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How to simplify Flatpak app installation on the KDE Plasma desktop

Flatpak and Snap make it far easier to install the applications you need on Linux. Here's what you need to know.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
man working on laptop
Getty Images/Delmaine Donson

The future of Linux application delivery is Flatpak and Snap. If you're not sure what these two technologies are, I've explained them and their importance in "What are Flatpak and Snap and why are they so important to Linux?" Essentially, both Flatpak and Snap are universal package managers that make it easier to install even more applications on Linux. 

Also: How to choose the right Linux desktop distribution for you

And with both Flatpak and Snap, you can install third-party (non-open-source) applications like Spotify and Slack (that would otherwise be a bit challenging to install for those not accustomed to the command line). 

In other words, Flatpak and Snap make it far easier to install the applications you need on Linux. 

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The problem is, out of the box, many Linux distributions might include Snap and Flatpak, but they don't configure the desktop in such a way that either of these technologies is built into the GUI app stores. Because of that, in order to install a Flatpak app, you'd have to issue a command like:

flatpak install spotify

OK, that's not even remotely challenging but if you're not used to the command line, running something as simple as that can be a bit daunting. Such is the case with many KDE Plasma distributions. For example, KDE Neon (which is a distribution that does a great job of showing off what KDE Plasma can do), ships with Flatpak installed, but support isn't rolled into the Discover app store. 

Also: How to install Linux applications from the command line

I want to show you how to fix that. Once you've taken care of this, you'll be installing all the apps you need, without having to bother with the command line.

Fair warning, you do have to use the command line to set this up. Fortunately, all you'll have to do is copy and paste a single command.

Speaking of which, let's get to it.

How to enable Flatpak support in KDE Plasma's app store

What you'll need: I'll demonstrate this on KDE Neon, which is a Ubuntu-based distribution. If you're using a non-Ubuntu-based distribution, you'll have to alter the installation command accordingly (such as switching out apt-get for dnf, when using a Fedora-based distribution).

With that in mind, it's time to copy and paste.

1. Open Konsole

Konsole is the KDE Plasma terminal window. To open Konsole, click the menu button at the left edge of the panel at the bottom of the desktop and type konsole. 

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The app should automatically be highlighted, so all you then have to do is hit Enter on your keyboard to open the terminal. 

The Konsole entry in the KDE Plasma menu.

Opening the Konsole app from the KDE Plasma menu.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Install the necessary software

In the terminal window, paste the following command and hit Enter on your keyboard:

sudo apt-get install plasma-discover-backend-flatpak plasma-discover -y

3. Enter your user password

You'll be prompted for your user password. Once you've successfully typed that password, the installation will start and finish in just a few seconds. When that completes, close the terminal window.

How to install a Flatpak app in Discover

The good news is, installing a Flatpak application in Discover is as easy as installing any other. To do this, click the Discover icon in your KDE Plasma panel. When Discover opens, search for Slack. In the Slack listing, you'll notice it's labeled with the Flatpak icon (which indicates it's a Flatpak app). Click Install and the installation will begin. 

The Slack Flatpak entry in KDE Plasma Discover.

The Slack app is now available in KDE Plasma Discover.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The one thing to note is installing Flatpak apps isn't quite as fast as installing regular applications. That is because the size of the download file is considerably larger than a regular application (because the Flatpak app includes all the necessary dependencies). 

Also: 8 things you can do with Linux that you can't do with MacOS or Windows 

Once the application is installed, you can open it from your desktop menu and use it exactly as you would on any other desktop.

The Slack entry in the KDE Plasma menu.

Slack has been successfully installed on KDE Neon, via Discover.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Congratulations, my friend, you not only expanded the number (and types) of applications you can add to the Linux desktop, but you also made it easier to do so. 

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