Ubuntu Software Center vs Synaptic

21 May 2012

Ubuntu 12.04 has replaced the old, tried and trusted Synaptic Package Manager with the Ubuntu Software Center. Obviously you can just install Synaptic yourself, via the terminal using the sudo apt-get install synaptic command or via the Software Center.

However, instead of doing a rant about new-fangled programs and the destruction of the old ways, I thought I would consider the new Ubuntu Software Center and make some comparisons between it and Synaptic, because, while it still has some limitations, it is really quite usable and has some really nice aspects.

Firstly, once a user has installed a program or game he can write a review about it - this is actually very useful, in that I can immediately sort applications based on how good they are as rated by a normal user (I can also sort by how new, or alphabetically).

Secondly, when I first open the Software Center, I immediately see a selection of the top rated applications, some of which I might not have ever looked at otherwise. Clicking on the "More" tab brings me to a long list of programs that have over 4 stars at a minimum.

Thirdly, next to the "All Software" button is a drop-down menu allowing me to select various sections, of which one in particular is new to the world of Linux (in my experience anyway). You can select items to purchase and do so directly from the Software Center ! This is quite ground-breaking to me. Linux users have generally accepted that software will be free of charge, as well as free to look at and to change to suit us (for those brilliant few who have the ability to do so at least).

ubuntu software center
Ubuntu 12.04's default package manager, the Ubuntu Software Center

Now I come to the Synaptic Package Manager - not as old-school as the command-line, but definitely not bright and glitzy like the Software Center. The software here is also able to be sorted into categories - you can choose from "Sections" , "Status" , "Origin" , "Custom Filters" , "Search Results" and "Architecture" . Of these I use "Status" and "Search Results" the most, with "Sections" a close second. Synaptic usually gives a brief descriptition for each program and sometimes a screenshot is available, but no review. So you install an application that may be unfinished, buggy or unfathomable, but only find this out after it is installed, so the Ubuntu Software Center gets a star for this aspect.

One thing I do like about Synaptic is the ability, if you know the names, to quickly search for a huge variety of applications and mark them to be installed, then press the "Apply" button and just walk away, knowing that when you return, all will be downloaded and installed. I do find that the Ubuntu Software Centre tends to be slow when selecting programs and they seem to take a while before showing in the "Progress" tab there.

Another plus to Synaptic is the ability to reload the list of applications and see what updates are available, all from one application - as well as the ability to remove lurking configuration files or applicatiosn that are no longer needed. I grant that the last two items might be of a rather techie nature, but still consider them a plus.

synaptic
The old stable, reliable Synaptic Package Manager

As a final call then, I would say whether you use Synaptic or the Ubuntu Software Center would depend on the kind of person you are - how much control you need - or whether you just want to experiment with the world of applications, free or for purchase available in Ubuntu.

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