Downloading applications for Linux is not as difficult as it used to be. Gone are the days when you had to know how to build from source files for any program available in the Linux distribution’s application store or package manager.
Thanks to Flathub and Snap Store, such applications can now be easily found and installed. But what are the differences between these two websites?
Is Flathub or Snap Store a superior Linux app store?
- What are Snap and Flatpak files?
Compare Flathub and Snap Store
- 1. Layout
- 2. Discover the application
- 3. Application available
- 4. Support distribution
- Which Linux application store should you use?
What are Snap and Flatpak files?
Flathub and Snap Store are two websites developed around two separate universal package formats for Linux: Flakpak and snap.
The idea behind both package formats is that they provide a way of distributing applications on Linux, which works regardless of which distribution you use. These formats also provide security improvements. Both can isolate applications to each other, so that one software can’t access the images or passwords you have opened elsewhere on the desktop.
Flatpak is heavily integrated into the GNOME desktop environment, but it still works with other environments. Many Linux distributions have considered Flatpak to be their preferred preferred package format. Flatpak is a community project, although private companies Red Hat and Endless have largely funded the development of this tool.
Snap is a file format from Canonical, the company that made the distribution of Linux Ubuntu. Unlike Flatpak, the snap was originally intended for servers. Although snap works on many different Linux distributions, they are extremely suitable for Ubuntu. Of course, with a much larger Ubuntu user base than other distributions, the Snap Store doesn’t lack apps.
Compare Flathub and Snap Store
When combined, Flathub and Snap Store provide a way to get many of the main desktop applications you might want for Linux. If you use a distribution that supports both Flatpak and snap files (which most popular distributions can do), you can enjoy the best of both.
Flathub has many similarities with a free and open source tool. In contrast, the Snap Store feels more like a more commercial experience.
But the difference in sight is only the appearance. Basically, you navigate both of these online application centers in the same way and each page allows you to start installing an application by clicking the button in your browser.
You can think of Flathub and Snap Store like app stores. A special feature is that they do not contain any paid software. Whether you are downloading open source software or proprietary software, you do not have to pay anything.
Now, let’s dig deeper into these two sites and see how they differ!
Flathub provides a minimalist experience. Its interface is similar to the web version of GNOME software. Flathub arranges applications in a grid and divides them into categories similar to those you see in Linux app launchers.
The Snap Store layout is similar to Flathub in terms of functionality, but the experience feels more user-friendly. There is more confusion at the top, where Canonical places links to developer resources, giving the site a feeling of being more geared towards app manufacturers at first.
Both Flathub and Snap Store display group apps. Flathub contains a few categories on its homepage, while the Snap Store provides multiple categories for you to scroll through before digging deeper into the site.
2. Discover the application
The Snap Store’s application catalog, streamlined, makes it easier to browse and discover new software. Notably, the categories go far beyond what developers can include in application metadata. You will find sections like Social, Server and cloud, Security, Devices and IoT and Art and design. Canonical’s arrangement makes it easy to find available applications.
Snap Store also provides better search results. Import “Photo” The search bar in the Snap Store brings about 40 applications. Doing the same on Flathub yielded less than 10 results. The RAW Darktable image editor is available in both app stores, but although it appears when searching in the Snap Store, it doesn’t appear when you search in Flathub.
3. Application available
The Snap Store seems to have more app options. Canonical claims there are thousands of applications available here. Flathub has a little less options, with over 600 apps available (though it should be noted that Flathub is not the only Flakpak source, as opposed to snap).
Whether or not the Snap Store has as many apps as you want depends on what you’re looking for. Canonical’s app store has greater support from companies willing to bring proprietary software to Linux. Meanwhile, Flathub receives more contributions from the free and open source community.
If you are looking for an ebook reader for GNOME, you can find both GNOME Books and Foliate in Flathub, but they do not appear in the Snap Store at the time of writing. The same is true for the Bookworm application for elementary OS. The Snap Store, meanwhile, has exclusive Hiri and Mailspring email clients, plus the Flock communication app. None of these three options is available on Flathub.
4. Support distribution
Flathub currently supports 21 distributions, and the Snap Store supports 41 distros. But the problem of support is not simply whether you can install Flatpak or snap on your Linux distribution. A more potential question is which format your distribution will actively capture. Clearly, Ubuntu is about Snap.
Elementary OS has chosen Flatpak as the format it will distribute in AppCenter. Purism, the company behind PureOS, uses Flatpak on its Librem 5 phone. This affects whether apps created for those distributions are more likely to appear on Flathub or in the Snap Store.
Distributions can host their own Flatpak repositories. In contrast, snap is hard-coded to Canonical servers. This type of focus makes many free software developers uncomfortable. If Canonical decides to close the site, the snap will go along with it. Given the history of Canonical, such possibilities are most likely.
Which Linux application store should you use?
To be honest, there is little reason not to use these two app stores. Unlike formats like DEB or RPM, you can easily install Flatpak and snap packages on the same desktop. While it’s great to have a universal and open source desktop format for free, it’s not necessary. If there are several formats capable of working on your PC, it’s a much better situation than what software management on Linux has done before.
If you must choose one of these two app stores, the answer is Flathub. Canonical has made more efforts to reach exclusive application developers. That certainly makes it easier for people to switch from Windows or macOS. If you’ve been making the switch years ago, you’ve probably long ago adapted to free alternatives. You can do the same by checking out the best free and open source applications for Linux Quantrimang.com have suggested.
Wish you find yourself a suitable choice!