Want to install Flatpak on Ubuntu and unlock a world of new and updated software from Flathub? Of course you do!

While Ubuntu lets you install Snap apps and repo software out of the box, no set-up required, it doesn’t support Flatpak by default. So if you want to install Flatpak apps on Ubuntu, you need to install it yourself.

But don’t worry, it’s easy as pie! In this step-by-step guide, I’ll show you how to install Flatpak on Ubuntu and set up the Flathub repo.

By the end of this post, you’ll be ready to dive into the treasure trove of open-source software and indie Linux apps available on Flathub!

What is Flatpak and why use it?

the spotify linux app flatpak running on ubuntu
Spotify is available as a Flatpak app

Flatpak is a next-generation Linux app format that solves the (in)famous dependency hell problem and gives users more control over how they software they run behaves.

Flatpak is is similar to Canonical’s Snap technology in many ways.

Both are sandboxed, meaning apps are isolated from the rest of the system (which improves security and prevents conflict with other software).

Both allow apps to include all of their dependencies to they can be installed and run on any Linux distribution (even old ones).

And both allow for automatic updates to ensure users are running the latest versions.

The only real difference is popularity: more Linux developers are using Flatpak to distribute their software than Canonical’s snap.

If you’re looking for a way to install and run Linux apps more easily and securely, and want access to the widest range of open-source software, then Flatpak is essential.

How to Install Flatpak on Ubuntu

The fastest and most reliable way to install Flatpak on Ubuntu is to use the command line. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the command line – I’ll walk you through the process step-by-step.

To install Flatpak and enable Flathub in Ubuntu, follow these steps:

  1. Open a new Terminal window
  2. Run the following command to install Flatpak:
sudo apt install flatpak
  1. Run the following command to enable Flathub:
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
  1. Restart your computer (optional, but recommend)

That’s it! You have installed Flatpak and enabled Flathub on your Ubuntu system. You can start installing and using Flatpak apps from the command line.

If you’d prefer to search/install/update/manage Flatpak on Ubuntu using a graphical user-interface you can install the GNOME Software app and Flatpak plugin:

sudo apt install gnome-software-plugin-flatpak gnome-software

Hit the Enter key and enter your password if/when prompted then allow the command to complete.

Once done – you’re done!

Installing Apps from Flathub

Seeing double

If you installed GNOME Software in the previous section you can use it to search, browse, install, and manage Flatpak apps. The app is easy to spot in the applications grid as it has a white ‘shopping bag’ icon and a simple name: Software.

You can also browse Flathub in your web browser. The website has a clean, ordered design with sections for popular apps and recently updated, as well as categories that group available software by their purpose.

a screenshot of Flathub open in Firefox browser on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
Flathub has an engaging store front

To install apps from Flathub (in the browser) click the “Install” button (1) shown in the listing page:

a screenshot showing how to download Flathub downloading a .flatpakref file in the Firefox browser on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

A dialog will appear to ask you which app you want to open the .flatpakref file with. Make sure that “Software install (default)” is selected (2) then click OK (3):

This will open Software app.

Click the install button to — well, I’m sure you can guess!

a screenshot showing the GNOME Software app open and a Flatpak app ready to install
Viewing a Flathub app in Software on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

Once you have installed Flatpak apps, you can keep them up to date using the GNOME Software client.

If you’d prefer to do this from the command line run flatpak refresh to check for updates and flatpak update to install the updates.

Many Flatpak apps (especially GTK and Qt ones) make use of ‘runtimes’. These provide a common set of dependencies that multiple Flatpak apps can use, rather than shipping their own duplicate set. Runtimes are large in size but enable apps to be much, much smaller.

Conclusion: Getting started with Flatpak

Now that you know how to install and use Flatpak apps and Flathub on Ubuntu, you can start exploring the swathes of software available. Let me know how you get on down in the comments.

flathub flatpak