No More Synaptic (package manager) in Ubuntu Linux 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot!

The days are gone where people used to think that GNU/Linux has the "ability" to scare away the newbie :) yet when it comes to doing certain things, GNU/Linux can still be a bit hard to "tolerate". But the rest assured, thanks to the hard work of the developers and the users... nowadays, it is very user friendly.

But as said, there are certain aspects (installing/uninstalling applications) where you might get you into trouble. In the old days there weren't much GUIs for package management thus you had to do everything by using the command line. But the times has passed and different distributions have package mangers of their own (including a decent GUI, hopefully).

But because of the simplicity + the very little system resource needs of the command line tools... many users still prefer the command line while installing applications as well.

Anyhow, it took sometime for the Fedora team to come up with a decent GUI for the "Yum" package manager and even though they came up with a GUI around the version 4-5 yet it wasn't that impressive and at that time the package manager didn't even support installing packages from CD/DVDs!.

But, from the beginning, Debian team had the best/robust/stable package manager called "APT" (usually used with the command = apt-get). Later came its GUI called the Synaptic, GUI written in GTK+ which made managing packages in Debian based GNU/Linux distributions like Ubuntu for instance, much much easier.  

But, Synaptic is not perfect and at the moment do lack very few things, otherwise I think most will agree to the fact that it's perfect, almost :). For example, have a look at the below screenshot. Now as anyone can see, basically it has a search box and a left "panel" which displays the installed/available packages in categories.

So if you want to know about a certain package, then all you gotta do is just search for it. You don't even have to use a specific package name these days. Say that you wanted to install a "music player", then just use the term "music player" and do a search, Synaptic will give you applications that falls into that category!.

So, it's pretty much user friendly. But to be honest, it does lack a bit of a simplicity. Because having a lot of text around (anything) can be a bit confusing.

If we could do something like, replacing category names such as "Development", "Multimedia", "Games", "Utilities", etc with icons... then not only it'll add more simplicity but as soon as the eye hits the icon, it'll give the same expression as the texts would, in a much better way. Right?.

That's what the Ubuntu/Canonical developers have come up with. There is a separate package manager "suite" in Ubuntu Linux (I know you know this, but gotta write about :D) called "Ubuntu Software Center" which has exactly the above mentioned attributes. Basically it is almost everything that Synaptic is not.

It's not loaded with words/texts that much but use icons and as a result the interface is much more simpler.

They've also done excellent things such as, when you enter the main window, to the lower sections of the Software Center, now we have "featured applications" and whenever we click on an application, we can see a screenshot (which is available via Synaptic, but not displayed by default), shows the web site of the developer and most importantly, there are "actual" reviews/feedback by those who have used the app for real.

Further more, it has a "star points" which represents the quality level of the applications as well.

Although I don't own a touch-screen device such as a Tablet PC... but when looking at the two applications, the advantageous Ubuntu Software Center have over Synaptic is obvious, I think. And Canonical has been planning to replace Synaptic for a while now and the latest news is that, they'll do so by removing Synaptic from the upcoming Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot.

To be honest, I actually like the Ubuntu Software Center, although at times it feels like slightly "heavier" on my system resources... other than that, it is pretty easy to use and has an excellent user friendly GUI.

Although I used to think that it uses a lot of my memory (RAM) than Synaptic because every time I use it had a low response time. But then I did a bit of a memory check and actually realised that they both use similar amount of system resources!. Have a look at the below screenshots, which were taken separately, then the two package managers were opened (while running the home screen).

Synaptic uses 25.2MB....

USC uses about 27.3MB... marginal difference..., this is also true while installing applications too (at least while I tested them).

So what was it that gave me the impression that USC is slower/heavier (slow mouse pointer responsiveness, etc)?.

Well I guess it's just that, it uses a lot of your network (Internet connection) because unlike with Synaptic, USC has to download icons, screenshots, user reviews, its featured applications related data, etc from online sources thus it uses higher Internet connection bandwidth.

So, having a bit slower connection is actually the bottleneck here, at lest in my experience anyway +, when an application has to work with a lot of outside networks or web sites, it can use a bit of your CPU especially, which is usually "represented" by an unusually slower mouse pointer as well.

Synaptic on the other hand does not use a lot of your Internet bandwidth by "default" because there are no default screenshots (unless you manually enable it) or icons... it's basically a text-oriented GUI ... so the responsive times can be quite quicker since the Internet connection is not "busy" than while using USC.

Anyway, I'll always be using Synaptic in the future, because it is still a way powerful utility than USC since it has so many advanced/useful features that are not implemented in USC at the moment.

On the bright side, Canonical won't completely wipe out Synaptic from their distribution and it'll be available via their repositories. And if you don't like this "move", well, we have a lot other GNU/Linux distributions, just in case as well :).

What do you think??.


Zone International said...

hummm, I do not agree with this other not wanted change made in Ubuntu.

I dont't like USC because he try to install each one software immediately while I have NOT finish to select all my soft that I want to install... This is result by almost impossible to search and select my soft because it use all my ressource to install the first selected soft...

Synaptic is largely more responsive and a lot better than this USC.

Moreover, USC eat a large bandwith (slowing down my internet access) without my consent by loading many useless infos, for my share, as; link, images (icons), feedback, etc. that I have not asked for (should be an option and not automatically put there)

Obviously, running install/uninstall should be made AFTER to have selected ALL the soft instead immediatlely (with a "commit" button)

Synaptic is for me the best way to manage my software and no one have the way to replace it at this time.

Patrick Girouard

Gayan said...


Yes I do agree to the fact the low maneuverability of the USC... it needs some improvements before making it "default".

"Obviously, running install/uninstall should be made AFTER to have selected ALL the soft instead immediatlely (with a "commit" button)"

Excellent point :).

Anonymous said...

Specifically, what 'powerfulness' of the Synaptic are you talking about? Meaning what can synaptic do that usc cannot.
Another thing, i guess usc also has an option to test drive an application before installing it (cool). Haven't tried it yet but if it works, another plus point for USC; assuming synaptic doesnt have the feature.

Gayan said...


Hi and welcome to this little blog :).

Yes, it's a fare question which deserves an answer. But please try to understand that I'm not saying USC is bad, well it is when concerning the performance, etc but I'm pretty sure the Ubuntu developers will come up with something that's pretty solid in the upcoming 11.10!.

From a newbie point of view, USC is pretty darn good! so no questions asked I understand it's purpose (although in a technical way, as said before, it really sucks at this moment).

Synaptic on the other hand makes it a bit confusing to get to know and not that newbie friendly but it's actually loved by other who are...

... a bit experienced users who'd like a bit more control over their OS. For instance, when install software via Synaptic we can see a command-line out put which is very useful if we can into troubles while install an app and finding why the heck it refused to install :).

Or we can easily see the installation location of the app itself which again is useful since after installing some apps refused to show up on the main menu and since Unity doesn't have a one, if we know the name of the app itself (the executable "bin" file) then we can easily search and launch it afterward.

Or when you search for something in USC, it won't give you all the files that are related to your search which is otherwise very useful to find related software. For instance try "mplayer" in both USC and Synaptic and you'll see the difference.

USC does not let you clear the apt-get cache which should help to get rid of some unnecessary files (in GB in some cases) but with Synaptic it's just few clicks away.

We can only "remove" packages in USC but with Synaptic we can "remove, completely remove, etc" which are again very useful sometimes.

With Synaptic we can "filter-out" packages by broken, missing, policy broken, manually installed, etc"... I can just go on.

But I do agree with your point. Most of the functions in Synaptic are not newbie friendly thus USC "implementation" is not something unexpected and yes there are new features (as the one you mentioned) that are actually not implemented in Synaptic as well.

So for all those individuals who sees and use computers as nothing but tools to get things done in their lives, Yes! USC can become the ultimate tool. So I do agree with you.

However, although you can still install Synaptic in 11.10 and later versions manually, but I just don't like this attitude from Canonical.

They're doing this quite intentionally to get rid of the people who invented or actually contribute and care about GNU/Linux in the first place because Ubuntu will be behaving more and more like a business in the future (there's nothing wrong with that but) but as we've seen with MS Windows, Canonical cannot make certain decisions as long as "these" group are behind their OS.

Other than this "group" ... all the other people who "love" Ubuntu not because of "freedom talks" or anything else, they just like it because Ubuntu is just "free" (not as in freedom but you know they have a decent OS that saves few bucks).

But all I'm trying to say is that, because of these "little" changes, Ubuntu can well easily become something just like MS Windows that "would" ultimately throw away all the basic value systems that GNU/Linux operates at the core and in a way perhaps Ubuntu's "success" might be the ultimate defeat of GNU/Linux...

Forgive me if I sound like an arrogant prick and if you think I am, then I must be a failure as a writer :/... and if I'm wrong, my friend you're more than welcome here to piss me off and correct me :). And again I'm sorry that I took a bit of a long comment to say it. Thank you.

Post a Comment