7.2:     Synaptic Software Package Manager

Introduction

Synaptic is a friendly, easy-to-use frontend (GUI) to the APT package management system. It is a graphical tool which allows you to install, remove, upgrade, or get information on all the software packages available in the online repositories on your repository list (/etc/apt/sources.list). Synaptic can be launched from KMenu --> System --> Package Manager (Synaptic Package Manager), or you can simply click on the APT Notify icon in Kicker, which looks like an open box. Note that your root password is required in order to install or remove software; and naturally, if you want to use the online repositories (as opposed to the CD or DVD), you will need to be connected to the Internet.


Installing new software with Synaptic

Here are the basic steps for installing software in Synaptic:

  1. Open the program (Synaptic) and supply the root password.
  2. Hit the Reload button. This button causes Synaptic to contact the online repository servers and download a new index file with information on what packages are available, what versions they are, and what other packages are required for them to be installed.
  3. If you already know the name of the package you are looking for, just click in the pane on the right and start typing, and Synaptic will incrementally search for what you type.
  4. If you don't know the package's name, use the Search button to locate software based on name or keywords. This is one of Synaptic's greatest advantages over other methods.
  5. Alternatively, click the Sections button on the bottom left and browse through the one that interests you (Editors, Games and Amusement, Utilities, etc.). You will see a description of each package in the bottom pane, and can use the tabs to discover more information about it.
  6. Click the empty box next to it and select Mark for Installation. If the package has dependencies, you will be notified and they will automatically be marked for installation as well. You can also just double-click the package if it is the only one you are installing.
  7. Click Apply to begin the installation. You will see a warning message “You are about to install software that can't be authenticated!” that you can safely ignore.
  8. There may be additional steps: just follow the prompts as you receive them until the installation completes.

Upgrading software with Synaptic

Synaptic enables you to quickly and conveniently keep your system up-to-date.

  1. Open the program (Synaptic), supply the root password, and click Reload.
  2. Synaptic will inform you if any packages are upgradeable by marking them with a star. You can also click the Status button on the bottom left and select the Installed (upgradeable) section in the left pane to see all the upgradeable packages installed on your system.
  3. Click the Mark All Upgrades button to select all of these packages for upgrade, or click on the packages one-by-one to individually select upgrades.
  4. Click Apply to begin the upgrade, ignoring the warning message. As the installation process begins, you have the option of watching the details in a terminal within Synaptic.
  5. With some package upgrades, you may be asked to confirm a dialog, enter configuration information, or decide whether or not to overwrite a configuration file you have altered. Pay attention here, and follow the prompts until the upgrade completes.

Downgrading software with Synaptic

Sometimes you may want to downgrade an application to an older version, for instance because of problems that arose with the new one. This is easy to do in Synaptic:

  1. Open the program (Synaptic), supply the root password, and click Reload.
  2. Click on Installed in the panel on the left, then find and highlight the package you want to downgrade in the panel on the right
  3. On the menu bar, click Package --> Force version...
  4. Select from the available versions on the pull-down list
  5. Click Force Version, then install in the usual manner.

Pinning software with Synaptic

Sometimes you may want to "pin" an application to a specific version to keep it from being upgraded in order to avoid problems with more recent ones. This is easy to do in Synaptic:

  1. Open the program (Synaptic), supply the root password, and click Reload.
  2. Click on Installed in the panel on the left, then find and highlight the package you want to pin in the panel on the right
  3. On the menu bar, click Package --> Lock version...
  4. Synaptic will highlight the package in red and add a lock icon to the first column
  5. To unlock, highlight the package again and click Package --> Lock version (which will have a check mark).

NOTE: this pinning only affects the application, not the actual list of application versions, and will not work if you later use another upgrade means. For a universal pinning method, follow the example listed below.

Removing software with Synaptic

Removing software from your system with Synaptic seems as straightforward as installing, but there is more to it than meets the eye: