Over the years, I have found it interesting how Windows power users are surprised that Linux doesn’t install anything with the .exe file extension. I could completely understand this from a casual computer user, but not from a real enthusiast. I say this as they understand that .dmg file extensions work with OS X, so why would Windows be any different?
How to install Linux software
There was a time where this could be answered with a simple phrase. You compile it. Today however, there are a multitude of different ways to make this happen, depending on the distribution you’re using and the source of the software itself. With most distributions of Linux today, you will generally find that it’s going to come down to a limited number of packaging options. The most common are the RPM and the Debian package. The Debian Linux distribution, various derivatives (like Ubuntu and Linux Mint), all use the .Deb package solution. Software available for both the KDE and GNOME desktops, make installing these packages a matter of double click and install. It feels very natural to the Windows user who would be expecting something like Install Shield.
For Deb packages, the GUI methods of installation generally surround software like GDebi or KPackage. Both applications allow you to download the Deb package from any download source of your choosing and then you’re able to install easily with a few clicks of the mouse. Dependencies and other stuff like, are handled automatically. Anything not included in the Deb package will be retrieved from your software repositories.
KPackage also supports RPMs. So this means that you’re not limited to distributions (aka distros) that handle Deb packages for a simple means of install software. And course, there is YaST for openSUSE, Synaptic and Ubuntu’s software center for distros that support it. Both YaST and Synaptic offer software discovery as well as installation.
Installing software with a CLI
For the more advanced Linux enthusiast, you can install software both locally or from a software repository using the CLI (command line interface). Debian based distros use the apt method of CLI software installation. Another variation of this is using something called aptitude.
Other distros still such as Fedora/Red Hat rely on yum for their software installation model. Works in a similar fashion as apt with the command install or remove. Other less commonly talked about distributions of Linux such as Puppy Linux, Slackware and Gentoo each have their own methods for software package handling.