Have you ever noticed that not every software is available in Ubuntu repositories? Sometimes you need to add a PPA to get the new or latest, updated software.
But, what are PPAs in Ubuntu, and how do they work? Do we even need this? In this article, the questions will be answered.
What Are PPAs In Ubuntu?
PPA stands for Personal Package Archive. It’s a software archiving method developed by Canonical. Ubuntu has control over which software will be available in the Ubuntu repositories.
Whenever developers release a piece of software, Ubuntu will not make it available until a series of testing is done. This testing delayed the availability of the newest version.
Developers use their own PPA to give their users a choice to install newer versions and enjoy the latest features. Bear in mind that the newer versions always have bugs and stability issues.
That’s why much software in Ubuntu repositories is not up-to-date. But they are very stable.
Why Do Developers Use PPA?
Imagine you are a developer and you just released a new version. You always want people to install it and give feedback. But the Ubuntu team will not update their official repo immediately. You have to use PPA to push your software to the end users.
There is another thing that developers want to run before releasing a new version or new software. It’s called beta testing. Beta testing is an essential part of development. Without the PPA, you won’t be able to release beta versions.
PPA gives developers the freedom to manage their software in their repositories.
How Does PPA Work In Ubuntu?
As I have mentioned that PPA means Personal Package Archive. This “Personal” word indicates that the developers exclusively manage all the packages of PPAs in Ubuntu. Ubuntu does not officially endorse these software packages.
All Ubuntu-based linux distros like Linux Mint, Zorin OS, Elementary OS, etc. follow the same principles. If you are in any of these distros then you can use PPA easily. Most of the time they work. But always check if the PPA works on your version of Ubuntu.
Ubuntu has a service called Launchpad. It’s a platform that enables software developers to create and manage their PPAs. You can add these PPA repositories to your “source.list” file. When you run the update command sudo apt update, your system will grab the info of available software. After that, you can install software from these repositories with the sudo apt install command. For example:
sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:teejee2008/timeshift sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install timeshift
These three commands will install Timeshift in your Ubuntu system. It’s a great tool for taking system snapshots. If you face any system issue or instability, Timeshift will help you to restore the system snapshot to its recent working state.
The first command here will add the Timeshift PPA repository to the source list. The second one updates the cache and the third one installs the Timeshift tool.
It’s very easy to add a PPA and install the software. But always check whether the software supports your system or not.
Reasons For Using PPA Instead Of DEB Packages
PPA is nothing but a way of providing DEB packages. But it has a very unique and important purpose. When you install a DEB package, most of the time it installs directly without any source update. Though there are some other exceptions like Google Chrome that update the “source.list” file.
When you download the DEB package of Google Chrome and install it, the PPA adds automatically. This will help Google Chrome to be updated whenever the update command is run.
You may find some software that notifies you when there is a new version available. You download the package and update the existing software to run it. Oracle VirtualBox is a perfect example of this.
But, things become very annoying and time-consuming when you need to download every single DEB package and install them manually because of the missing PPAs in Ubuntu. Not all the software will add the PPAs in Ubuntu automatically or notify you of a newer version. PPA is the only way of saving the day.
Differences Between Official PPA And Unofficial PPA
Well, you might hear about official PPA and unofficial PPA. But why do they even exist?
The answer is very simple. When a group of developers create their software and publish them through their PPAs in Ubuntu, it’s called an official PPA. Because it’s coming from the project developers.
But, not every group of developers creates PPAs in Ubuntu. They provide the source code and users have to build the application from it. Which is a painful, time-consuming, and tricky way to finish the job.
That’s why many volunteer individuals create PPAs in Ubuntu, build the software from the source, and provide an easy way of installing the software. These PPAs are called unofficial PPA. After all, installing software using those 3 lines of commands is much easier than installing from source code.
PPA Availability For Different Versions Of Ubuntu
Before you go ahead with adding a PPA repository, make sure your PPA is compatible with your version of Ubuntu or any Ubuntu-based linux distros. Not every PPA supports your particular version of Ubuntu. You need to verify whether the PPA is working or not on your system OS.
To check that, search on Google with the PPA and go to the Launchpad result. Or go directly to Launchpad.net and search there. See the “Overview of published packages” section. Click on the “Published in” dropdown Combobox and select your Ubuntu version.
If you are not sure what your Ubuntu version is then run this command in the terminal and you will get the version name and number.
A question may arise in your mind, why aren’t these PPAs available for all Ubuntu versions?
Well, the answer is simple. Ubuntu releases a new version every six months. So, it will be a tiresome task to update the PPA for every single version of Ubuntu. It will be time-consuming and not every developer has that much time to maintain the PPA.
Wrong PPA Causes Problems
Adding unsupported PPAs in Ubuntu can create various problems. It breaks the update/upgrade function and will show a “Failed to download repository information” error. Every time you want to update or upgrade your system, this error will show up.
Run the sudo apt update command in the terminal and it will show you what PPA is causing the problem.
At the end of the update, you will see something like this.
W: Failed to fetch http://ppa.launchpad.net/venerix/pkg/ubuntu/dists/raring/main/binary-i386/Packages 404 Not Found E: Some index files failed to download. They have been ignored, or old ones used instead.
This means the system is not getting the repository version information. It is trying to fetch the PPA address but getting a 404 Not Found error.
Grab The DEB Package From PPA Manually
Sometimes we see some software working on a version in which PPAs in Ubuntu are not officially supported. This happens when you grab the DEB packages and install them manually.
Updating a Ubuntu version will not break backward compatibility entirely. Sometimes older software works just fine on newer Ubuntu releases. The problem here is that Ubuntu is unable to find the packages to download. Because of that, the update/upgrade process breaks.
If we download the DEB package manually from the PPA and install it, we may use the software even though it is not officially supported.
To download the DEB package, go to the PPA directory at launchpad.net. Navigate to the “Overview of published packages” and click on “View package details”.
Now, click on the arrow to see more info about a package including the source code and DEB package. Note that you should choose the correct version for your operating system.
Download the DEB package and install it with Gdebi or Eddy as it handles dependencies better than Ubuntu Software Center.
How To Delete A PPA Repository In Ubuntu?
I have already written an article about removing PPAs in Ubuntu. You can read that post where I described all the methods.
But deleting a PPA will not remove or uninstall the software that was previously installed through it. If you only remove the PPA, it will stop the update process and will not remove the software.
So my suggestion is to figure out which software comes from which PPA. The next section will answer that question.
Managing PPA With Synaptic Package Manager
Ubuntu Software Center will not help you to find PPA packages. You need to use the Synaptic package manager to determine which packages are from which PPA. Synaptic is a very powerful package manager. It is a GUI version of APT.
What you can do using APT in the terminal, you can do it with Synaptic also.
To install Synaptic, run the following command in the terminal.
sudo apt install synaptic
After installing the Synaptic package manager, run it.
Select Origin from the left panel. This contains all the repositories added to the system. The PPA repository entries start with the prefix LA-PPA. Click on a PPA and you will see all the packages provided by the PPA.
Now click on the square box of the selected package to see additional options. You can mark the package for Reinstallation, Upgrade (if available), Removal, or Complete removal. You can fully manage your package within the Synaptic package manager.
I hope you liked this detailed guide on what are PPAs in Ubuntu and how they work. If you have any questions regarding this topic, please put your questions in the comment section below. I will be happy to answer all of your questions. And if you like this article, don’t forget to share this on social media to help others out. Have a nice day, and peace!