If you want the latest software or the latest tweaks then a ‘Personal Package Archive’ (PPA) is the simplest and most effective way to get it up and running on your computer. PPAs are repositories hosted on Launchpad which you can use to install or upgrade packages that are not currently available in the official repositories. A PPA can be added from the command line or by using the graphical user interface and in this article we will be showing how to get started on the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin.
So let’s begin …
Installing a PPA
Personal Package Archives are not new. They have been around for a while and most PPAs are found by accident or by searching the web for a specific need. Each PPA will typically serve a specific software release (so over time you may find yourself installing multiple PPAs) and when found there are several different approaches to how you can install them.
If you are using a server, enjoy the benefits of pre-tested software or have a need for absolute desktop stability, then I would not use a PPA. ‘Cutting edge’ software has its advantages but it does come complete with ‘cutting edge’ issues …
Method 1: Add a PPA with the Ubuntu Software Centre
Open The Ubuntu Software Centre and from the top panel application Menu, choose ‘Edit’ and select ‘Software Sources’. From the Software Sources dialogue box choose ‘Other Software’:
Click ‘Add’ to launch the ‘software-properties-gtk’ dialogue box and where it states ‘APT line’ you should type in the address of the relevant PPA:
Once complete, choose ‘Add Source’ and authenticate yourself in the usual way.
Now close the relevant ‘Software Sources’ dialogue box and allow Ubuntu to update itself.
You are now free to search for and install applications from the appropriate PPA just like any other application available from the Software Centre. However, as the PPA is specific to the particular software you intend to install, you should be aware that the specific search results will be limited to that specific repository. By using this process the Software Centre does not search Launchpad itself …
Method 2: Using the command line
To install a PPA with the command line the process will require you to open Terminal and type:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:repository_details_here
Authenticate yourself and accept the repository as per the on screen instruction.
sudo apt-get update
Let your computer update your software sources with the new PPA information before installing the chosen software in the usual way:
sudo apt-get install software_name_here
Method 3: Using the Y PPA Manager
By comparison to the software center, the advantage of using the Y PPA Manager can be found within the search facility that allows you to find a particular piece of software or an update that you need. I think you will also find that it is a very simple tool to use:
You can access the program from the ‘Dash’ and open it as you would with any other software and by selecting the appropriate icon, adding a PPA is simple:
On top of this you can also search for the entire Launchpad database for additional PPAs:
However, before you begin I would quickly double-click the ‘settings’ icon and set your preferences which includes an indicator for the version of Ubuntu your are using:
Out of the three methods discussed above I would suggest using method 3 but this is ultimately down to personal preference and for this reason I will let you decide what is best for you.
Installing the Y PPA Manager …
To install the Y PPA Manager you will need to use the command line, but don’t worry it isn’t difficult, just follow these simple steps to get you started.
Open Terminal and type:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/y-ppa-manager
Your computer will now respond like so:
You are about to add the following PPA to your system: Y PPA Manager Info and feedback: http://www.webupd8.org/2010/11/y-ppa-manager-easily-search-add-remove.html This PPA is for Y PPA Manager and also includes the latest YAD for Ubuntu Karmic, Lucid, Maverick and Natty (YAD is a dependency for Y PPA Manager): http://code.google.com/p/yad/ More info: https://launchpad.net/~webupd8team/+archive/y-ppa-manager Press [ENTER] to continue or ctrl-c to cancel adding it
When asked press ‘ENTER’ to proceed.
Terminal will now execute your request and add the repository like so:
Executing: gpg --ignore-time-conflict --no-options --no-default-keyring --secret-keyring /tmp/tmp.xC7tBkCTF6 --trustdb-name /etc/apt/trustdb.gpg --keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg --primary-keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80/ --recv 7B2C3B0889BF5709A105D03AC2518248EEA14886 gpg: requesting key EEA14886 from hkp server keyserver.ubuntu.com gpg: key EEA14886: public key "Launchpad VLC" imported gpg: Total number processed: 1 gpg: imported: 1 (RSA: 1)
sudo apt-get update
Your computer will now update its repository information, when the process has finished type:
sudo apt-get install y-ppa-manager
And the process will end like so:
Reading package lists... Done Building dependency tree Reading state information... Done The following extra packages will be installed: aptitude launchpad-getkeys libboost-iostreams1.46.1 libcwidget3 ppa-purge yad Suggested packages: aptitude-doc-en aptitude-doc tasksel debtags libcwidget-dev The following NEW packages will be installed aptitude launchpad-getkeys libboost-iostreams1.46.1 libcwidget3 ppa-purge y-ppa-manager yad 0 upgraded, 7 newly installed, 0 to remove and 18 not upgraded. Need to get 3,027 kB of archives. After this operation, 9,369 kB of additional disk space will be used. Do you want to continue [Y/n]?
Choose ‘Y to continue.
Well done, you have now installed the Y PPA Manager.
The no mess, no fuss PPA tour
So armed with the above information you are probably asking what can I look for and what can I extend ?
Well, a good place to start is with Ubuntu Tweak found at https://launchpad.net/ubuntu-tweak which is a tool ‘that makes it easy to configure your system and desktop settings’:
Released via PPA (and depending on your preferred method) you can install it like this:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak
Closely followed by the ‘cinnamon’ desktop. Arguably it is a fork of of the Gnome-Shell desktop but however you want to describe it, it has a growing ‘fanbase’ and the developers are doing a great job at taking a simpler, but more traditional desktop interface:
Personally I think Cinnamon is very nice and you can install it like so (when installed you can choose it from the login screen):
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install cinnamon
On top of this you will find new and exciting updates for GIMP; Calibre; Libre Office; a huge selection of ‘Gnome 3 ware’ enhancements and devices; Unity ‘indicators’ and ‘notification’ tools; and some rather interesting developments such as: Nitro (a task application), Sublime Text, and Geary (a fully featured SMTP email client) which can be installed like so:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:yorba/ppa sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install geary
So there is plenty to keep an eye on and as with everything on the internet ‘the search engine remains your friend’. So just before I finish-off, why not try discover some new features and styles that will enhance Gedit:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-on-rails/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install gedit-gmate
Once installed, just view Gedit preferences to see the additions and activate as required.
And just before I leave you, for those of you who would like to do a little more research before jumping-in, you can read a very good post on this subject at http://askubuntu.com/questions/35629/are-ppas-safe-to-add-to-my-system-and-what-are-some-red-flags-to-watch-out or learn more from the source at https://launchpad.net/ or https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+ppas
‘Cutting edge’ software has its advantages but it does come complete with ‘cutting edge’ issues …
So to be safe, be selective
So until next time …
I hope that you continue to enjoy using Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin.
Jonathan is an independent web developer, server administrator and application programmer and for nearly 20 years he has been working behind the scenes to support companies, organisations and individuals from all over the world to realise their digital ambitions. As a practitioner of many the computer languages Jonathan enjoys all things Linux, writing code, building computers, playing the XBOX, history and getting 'out and about' in the big outdoors. He thrives on new challenges, works around the clock and prides himself on being friendly, honest, reliable and ultimately, the complete professional.