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Linux Packaging Formats

Links: 104 Linux Index

Good old packages

  • .deb → used by debian and its derivatives like ubuntu.
  • .rpm → red hat, fedora, opensuse and their derivatives.
  • These contain the binary version of the app. There is no source code.
  • It is just precompiled version of the application.
  • It is compiled depending on the architecture of your system like arm, x86 etc.
  • These come with a descriptor file inside the package which lets the system know which libraries it needs since these packages only package the application. These repositories are then fetched at install.
  • Some problems with these packages are that the developer needs to package the application for various distributions.

Universal Packaging formats

  • Snap, AppImage, and Flatpak, all distro independent
  • Flatpaks, Appimages and Snaps are also known as universal packaging systems.
  • They take away the dependency issues many Linux users face every day and make life a lot easier for developers. However, this also results in larger binaries.


  • It is also the binary version of the application i.e. they are also precompiled.
  • But they ship with their own subset of libraries which means you don't need to rely on system's libraries to run.
  • Some disadvantages are that they take more disc space.
  • Also since they come with their own libraries it is the developer's job to patch them on a regular basis otherwise there can be security issues.
  • You can go to go to flathub for downloading flatpaks.
  • Installing packages: flatpak install flathub org.videolan.VLC
    • Before running this command flatpak must be installed on the system.


  • These are also binaries with all the libraries included.
  • It is not really open. The snaps are available at snapcraft which is owned by canonical and they decide what goes in the store.
  • They are bigger than flatpaks.
  • They are mostly available on ubuntu and some ubuntu based distributions.
  • Self updating.
  • Installing packages: sudo snap install vlc
    • Before running this command snap must be installed on the system.


  • They ship the whole application in one package.
  • They ship the binaries, the run time and other things.
  • This means you just need to download the file and click on it to start it.
  • No need to install anything.
  • AppImages are usually faster than snaps or flatpaks and need less storage space.
  • They are also easy to remove as we have only have to delete a single file.
  • Once we download an app image we have to make it executable before executing it.
    • chmod u+x AppImage to make the app image executable
    • ./AppImage to run the image
  • It is similar to .exe files in windows.

  • Use cases:

    • Great way to try out new apps without installing them on your machine.
    • An app is no longer maintained but users still want to install it on modern systems. In that case, I think it makes sense to "preserve" the app as something completely self-contained & guaranteed to run like an AppImage, so the developer never has to touch it again but users who want it can keep using it forever.


  • Space: deb < AppImage < Flatpaks / Snaps
  • For using snap and flatpak they must be installed in the system. So if you don't have internet on the system you are out of luck. In case of AppImages you don't have to install anything just run the file.
  • Updates:
    • Snap and Flatpak apps can be automatically updated without user intervention.
    • AppImage lacks a robust automatic update mechanism.
    • Users have to manually download new AppImage binary and replace existing one to install updates.
    • There is no hands-free update mechanism available for AppImage yet.

Last updated: 2022-05-15