Software Installation: Windows or Linux?

This document is in response to two things I’ve seen on Linux forums:

  1. People asking for Synaptic Package Manager tutorials
  2. People insisting that installing software on Linux is difficult

Before I continue, I should say that I’ve been using Windows since 3.1 (and DOS before that). I’m a big Windows fan. I am, however, a big Linux fan as well, and I think it should be presented as a viable alternative for those who are interested. I don’t appreciate people trying to scare off potential Linux users with lies about how difficult it is to install software on Linux.

Disclaimer: Not all software
I believe (as I’ll show in the step-by-step comparison below) that for most software, Linux can actually be easier to install software in. However, there are exceptions; for example, even though repositories house literally tens of thousands of software packages—and you can always enable extra repositories—there are just some programs you’ll have to install from source in Linux. In Windows, you will always have a graphical installer, whether you download a .exe or use an installer disk. I’m using the example of installing 3D software because it’s obscure enough that people won’t say, “Oh, of course 3D software would be in the repositories,” but it’s not obscure enough that it actually wouldn’t be in the repositories.

Disclaimer: Not all package managers
From what I’ve read from others, I believe Fedora’s Yum, SuSE’s YaST, and Mandriva’s urpmi package managing systems are similar to Debian-based distros’ Synaptic Package Manager, but I can’t vouch for the same simplicity in other distros. You can use Synaptic Package Manager in any Debian-based distro (Mepis, Ubuntu, Xandros, etc.).

Okay. Let’s get started.

The Debian-based Linux install

First, we open up Synaptic Package Manager.

Then, we’ll be prompted for a root (administrator) password, because we don’t want software accidentally being installed on the system.

The repository information needs to be reloaded so that we know we’re getting the most up-to-date software that’s available.

Wait for the information to be updated.

Then we do a search. I prefer control-F (for Find), but you can also just click on the Search button.

The great thing about searching for software in Synaptic is that all of the results are software, and the results also have descriptions. So I scroll down to the best-looking program, Blender, and I mark it for installation. I would like to reiterate that tens of thousands of programs are available through repositories. It should be mentioned also, though, that if I weren’t able to find something in the repositories, this “easy” install wouldn’t be so easy.

Synaptic Package Manager also resolves all dependencies, so you don’t have to worry about the mythical “dependency hell” people keep talking about.

Once we OK this, Blender will be “marked for installation.” Part of the beauty of Synaptic Package Manager is its resemblance to the “shopping cart” of e-commerce (think Amazon). You can queue up a bunch of different programs, marking them all for installation. They’ll later be downloaded and installed all at once. You don’t have to repeat this entire process for every program you want. You have to “check out” only once.

Once we have queued up all the software we want (or don’t want—you can mark programs for uninstall, too), we apply the changes.

You’re asked one last time if you really want to carry out the changes. Right now the changes are hidden, but you can click on the arrows to see what exactly will be changed.

First all of your software will be downloaded.

Then, it will be installed.

Now, the program is available for you to use. In all fairness, there have been some times where Synaptic doesn’t pop things into the menu right away, but most of the time it does.

The Windows Install

First, we find the software by going online. I prefer Firefox, but you can use Internet Explorer or Opera as well.

Then, we have to search for what we want. Depending on how good you are at searching on the internet, this step could be extremely easy or extremely difficult.

As it turns out, the search for “3d software” wasn’t too difficult.

So we go to the Blender homepage. Now that I’m looking at the page again, I see that there’s a direct link to download Blender.

When I first got to the page, though, I chose to go to “Download.” Blender has the advantage of having downloads easy-to-find. Some pages really make you poke around in order to find the latest version.

I find the version I’m looking for.

I save the installer to my desktop.

The installer downloads.

Then, I find the installer on my desktop and double-click it.

Up comes the install wizard.

Then, I’m led to the next screen, the terms and conditions.

Some Windows crazies might say I’m being unfair to Windows installers because I have two screenshots for “one” step, but I’d argue that you can’t (or shouldn’t) just click “next” here, because you’re an idiot if you don’t read user agreements for free Windows programs (how do you know you’re not installing spyware?), and, honestly, some programs won’t let you click “next” unless you do read the entire agreement, or at least scroll to the bottom of it.

Click next.

Click next.

Click next.

Now Blender installs.

Now, we’re finished with the wizard. Some Windows installers might have you reboot. Luckily, Blender doesn’t.

I like to delete installer files so they don’t clutter up my desktop. In Synaptic, you can choose as a preference for installer files to be deleted after installation, but even if you don’t, they won’t show up in your regular file folders or desktop. Of course, you could argue that if I didn’t want the Windows installer cluttering up my desktop, I shouldn’t have saved it to the desktop in the first place, but I still would have had to find it after downloading it—the desktop is a convenient place to save installers you have to double-click on.

Then, Blender is ready to use.

As you can see, installing software in Linux is easy—some would argue even easier than installing software in Windows.


  1. Sorry for double post but I would like to see some instructions for software that is NOT in the repo

  2. @BonziBuddy – Software that’s not in the repo – hmmm…
    Well, it depends. Let’s call software for which there is no repo but which has packages pre-made on the website the same as Windows installers that you can’t get from those “repository functionality” programs that some people have made (eg GetIt, AppSnap, etc). In that case, you download the package, which is usually labelled with the distro and version it’s for, double-click it, and use the individual package installer. On Debian and some derivatives, this is likely to be GDebi.

    Otherwise, yes, you’d have to compile it from source or maybe just copy the binaries into a given folder, but at least it’s easier to compile on a system that has a built-in (well, almost) compiler collection for free than on one where you have to buy and then install a compiler.

  3. When you install by source, for the most part all that is required is navigating to the directory and type “make”. The only time it is more complicated than that is if you need a very special setup, typically only a situation that developers find themselves in.

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