatives like Linux Mint), you’re probably keen on installing and trying out the latest, greatest and hottest applications available in the open source universe.

Unfortunately, a lot of new applications are not available through the official Ubuntu or Linux Mint repositories.

So you’ll have to download and install the software on your own and install them via the dpkg or gdebi tools.

Or you can install and update them on your Ubuntu PC via the Personal Package Archive (PPA).

What is a PPA?

Unique to the Ubuntu universe, PPAs are special software repositories from the developer community that let users install software via the familiar apt-get install technique. Or if you prefer, via the GUI method.

Here’s how you add a PPA to your Ubuntu PC. You can get the PPA’s name of an application on the developer’s web site or by searching for it on LaunchPad.

Open a terminal and type:

# sudo add-apt-repository ppa:user/ppa-name

Let’s consider a concrete example where we’ll add a PPA and then install an application from that PPA.

For instance, I wanted to try out a new note application called Papyrus that debuted a couple of days back. The spanking new application was not available in the official repositories.

So I decided to take the PPA road.

1. First I added Papyrus PPA to my PC.

I found a link to the Papyrus PPA on the developer’s web site and got its name.

# sudo add-apt-repository ppa:aseman/desktop-apps
[sudo] password for jason: 
You are about to add the following PPA to your system:
 Desktop Applications of the Aseman Team
 More info:
Press [ENTER] to continue or ctrl-c to cancel adding it

Executing: gpg --ignore-time-conflict --no-options --no-default-keyring --homedir /tmp/tmp.kjY0IqUMJp --no-auto-check-trustdb --trust-model always --keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg --primary-keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg --keyserver hkp:// --recv-keys C117080D
gpg: requesting key C117080D from hkp server
gpg: key C117080D: public key "Launchpad PPA for Aseman" imported
gpg: Total number processed: 1
gpg:               imported: 1  (RSA: 1)

If you’re not comfortable with the command line, you can take the GUI route to add a PPA.

In Linux Mint, you can add a PPA via the GUI option by navigating to Menu –>Administration–>Software Sources–>PPAs and then clicking on the Add a new PPA button.

If you’re running Ubuntu, you must head over to Ubuntu Software Center–>Edit–>Software Sources–>Other Software–>Add. Then type in the PPA address and click on the Add Source button. Now when you search for the application in the Software Center, you’ll find it there.

2. If you’ve added a PPA via the terminal, it’s now time to update the list of available packages and their versions.

# sudo apt-get update

3. Now look for the Papyrus software through apt-cache search search_string tool.

# apt-cache search papyrus
papyrus - Papyrus modern note manager
libpapyrus3-dev - DICOM compatible file format library

After the PPA is added, you can also search for Papyrus in the Software Manager (Linux Mint) or Software Center (Ubuntu).

If you’re in a hurry and know the name of the application, you can skip this step.

4. The final step is to install the Papyrus application on your computer.

# sudo apt-get install papyrus
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
  dconf-cli dconf-editor dconf-tools libX11-dev libc-dev-bin libc6-dev
  libdrm-dev libegl1-mesa-dev libgl1-mesa-dev libgles2-mesa-dev

If you prefer the GUI route, you can install Papyrus via the Software Manager (Linux Mint) or Software Center (Ubuntu).

Removing PPAs

There’s always the chance that you might want to remove a PPA that you’ve installed on your Ubuntu system.

So how do you remove a PPA from your Ubuntu PC?

Simple. This is what you do:

# sudo add-apt-repository --remove ppa:whatever/ppa

There are two other ways to remove a PPA.

a) Head over to /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ and remove the PPA you no longer want.

b) Then there’s the GUI option. In Linux Mint, you can easily remove a PPA by going to Menu –>Administration–>Software Sources–>PPAs and checking the PPA you want to remove and clicking on Remove Permanently.

Whichever method you use to remove a PPA, keep in mind that removing a PPA does not remove the packages installed with it.

To remove both the PPA and packages installed with it, use the ppa-purge command. By the way, ppa-purge is not installed by default on Ubuntu systems and you’ll need to install it.

PPAs – Risks Involved

There is considerable risk with less known PPAs.

A lot of Linux developers are good but there could be a few rotten apples who might harbor bad intentions and wreck your computer with malware or poor applications.

Things to keep in mind before adding a PPA to your system are the background of the PPA maintainer, number of users and frequency of updates. Also check to see if the major Linux blogs have written articles about applications from the PPA.

The AskUbuntu forum has a good discussion on the safety of PPAs. I recommend you read it before adding a new PPA to your system.

Exercise considerable caution in adding a PPA, particularly if you’re adding it to your main PC.

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