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Linux Mint Throws Its Weight Behind Flatpak

flatpak logoLinux Mint is the latest distro to throw its weight behind Flatpak, the much-hyped ‘next-gen’ application distribution format for Linux.

The project says the upcoming release of Linux Mint 18.3 will come with “full support” for Flatpak out of the box.

This will include integration with the Linux Mint Software Manager.

“[Flatpak is] very promising to us and its implementation is already very stable,” Linux Mint say in their latest monthly newsletter.

“We’re hoping to see it gain more momentum and we’re adding full support for it in Linux Mint 18.3.”

flatpak apps in linux mint 18.3

Flatpak will have its own section in the Linux Mint Software Manager

Linux Mint 18.3 will come with Flatpak pre-installed and pre-configured to use the two most popular Flatpak repositories: the ‘Flathub‘ app store, and gnome-apps, which is primarily used by upstream GNOME developers.

To make it easy for users to find and install Flatpak apps on Linux Mint a new section has been added to the Software Manager.

The Latest Apps on Linux Mint

Flatpak is pitched a a “next-generation technology for building and installing desktop applications” across multiple Linux distributions, safely and securely.

‘Flatpak apps run in their own isolated mini-environment that contains everything the app needs to run’

Unlike apps you might install through a PPA, Flatpak apps run in their own isolated mini-environment. This sandbox contains everything the app will need to run (it can share dependencies with other installed Flatpak packages too).

This means, for example, using Flatpak you can run multiple versions of the same app side-by-side, without issue.

It’s a solution almost tailor made for Linux Mint, which is based on a stable LTS foundation. The distro is regularly criticised for having ‘out of date software’.

Not so any longer.

Using Flatpak Linux Mint users will be able to, in theory, install the very latest software – even on a stable LTS base – without needing to counter the hassle of missing dependencies and package conflicts, or rely on third-party PPAs.

And this makes things easier for app makers too, as Mint point out:

“[Flatpak] makes it trivial for upstream software editors to distribute their software to Linux users, without having to care about a multitude of distributions and the many bases we have to support.”

‘Linux Mint say Flatpak makes it ‘trivial’ for app devs to distribute software’

Users are free to add other sources (called ‘remotes’) in addition to those Linux Mint comes with, without ‘breaking’ anything.

This added flexibility is important for distributions, software developers and end users alike, many of whom may want to use a bespoke or private repository.

Flatpak Papercuts

For all their potential Flatpak, like Snaps, also have some drawbacks. Right now they look out of place, defaulting to the Adwaita GTK theme. Mint says they will use  theMint-X/Mint-Y themes eventually, but probably not in 18.3.

Controlled how Flatpak apps are updated is also a little difficult. This typically happens by default when you log in, but there may be instances where you don’t want this “invisible” updating to happen. Some sort of control needs to be surfaced.

Finally, Mint mentions that Flatpak apps can’t be back-up and reinstalled using the (new) Mint Backup Tool.

Are you a Linux Mint user? What do you think of this news? Let us know in the comments section below.