The elementary OS AppCenter by default shows only curated apps that match the elementary OS style guidelines. There is an impressive suite of applications, ranging from small utilities to powerful software and fun word games. The Linux Experiment has a nice overview video of 17 amazing elementary apps available in AppCenter. But AppCenter does not include by default many of the popular software applications people know and use. Fortunately, elementary OS makes it very easy to install these applications by connecting an application repository called Flathub.
Add the Flathub Repository
Flathub is a repository of software packaged in a format called flatpak. Because the elementary AppCenter applications are packaged as flatpaks, the Flathub repository integrates nicely with the AppCenter and eOS software management.
One method to connect the Flathub repository is by using the command line in the Terminal app. You can connect Flathub by entering only a single line into the terminal:
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
Alternatively, you can connect Flathub to AppCenter without using the command line at all. The only step that must be taken to see non-curated applications in the AppCenter is to download a single application from Flathub. There is a short page on flatpak.org with an elementary OS Quick Setup. But the steps are simply to:
Step 1: Head to Flathub and install any app by clicking on the big “Install” button.
Step 2: This will download a flatpak file of the app. Double click on the file to install.
Step 3: Restart your device. At least in my case, I only saw the application and non-curated apps in the AppCenter after a restart.
In AppCenter, you will now see the app you installed, and you can update or uninstall it from the AppCenter. Other non-curated apps available from Flathub will now also appear in AppCenter.
Also, I must mention that I really appreciate that elementary offers to move the flatpak install file to the Trash after installation. Such a clever idea.
Install the Software You Know and Love Through AppCenter
Once you have connected the Flathub repository, all software can be installed, updated, and uninstalled through the AppCenter. No need to use the command line!
- The first application I installed was LibreOffice. This office suite can handle all of your word processing and spreadsheet needs.
- Spotify. (Perhaps just as much a productivity tool for me as LibreOffice!)
- Chromium. I have trouble with the default Web application loading some sites and playing youtube videos, so I choose to use Chromium. Chromium also has a convenient extension for the password manager that I use, Bitwarden.
- Cheese. I have been unable to get the default Camera app on 2015 MacBook Pros. So I use Cheese as a replacement.
- Signal Desktop. My favorite messaging service.
- Dropbox. Makes it easy to share files across devices.
- TexStudio. The gold-standard in LaTeX editors.
Yes, this is a short post. But in a sense, that is good because it’s evidence of how easy it is download software on elementary OS.
Tips and Tricks
Improve scrolling in Firefox
For those who prefer to use Firefox, I found that the scrolling on Firefox was choppy compared to scrolling in the default Web browser. Specifically, when using two finger scrolling with a trackpad, your fingers must travel a fairly large distance before a scrolling event is trigger. This makes the overall scrolling experience choppy, and this only occurs in Firefox, and not in Web.
The simple fix is to enable xinput2 in Firefox. After this change, scrolling in Firefox is just as smooth on elementary as it is when I boot into MacOS. At the time of writing, this is not the default in Firefox version from Flathub, but perhaps someday it will be.
I followed four steps provided in a reddit post from some years ago, and the issue was fixed perfectly:
1. Open Terminal and run
echo export MOZ_USE_XINPUT2=1 | sudo tee /etc/profile.d/use-xinput2.sh
2. Log out and back in.
3. Firefox should now be using xinput2, and the scrolling should be buttery smooth.
4. For slightly better experience, go to Firefox and Settings > Preferences and turn off the old “smooth scrolling”
Dropbox syncing on startup
After installing Dropbox from the AppCenter (which pulls from Flathub), “launch at startup” is not enabled by default. As a consequence, by default the Dropbox folders only sync when the Dropbox application is launched.
You can launch Dropbox on startup to make the syncing experience more automatic. After installing Dropbox from AppCenter, go to System Settings > Applications > Startup, and then add Dropbox to this list.