AppImage, Snap, Flatpak… what are the differences the main distribution formats Linux software

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Not long ago, the usual way of installing a software package on GNU/Linux was typing on the console the name of the same preceded of ‘apt-get install’ or ‘yum install’ or ‘pacman -S’etc… depending on the distribution that we use. Would a look at the dependencies, confirm√°bamos and ready: the operating system would download the corresponding files .deb (or .rpm, or tar.gz, etc.) and to install them.

We were all used to this system, and it was going well with him. But, the atomization of the scene Linux reverberating against the availability of software for all distributions: its developers had to waste a lot of time (and were not always willing) creating packages specific to each distribution or group of distributions.

So someone came up with to create a package management system independent of distributions, in which you can install any program and library with the same file and procedure, as we were in Gentoo, Slackware and Lubuntu (for example). An idea so good that there have been several attempts to implement it separately.

So that the ‘world’ Linux now has at its disposal 3 systems of management of packages “interdistribucionales”that supplement (and in some cases, even a substitute) to the own of each distribution. Let’s see what they consist of and what each offers.



AppImage is not, technically speaking, a package manager; either an app store. Perhaps we can better understand what it offers AppImage if we remember that, between 2011 and 2013 he became known under the name of “PortableLinuxApps” (before that, since its launch in 2004, is called “Klik”).

In summary, this is an image of the application (similar to a file .iso) that does not require installation, nor -more importantly – administrator permissions to function: provides portable application, packaged in a single file with all its dependencies, regardless of the distribution used.

When we use a file .appimage, we will only have to waste time giving it execute permissionsautomatically mounted in the file system of the user space (which makes it compatible with the file systems to be unchangeable, such as those based on OSTree).

Some applications offer the option at the start of ‘install a desktop file’, which integrate it in the application menus of our distribution. Only in these cases, their “uninstall” will require something more than send to the Recycle bin the file executable.

You can download images AppImage from AppImageHubbut there is no centralized repository.



Snap it is an initiative driven by Canonical for use in your own Linux distribution for mobile, the missing Ubuntu Touch, in 2014. Although since then it has been exported to multiple distributions relevant (although their excessive reliance on Canonical yet lastra adoption).

Their goal was to achieve a single format for distribution of software that can be used equally well on desktop PCs and on devices IoT. As in the case of AppImage, each Snap packaged within the same all the dependencies of the software in questionfacilitating that work on any computer.

Unlike AppImage, the snaps are designed to support updateswithout forcing us to delete and replace the package for a new one. Even more, this update is performed in the background even if we are using the application.

It is a secure system, because packages come signed and, once you start to use the application, it does so in an isolated environment, with limited access to computer resources.

The program that allows you to manage the snaps is Snapd, and its app store, Snapcraft.



The creator of FlatPakAlexander Larsson, was inspired by the first incarnation of AppImage, Klik, to create a system of packages focused in the execution of the software in isolated environments, where they could work without root privileges. Larsson launched in 2015, a system called xdg-app that ended up becoming a Flatpak a year later, with the support of Red Hat.

Its main difference with respect to the other two systems of package management is that don’t package the software that we are interested in together with all of its dependencies: that may require us to install many packages, but also significantly reduces the size of the same.

Another difference is its high level of integration with the desktop environments KDE and Gnome, and with the standard FreeDesktop, which facilitates the integration of the installed applications using this system with the graphical tools of the main Linux desktop. The support of FreeDesktop, which even hosts the project’s web Flatpak, has earned him a lot of support.

The main repository of packages Flatpak is (although it does not depend on any ‘app store’ in particular).

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AppImage, Snap, Flatpak… what are the differences the main distribution formats Linux software

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