When you double click on a deb package in Ubuntu 23.10 an error appears to tell you “there is no app installed for ‘Debian package’ files”.

In this post I show some workarounds to resolve this issue.

Most of us are accustomed to double-clicking on a deb file to install it in Ubuntu. It’s been a basic, core capability for as long as I’ve been using the OS (even Chrome OS lets you do it from its file manager when the Linux development environment is enabled).

But in Ubuntu 23.10 this long-standing behaviour doesn’t work.

Instead, when you double-click on a deb you now see this:

Sorry Jim, can’t do that…

Of course, upon seeing this appear my instinct was to press the “Select App” button and pick ‘App Center’ (or something else) to open the deb installer with.

Alas; thwarted:

Wait, really? But this is a deb-based distro!

It seems the spangly new App Center in Ubuntu 23.10 might look the business, but it doesn’t (currently) do the business. It’s unable to open or install local deb packages you download from websites (despite said packages often linked to by ‘download for Ubuntu’ buttons).

Thing is: the Ubuntu App Center can install deb packages from the Ubuntu archives. It just can not install local deb packages at present. I imagine this feature will get added in a future update (there is an open issue about it and it hasn’t been closed, which bodes well).

For kicks I opened a .deb in App Center anyway and enjoyed an hypnotic half-hour (yes, I waited) of a loading wheel dutifully spinning for no real aim:

I watched this spin so you don’t have to – you’re welcome

Someone reading this post be itching to interject with a “well, people shouldn’t be downloading deb packages from the web anyway” — and yes, it is generally advised to stick with trusted sources and repo for software on Ubuntu (and almost any OS, at that).

But we’re not (just) talking about installing dirt-laden debs dredged out of backwater repos. We’re talking about mainstream, flagship software like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Discord, Steam, and similar.

All are distributed as tried-and-trusted deb packages.

All say they work on Ubuntu.

The majority of people who use Ubuntu will go to those websites to get an installer. Those websites all say “download then double-click to install…” etc — but that doesn’t work in 23.10. You can think that’s not an issue (there are workarounds) but from a user-experience POV it’s a bit meh.

Thankfully, there are some easy ways to install local debs of downloaded apps (such as Google Chrome) in Ubuntu 23.10.

Install Local Debs on Ubuntu 23.10

If you’re comfortable with it, using the command line to install deb packages in Ubuntu 23.10 is the “easiest” way as it doesn’t require you to go off and download anything extra to do it. You already have everything needed.

You can use dpkg and the sudo dpkg -i ~/path/to/foo.deb command or use apt and the sudo apt install ~/path/to/foo.deb command.

Both CLI methods will (attempt to) resolve dependencies for you as part of the install process, though only apt will actually go ahead and auto-install them.

Prefer a GUI? There are a number of options here, including GNOME Software. However, since the App Center is present adding another full-fledged software frontend feels OTT, so I suggest you install Gdebi instead.

Gdebi is a simple, no-frills tool for installing local deb packages. It resolves dependencies automatically, making the installation process streamlined and (usually) hassle-free. And it gives you the satisfaction of getting to his an “install” button.

To install Gdebi on Ubuntu 23.10 open App Center, search for “Gdebi” (no quote marks) by name, set the filter to ‘Debian packages’, and click on the matching result. Finish up by clicking the big green install button to —faux shock— install it.

Install Gdebi via App Center on Ubuntu 23.10
Install Gdebi via App Center on Ubuntu 23.10

Once that’s done (it pulls in around 100MB of dependencies so it may take a few breaths on slow connection) you’ll — once again — be able to double-click on a deb package in the file manager to prompt installation.

Whatever route you choose you get the same thing: your package installed, and ready to use.

App Center gdebi Ubuntu 23.10